Author Topic: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley  (Read 180510 times)

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 70
« Reply #255 on: June 27, 2018, 10:30:55 PM »
Author’s Note: I wanted to post this last week, but I got called in to work on all my days off, and it killed my free time. Bleh! I definitely don’t share Susan’s workaholic trait.

Chapter 70

As fall progressed in Sunset Valley, the leaves dropped and temperatures fell, but Blair was enthused as Spooky Day approached.  She’d always enjoyed that holiday, and she and Cycl0n3 had already decorated for it, aside from the jack-o-lanterns.  She preferred to pick her own pumpkins for that.  They headed over to the festival where Chris and Travis would meet them after school.  “I’m glad we finally got a nice day.  I didn’t want to have to pick pumpkins in the mud.”

“You know, there is always the grocery store.”

“Bah.  That’s no fun.  It’s not like walking through the pumpkin patch and finding one yourself.”

“Yeah.  It’s faster.”

“You have no spirit, lazy bones,” she teased.

“If it’s spirits you want, the haunted house is over there.”

“Very funny.”  A wistful smile spread across her face.  “This is the last year Chris will be trick-or-treating.  Next year he’ll be too grown up for it, like the Captain.  Too cool and mature for the kid stuff.”

Cycl0n3 snickered.  “Patrick’s a Wainwright.  He’s got his work cut out for him if he wants to be cool.”

Blair stuck out her tongue.  “Hey!  Like you can talk, Cycl0n3 ‘I-Go-By-My-Screen-Name’ Sw0rd!  You’re not exactly Mr. Cool and With-It yourself!”

“Ooh, I struck a nerve!  Besides, I never said I wasn’t a raging nerd myself.  You know I love you.  I never wanted to hang around the ‘cool kids’ anyway.”

“Remember that year we came to the festival when I was pregnant with Chris?  We were still practically newlywed.”

“Yeah.  We met up with your parents, and we entered that pie eating contest.  Your mom turned colors when we and your dad went at it like pigs at the trough and got covered in berry pie.”

Blair clutched her stomach.  “She wasn’t the only one.  I about turned green.  That made me so sick.  I don’t think I touched pie for weeks after that.”

“I remember.  You puked your brains out.  I don’t think you’ve done another pie eating contest since then.  Want to try again today?”

“No, that’s all right.  Once in a lifetime was enough.  I’ll just pick my pumpkins like a boring old mom.”

“Have fun.”  He heard a distant bell and looked across the street.  “Looks like school let out and I see Travis.  Maybe I’ll take him through the haunted house with me.  Nothing like a few animated jump effects and fake spider webs to set the old Spooky Day mood.”

After Travis came over and said hello, he and Cycl0n3 went to the haunted house while Blair checked out the pumpkin selection.  She’d just spotted one she wanted when Justine came by.  “Justine!  It’s so nice to see you!  How are you?”

“Blair!  I’m great, thanks!  How’ve you been?”

“Pretty good.  Enjoying retirement?”  Although Justine had made it far in the forensics division and had been a great asset to the SVPD in her time there, she’d finally made the decision to retire a few months earlier.  She’d certainly earned it after years of hard work, but Blair considered her a good friend and missed seeing her on the job.

“It lacks the excitement of the force, but it’s good.  There’s always plenty to do around the house, and I love the peace and quiet.  And with that grandchild on the way, I’m sure I’ll be doing some babysitting and grandma spoiling.”

“You must be so excited, huh?”

“Excited, but a little surprised, you know?  Wilbur and Penny aren’t much more than kids themselves, so I hope they get all the craziness they’re in for, especially during the teenage years.”

“Oh, tell me about it!  I’ve still got one left to go through those years myself.”

“I think two teenagers gave me most of this gray!  Love ‘em, though.  Anyhow, I think I’m going to test my cardiac resilience on a trip through the haunted house.  It was nice seeing you, Blair.”

“You too!  Happy Spooky Day!”

“Thanks!  Same to you!”

Travis wasn’t impressed with the haunted house.  “Oh, that was so fake!  I wasn’t scared at all.  I could see the strings on the bats and that one spider, and the vampire needed new batteries or something because it’s ‘aaah’ was more like ‘urrrr!’”

“Sunset Valley’s local festival doesn’t have the budget of a theme park, I’m afraid.”  Cycl0n3 was proud that his son was so observant and intelligent, but at times he wondered how someone so young could be so jaded.  Even though he could be rather cynical himself, it seemed that Travis could find the proverbial cloud in every silver lining.  “Come on.  Let’s see if your mom found us our pumpkins yet and check out the rest of it.  The food’s always good at these things if nothing else.”

“Can I get a fudgesickle?”

“Even though you’re going to gorge yourself on candy trick-or-treating later?”

Travis just looked at his father with an expression that said “well, duh,” which Cycl0n3 could not help but be amused by.

“All right, but let’s not draw too much attention to it, or Momzilla will give us both a healthy eating lecture.”


They met up with Blair, who was now with Chris, and took the pumpkins they picked to the car before returning to the festival.  Travis got his face painted with a jack-o-lantern while Chris ran into Tom Sekemoto and chatted with him.  Chris and Tom decided to compete in the apple bobbing contest, and Blair convinced Cycl0n3 to join in, too.  Travis didn’t want to.  “I’ll ruin my face paint!  Besides, I don’t want water up my nose.”

“Better water than pie.”  Blair cast a wary look in the direction of the pie eating contest.  Her stomach churned in protest even so many years later.

“Now there’s something that’d mess up your face paint,” Chris said.

“You should’ve seen me, your mom, and your grandpa back in the day in that,” Cycl0n3 remarked while they waited for the bobbing to begin.

“Which one of you won?”

“None of us.  We humiliated ourselves for nothing, as your grandmother made sure to point out at the time.”

“I dunno.  Technically, I got free pie from Mom since she was pregnant with me,” Chris said with a grin.  “I’d call that a win.”

“You’re gonna lose this if you don’t shut your yap,” Travis pointed out.  The contest bell rang just as Chris finished talking.

With that point taken, the contestants plunged into the tank.  The water was cold and it was more awkward than it looked.  Cycl0n3 forgot to take his glasses off, and into the tank they went on his first bob.  He continued without them, but it didn’t do his performance any favors.  Blair did all right, but Chris had the best knack for it.  He and Tom were neck and neck for the lead, but at the end, Chris beat him by one apple.

“Yeah!  Victory!”  Chris collected his winning tickets, while Cycl0n3 fished his glasses out of the bottom of the tank.

After the apple bobbing, they had some food.  Travis got his promised fudgesickle, with no lecture from his mother, while Chris just grabbed a hot cider and Blair and Cycl0n3 had burgers.  They spotted Connor Frio at a table and sat with him, although Travis was not keen on sitting with a stranger.  He sat alone at another table nearby.

“Hey, Connor.”  Cycl0n3 greeted his former co-worker from Doo Peas from days long ago.  “How’ve you been?”

“Not bad.  Good to see you.  Hi, Blair.”


“Still working at the SVPD?”

Blair nodded.  “Yup.”

“She’s doing some elite undercover agent work now.  State and even some federal stuff.”

Connor was impressed.  “Wow!  That’s great!  Though it’s still hard to imagine the quiet girl I remember you being in high school in that line of work.”

“Don’t let her quiet unassuming middle-aged mom guise fool you.  It’s all an act.  She’s a bad llama!”

Chris almost sputtered his drink at the look that crossed his mother’s face when he said that, while Blair volleyed back a retort.

“On the other hand, Cycl0n3 here still finds the best disguise for his P.I. job is hiding in plain sight as a huge dork distracted by his phone or laptop.”

“Hey, you wouldn’t believe how much information I’ve gotten just hanging around pretending to be preoccupied with my phone.”  He made a face.  “Wouldn’t believe how much TMI I’ve heard in what people thought were private conversations, either, but that’s a whole other story.”

“Sounds like you both could provide me with some great writing material,” said Connor.

“I saw you got published!  Congratulations!”  The last time Blair had been near the bookstore, there was a display featuring a local best-selling author with his name on it.  “You must be so excited.”

“Thanks.  I’m really glad people like my stuff.  It’s been a dream of mine since as long as I can remember.”

They chatted with Connor until they finished eating, and by then it was time to head home for trick-or-treating.  Blair and Cycl0n3 carved the pumpkins while Chris and Travis got ready.  Once they were in costume, the plan was to meet up with Orion and Iris to trick-or-treat before the Spooky Day party at their grandparents’ house later that night.

“Come on.  We don’t have time to waste if we want to maximize our candy potential.”  Chris looked over at Travis, who was casually reaching into the candy bowl.

Blair spotted him out of the corner of her eye.  “Get your paws out of that bowl and unhand that chocolate, mister.  You’re going to get plenty of candy tonight.  That’s for the kids who come here.”

“But I’m a kid, and I’m here.”

“You know what she means, wise llama,” chided Cycl0n3.  “Don’t worry.  If there’s any left after the other kids have been by, you’ll get your share.”

“Aw, okay.”  He released his almost ill-gotten gain from his fingers and followed Chris to get changed.

“Okay.  Obligatory parent lecture before you go.”  Cycl0n3 walked out with Chris and Travis.  “You know the drill.  Stay clear of crazy drivers on the road.  Don’t go inside anyone’s house.  Toss anything that isn’t wrapped properly or looks sketchy.  Don’t harass grumps who don’t want to give you candy, tempting as it is.”

“I thought that was the whole ‘trick’ part of trick-or-treat,” said Travis.

“It is, but do you really want anyone to complain to your mom and have her go Mom Cop on you?”

“I’ve had that happen and you don’t,” Chris informed his little brother.  “Though we are disguised and theoretically, no one should know who we are.”

“This town is smaller than you think, and MorKu here doesn’t even have his face masked.”

“But what if they’re really rude?  Not even TP on the trees?”

Cycl0n3 raised an eyebrow.  “If you want to risk your mom’s wrath, that’s on you.  I’m awfully glad I didn’t hear that, though.”

Chris snickered.  “He only says that because he probably TP’d the crap out of stingy candy-giver’s houses back when he was a kid.”

“Number One, you can’t prove that, and number two, that was a terrible pun.”

“‘Number One,’ I’m too old for you to call me that anymore, especially as a pun, and number two, did you really have to call me out on a poop pun saying ‘number two?’”

“Just goes to show that my puns will never be as crap-tastic as yours.”

“Can we stop making jokes about poop and get to the candy now?”  Travis shook his plastic pumpkin.

“Sure.”  Chris held up his bucket to his father.  “How about one for the road?”

Cycl0n3 pulled out a few candies he’d smuggled into his pocket on the way out.  He dropped them into each of the boys’ buckets.  “Have fun.  There’s two each, and in theory, I’m telling you to give one to Orion and one to Iris, but once it leaves my possession, I disavow all knowledge.”

“Ha!  Thanks, Dad.”

“Woohoo!  Candy time!”  Travis darted down the driveway with Chris right behind him.

After meeting Orion and Iris, who were dressed as a horror movie killer in a ski mask and Dill-Bird, respectively, they went to the Landgraab mansion first since it was next door.  Bianca answered.  “Wow.  Hi, Chris.  Love the face paint,” she said as she put candy in their buckets.

“I’m the skeleton formerly known as Chris.”

“And who’s the green serial killer then?”

“I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you,” Orion replied.

“Right.  Well, take my candy instead.  Hopefully you’ll spare my life.”

Orion noticed it was full size candy bars instead of the small ones.  Bianca and her older brother Malcolm apparently felt generous with the fortune they’d inherited from their mother.  “For these?  Plum, yeah!  Thanks!”

“Thank you!  Happy Spooky Day!” Iris called out cheerfully as they left for the next house.

They trick-or-treated all over town.  Since Chris borrowed his parents’ car to drive over, they were able to cover a pretty large area, although that was partly because no one was home at a lot of houses.  They collected lots of candy, but then it started to rain again.

Travis pouted.  “Why does it have to rain on Spooky Day?”

“It won’t stop us.  We’re on a mission!” Chris assured him, while Iris shrugged.

“I don’t mind it, except it’s getting my costume wet.”

“You two didn’t even have to wear a costume if you don’t want,” Travis said.

“But lots of people know I’m a plantsim, so it’d be cheating.  Besides, it wouldn’t be any fun not to dress up.  I’m a plantsim every day, but today I’m Dill-Bird!”

Orion agreed with Iris, although he felt less okay that the only day he could walk around without weird looks was a day when everyone dressed up as something different or odd enough to be remarkable.  A part of him had been tempted to wear an alien costume as a statement, but in the end, he decided he’d rather just have fun like everyone else and not remind himself about how different he was.

Despite her reputation as a grumpy old lady, Agnes Crumplebottom liked their costumes.  “Oh, my!  What a scary group we have here.  Please, take my candy and don’t hurt me,” she said as she put treats in their buckets.

One of the last houses they visited was the lofts, where Tamara and her kids still lived all these years later.  She recognized Chris and Travis and realized the two with them were Orion and Iris.  She’d hadn’t seen them since Travis’ toddler birthday, but even in costume, their distinctive skin tones were a giveaway.

“Trick or treat!”

“Here you go.”  Tamara gave Iris candy.  “What are you?  I’ve never seen a bird-hero before?”  It was her best guess from the logo on her costume.

“I’m Dill-Bird!  I have powers that let me fly and talk to birds.”

“Wow.  That’s very cool.  I bet you must go on some great adventures, huh?”

When she got to Chris, she gave him a wry look.  “You’re skinny, Chris Sw0rd, but I didn’t think you’d wasted away to full skeleton.  Here.  Have a caramel nut bar to fatten you back up.”

“Thank you.  I’ll eat all the candy it takes to put the meat back on my bones.”

“I bet you will.”  She gave Orion his candy, and then Travis.  “And here’s some fuel for your super-powers, too.  Tell your mom and dad I said hi.”

“We will.  Thanks!” Travis said before they moved on.

They got a good haul from trick-or-treating, but the rain poured even harder after nightfall, so they decided they were done.  Chris and Travis dropped Orion and Iris off and went back home to dry off and pick up their parents.  On their way inside, Orion noticed the Alto mansion was lit up.  Vita Alto, now an old widow after her husband’s recent passing, had not been home when they were in the neighborhood earlier.

“Come on!  Let’s do one last stop!” Orion suggested.  They ran through the rain and rang the bell.

“Oh, my.”  Vita’s smile was almost sinister in the rainy half-light.  “A masked figure and a … mutant super-hero?  Or super-villain?”

“I’m a hero!” Iris declared proudly.  “I can talk to birds and fly, and I use my powers to help others.”

“Very commendable.  I’m sure many are grateful for your good deeds.”  Vita put a big handful of candy in her bucket.

“Wow!  Thank you!”

“You’re welcome, dear.”  She turned to Orion.  “I can tell you’re a dangerous sort, so you get a different treat.”  She reached deep into her candy bowl and placed something in there that made his bucket feel heavy.  “Happy Spooky Day!”

“Thanks.  Happy Spooky Day!”  Orion and Iris headed home while Vita went inside.

“What did she give you?  She gave me a ton of candy!  I don’t know why people say Mrs. Alto is mean.  She was nice to us!”

“I don’t know what kind of candy it is.”  Orion reached in, and his eyes went wide behind his mask when he pulled out a rather sinister looking gnome figurine with evil eyebrows wearing a red outfit.  It gave off an odd vibration that reminded him of Buddy and Patches in a way.  Otherworldly, and something he suspected he could only sense because of his alien abilities.  “Oh, wow!  I think this is a magic gnome!”

“She gave you a gnome?!”  Iris was both awed and jealous.  “And I thought getting lots of candy was cool.”

“This is awesome!  I can’t wait to show everyone!”

After trick-or-treating was done, Orion and Iris joined the rest of the family getting ready for the Spooky Day party.  Their costumes were soaked, so they changed into different ones.  Orion put on a gag hot dog suit he’d ordered online on a whim late one night.  Iris wore an old childhood costume of Orion’s that was in the costume chest, a bulked-up superhero outfit of a different type.  She still liked her Dill-Bird costume better, but not enough to wear it sopping wet through a whole party.

Boyd went with his original plan of dressing up as a cow plant.  When Blair and her family arrived, he saw that Cycl0n3 had the same idea.  “I’d say great minds think alike, but I’m not sure how disturbed I should be that we’re on that much of the same wavelength.”

“You?  How about me?  If I’m thinking like you, I’m thinking like an old man!”

“So, situation normal?” Chris quipped as he passed.  He was out of costume.  He’d gotten soaked and didn’t feel like re-painting his face or putting on a different one.

“Hardy har har.”

Boyd patted Cycl0n3 on the shoulder.  “Congratulations.  Your son is a chip off the old block.  Or a graft off the old vine, if you prefer.”

“I’ve grown a monster.”

Patrick came over to the bar in his doctor’s costume, where a witchy Susan prepared party drinks.  “Making a few witches’ brews?”

“This one mixer is vile enough to be.”  She wrinkled her nose.  “The way it smells, it’s practically magic that the end result is drinkable.  The magic of mixology, I suppose.”  She shook and poured.  “Your father thought we should do the mixing in a decorative cauldron to be festive.  I told him that he could drag it to the sink to clean it out after every batch if he wanted that, and suddenly he was all for modern witchcraft brews in tumblers.”

Patrick picked up one of the newly made drinks and sipped it.  “Hey, it works.  They’re pretty good.”

“Thanks.  Would you mind watering the cow plants over there and taking him one?  He wanted to try it.  Bring one for Cycl0n3, too.”

“Does he need it?  I thought he was already full of fertilizer!”

Susan chuckled.  “Yes, but bring him one anyway.”

Iris was disappointed when Travis and Chris showed up in regular clothes instead of costumes.  “Aw, you’re not dressed up anymore!”

“Nobody said I had to come in costume!” Travis snapped at her angrily.

She was taken aback.  “Hey!  Calm down.  I was just saying.”

“Well, don’t!  My costume was too wet and I didn’t want to wear it anymore.  I didn’t have a spare like you, okay?”

“You don’t have to yell at me about it!”

“You started it.”

“I did not!  I just said—”

“Whatever!  I don’t care.”

“I was going to say there’s play costumes in the chest, but if you’re just going to yell at me, forget it!”

Travis sighed and apologized.  “Okay, sorry.  I’m not mad at you.”


“It’s just, I liked my costume, and I’m mad I can’t wear it.  I don’t want another one.  I want that one.”

“All right.  But all you had to do was say so.”

More guests arrived, and the party was in full swing.  Costumes were optional, but encouraged, and about half the guests showed up in costume while the rest just enjoyed the festive mood.  Tara, her brother Wilbur, and Penny all came together.  “Hey, you big wiener,” Tara teased when she saw Orion.  “Nice costume.”

“Thanks.  Glad you could make it.”

“Glad to be here.”  She leaned in flirtatiously.  “So, what kind of hot dog are you, anyway?  Like, a ball park special or all-beef, or what?”

He met her eyes with a playful look.  “Foot long.”

“Oh, the kind everyone wants to eat, you mean.”

They both started snickering.

“But not green I hope.”

Orion gave her an odd look, and Tara realized how rudely that could’ve been taken.  “Oh!  I didn’t mean like that.  I meant, like… ‘cause green hot dogs are moldy and no one would want to eat them, not… oh, plum!  I’m sorry.  I should just shut my big stupid mouth.  I always say the wrong thing.  I—I’m sorry.  I’ll go.”  She turned to leave, but Orion stopped her.

“It’s okay.  I’m not upset.”

“I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.  What I meant was—”

“I get it.  It’s fine.”

“No, it’s not.  It really doesn’t matter to me what you look like.  I didn’t even think it like that.  I swear.”

“I know.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Forget about it.  Let’s just dance.  Dance with the big green hot dog.”  He smiled and took her hand, and they started dancing.

“You’re not moldy, though.  Green or not, I’d totally eat you.”  That time Tara’s foot-in-mouth got her a completely different reaction, and she flushed fiercely when she realized what she’d said.  “Oh, my Watcher.”

Orion grinned.  “Really?”

Although he was teasing, she was mortified.  “I could just die.  That’s… that’s not what I meant.”

“Oh.”  Orion was still amused while Tara blushed even harder.  “Hey, it’s all right,” he reassured her.  “It was funny.  I’m glad to be… appetizing.”

“You must think I’m the biggest idiot around.”



“Not at all.”  Orion met her eyes.  “I think you’re a lot of things.  Pretty.  Interesting.  Fun to hang out with.  Kind of funny at times, but not in the way you worry about.  And…”

Tara was flattered, but nervous.  “And?”

“And I really like you.  A lot.”  Then, while his own heart pounded with excitement and anticipation, he leaned in and kissed her.  She was surprised, but she kissed him back.

“I really like you, too.”  Tara took his hands afterward.

“I’m glad.”

“So, does this mean I’m officially your date for the party now?”

“Yeah.  You can officially be my date anytime we go out or do stuff together.”

“I’d like that.  I mean, I kind of felt that way already, but I wasn’t sure you thought of it like that,” she admitted.  “Well, I figured you probably did, but I didn’t want to just assume and be stupid and look dumb if I was wrong.  So I didn’t want to say anything until I was sure you were sure and…”

“Well, now you can be sure.”  With an ear to ear grin made all the goofier by his hot dog suit, Orion drew her into a dance and gave her an elated spin to the beat.

While Orion and Tara got closer, Patrick chatted with Jamaal.  “Glad you could make it.  No costume?”

“Basic training’s beat that kind of fun out of me.”  Jamaal had joined the military after high school, not only because it had a track into the space program, but also because it had a steady paycheck that covered the rent at his house.  When he signed the lease, it was originally going to be him, Gretchen, and their unborn child living there, but that was before things went sour between them.

“That sucks.  I give you props for toughing it out.  I know I couldn’t do it.  I hated gym class, never mind what they put you guys through.”

“It’s pretty rigorous,” he admitted.  “I hear you’re heading off to University soon.  You and Maria both going to Sims U?”

Patrick nodded.  “Yup.  Same dorm and everything!”

“Well, a bit of advice.  Living with your girlfriend?  Not like just being with your girlfriend.”  His tone grew bitter.  “Not that she lived there long.”

“The co-ed dorm’s not that co-ed.  If you share a room there, it’s with the same gender.  Not that I’m sharing a room.  I’m paying extra for a single.”  He smirked.  “Nothing says she can’t stay over, though.”

“I hope it works out for you.”

“Thanks.  Sorry it’s been so rough for you.”

Jamaal shrugged.  “It is what it is.  I should’ve known better.  Gretchen and I always had our ups and downs, but always ended up back together.  Kind of wish I didn’t get such a big house, but there’s still a room for the baby when he or she is there.  And it has a nice driveway where I can work on my car on my time off.  Military pay covers it at least.  I knew she’d be too flaky to keep a job, so I made sure I got something we could afford on one paycheck.”

“She inherited her mom’s house, didn’t she?”

“Yeah, but who knows how long she’ll manage to keep it.  She’s just doing some sing-a-gram thing on call.  Don’t think it’s steady.  But whatever.  Now she’s got somewhere to shack up with Julius where I’m nowhere around.”

Patrick shook his head.  “Sorry.  I could never stand the guy, but I know you and him were friends.”

He nodded.  “Like I said, it is what it is.”

Maria came to the party with her mother, who’d been extended an invite along with her and Tad.  Unfortunately, he’d come down with a case of food poisoning after eating a bad fritter at the festival and had to stay home.

“Sick on Spooky Day.  That sucks,” Penny sympathized.

“Yeah.  Though, not to be mean, but I’m kind of glad to be away from him for a little while.  He’s in the foulest mood ever.  I know he feels like crap, but he’s been biting our heads off over every little stupid thing.  He had mom practically waiting on him hand and foot and was still acting like a bigger baby than Caleb!”

“Is he watching him that sick?”

“No.  Caleb’s with Stiles.  He took him to Zelda’s Spooky Day party she’s having for her kid.  Mom would’ve gone, too, but she stayed with Tad until he fell asleep and I convinced her to come here with me for a break.”  Maria sounded wistful.  “You know, my dad never even so much as took us trick-or-treating, even back when he and Mom were still married.  It was always Mom.  He was working or busy or didn’t even care.  I remember one year he even griped about how he was too busy to take a picture of Mom dressed up with us.”  Maria caught the look on Penny’s face and felt bad when she remembered that Penny had just lost her father.  “Oh, I’m so sorry!  I forgot.  You don’t want to hear me complain about my dad when at least I’ve still got him.”

“It’s okay.  You’ve got every reason to gripe.  At least my dad was always there for me.”  Her eyes misted over.  “I just miss him, you know?  He’s not going to see me and Wilbur get married, or our baby.”

Maria nodded sympathetically.  “I’m sure he’s watching from wherever he is.  Your mom, too.  And I know you and Wilbur will be happy together.  You make a great couple.  So in love and sweet!  You’re going to be great parents.”

“Thanks.  I hope so!”  She gave Maria a curious look.  “You and Patrick have been together a while.  Are you talking engagement yet?”

She glanced over at Patrick.  “Dr. Love over there hasn’t said much yet, but we’ve kind of talked about getting engaged after university.  I mean, I’ve dropped hints, but… you know.”

“Yeah.  But you two have been together for ages, so how could he not be thinking it like you are?”

“That’s what I hope, but… well, I’ll just have to start hinting sledgehammer style if he takes too long to figure it out!”

“I’m so glad you could make it,” Susan greeted Morgana graciously.  “Sorry to hear about poor Tad.  Chris told us.”

“Oh, he’s in rough shape.  Any sicker and I’d have sent him to the ER, but he’ll be fine with some rest and keeping fluids down.”

Boyd shook his head.  “You’d think the deep fryer would’ve killed off anything that nasty, but I guess you never know when other people are handling your food.”

“This from the champion plate-slurper,” Susan teased her husband.  “At any rate, I hope he feels better.”

“Yeah, same.  Food poisoning is miserable stuff.”

“Thanks.  I’m just glad that I’m a doctor and could help him myself without dragging him to the hospital.”  She noticed Chris talking with Wilbur.  “Speaking of which, Tad says he’s thinking of going into medicine?”

“Veterinary, but yes.  Chris loves animals, especially cats,” said Boyd.

“We told him we could give him a great position at the lab with a background like that, but he’s not so much into the weird creatures as the cuddly ones,” Susan said.

“I’m not sure I’d like giving a close exam to a cow plant, unless it was quite well-fed,” Morgana remarked.  “Even the most cantankerous patient doesn’t hold a candle to that.  But I wish him luck.  Do you know if he’s planning on going to Sims U like Maria and Patrick?”

“He hasn’t said, but it’s got a good program for it,” Boyd replied.

“Speaking of which,” Susan lowered her voice so that just Morgana and Boyd could hear, “I’m curious.  What are your thoughts on Patrick and Maria living in the same dorm?”

“Are you worried they’re getting a bit too serious, too young?” Morgana guessed.

Susan and Boyd exchanged looks.  “We’d be fairly hypocritical to say that, considering we were married straight out of high school.  Though that was a bit rushed because, well,” Susan lowered her voice farther, “Blair.  Though we weren’t worried about us long term.  It was the whole raising a child so young that was intimidating.”

“Not that we weren’t told the odds, but yes,” Boyd added.  “In that sense, we were lucky not to have any major personality conflicts we didn’t fully get when we got married.”

“Love, especially young love, can be blind to those,” Morgana agreed with a bittersweet smile.  “It’s nice to hear a success story.  I wish I’d looked a little harder at some of… well, not seen what I wanted to see rather than what was there.  I worry about Maria that way, sometimes,” she confided.  “Not that I think there’s anything wrong with Patrick, of course.  He’s great, and it’s obvious he treats her well and makes her happy.  It’s more… she’s very much a romantic at heart.”

“Our daughter Blair is like that.  We worried a lot back when she was younger that she was the type to, ah, how to put it…”

“Give someone the benefit of the doubt too many times?  Set herself up to be hurt by being young, naïve, and trusting?” Susan finished for Boyd.  “Pretty much that.  Luckily, that didn’t happen.  She fell in love with and married her first love, too.”

“How sweet!  For my kids’ sake, and your son’s and grandson’s, let’s hope that’s a family blessing for all of you, then.”

Boyd eyed Morgana curiously.  “Oh, are Chris and Tad that serious, too?  I guess they’ve been an item a while now, haven’t they?”

“If you mean talking marriage or kids, not that I’ve heard.  They’re very close, yes, but that’s nothing new.  They’ve been inseparable since they were in grade school.  Nothing like Maria tends to, anyway.  Remarks about what dress she’d like to wear when she walks down the aisle someday, or wouldn’t that flower be pretty at a wedding on the beach, things like that.  And I know it’s always Patrick in these fantasies of hers, even if she doesn’t say it.  You can tell.  And now with Penny getting married and pregnant, and Gretchen pregnant…”

Susan’s eyebrows rose.  “Maria’s not pregnant, is she?”

“Oh, no!” Morgana assured her.  “I had that discussion with her as soon as I found out she and your son were, well, you know.  As for University… let’s face it, they’ll do what kids do when they’re independent for the first time.  All we can do is hope they’ve got enough common sense to avoid learning their life lessons the hard way.”

As the party wound down, the guests thanked the Wainwrights for a spooky good time and headed out.  Tara lingered as late as she could, but she had to leave when Wilbur and Penny did.  “I had a lot of fun tonight.  Thanks for having me as your date.”

“Anytime!  Not everyone would want to admit they were with the giant weenie.”

“You’re definitely not a weenie.  I’ve seen you Sim Fu.”

“We’ll have to spar a round the next time you’re over.  Not in this outfit, though.”

Tara giggled.  “No, but it’d be funny to see you try.  See you in school tomorrow?”

“Yeah.”  They leaned close to one another and kissed again.  “First thing.”

“First thing,” she said, before Wilbur called over to her.  “Bye!”

“Bye!”  Orion waved and watched her leave as one happy hot dog.  He was in love.

Morgana approached Maria when the festivities ended.  “Are you ready?”

“Actually, Mom… Patrick invited me to stay over if I wanted.  And I do.”

“Of course you do.”  She smiled.  “In that case, good night.  Don’t stay up too late.  You may be a young lady now, but you still need your rest.”

“I’ll be fine, Mom.  Thanks.”

“See you tomorrow, then.”  She hugged her and left.

After the party was over and cleaned up, Patrick and Maria went to his room to get out of costume.  “I’m kind of surprised your mom was so cool about you staying over.  I know we’ve got the whole ‘we’re adults now’ argument, but sometimes parents can be a little old-fashioned.”

“My mom can be that way about some things, but she’s also a doctor, so… it’s not like she’s naïve to what people in love do, you know?  She sees all sorts of things with people coming into the hospital.  You know that show ‘Woohoo Sent Me to the ER,’ right?  One day I was watching it and she sat with me and starts saying ‘Seen that!’ and ‘Oh, yes, it’s hard to believe, but some people are that stupid!’ and only one or two cases where she was like ‘Huh, now that’s one I haven’t seen before!’”

“I didn’t really think of that, but I guess it makes sense.”

“Really?  Some ‘Dr. Love’ you are,” Maria teased, toying with his costume ID badge.

He gave her a suggestive look.  “Hey, now.  Dr. Love is still on call.”

“You are so lucky I love you, because that was cringeworthy.”  She giggled even as she fell into his arms.  “But luckily, you’re a cute doctor with bad pick-up lines.”

“I’m a doctor, not a pick-up artist.”

“Oh, Watcher.  You just quoted Star Trek, didn’t you?”

“Guilty,” Patrick admitted.  “In my defense, I can’t help it.  You’ve met my parents.  You know my name.  Even though it’s the actor and a different series, but…”  He chuckled.  “Oh, man.  The geek points, I’m just racking them up, huh?”

“It’s okay.  I recognized it, so I guess I can’t say much.”  She smooched him.  “I’m just glad you’re not bald like your namesake.  He rocks it, but you rock the red hair.”

“Yeah?  Well, you rock… pretty much everything, badass babe in black.”

“Is that an official diagnosis, Doctor?”  Maria batted her eyelashes.  “Tell me more.”

“I’d rather just prescribe you this,” he murmured, and pulled her into a kiss.

“This costume party was fun,” Susan said when she and Boyd retired to their room for the night.  “It’s been years since we dressed up like this.”

“It was.  And you were a most bewitching witch, I have to say.”  He smooched her, and Susan laughed.

“I can’t take you seriously in that cow plant outfit.  I feel like you’re going to chomp my face.”

Boyd pinched the fabric tooth on the side of the cow plant mouth.  “This cow plant needs some dental work if it’s going to chomp anything, but point taken.”  He took the hat off.  “Better?”

“Much.  Fun as that outfit is, it doesn’t scream sexy.”

“Luckily, that’s not what I was going for.  We’ll have to leave that to our son and his ‘Dr. Love’ getup.”

Susan snickered.  “I still can’t believe he was calling himself that.”

“Yeah, he should have at least gone with ‘Dr. Sexy’ from Supernatural.  Where did we go wrong?”

“At least Maria finds it cute.”  She took her costume necklace off.  “So, is that what you’d have gone with, if you wore the doctor costume?”

“I’d never get that out with a straight face, and I’m pretty sure you’d laugh if I tried.”

“Not in a mean way.  I’d find it cute.  Dorky, but in that cute way.”

“Sadly, I suspect that’s often how I win you over.”

“Often enough.”  Susan put her arms around his waist.  “But I wouldn’t want you any other way.  specially since I’m a bit dorky myself,” she added in a whisper.  “But don’t tell anyone.”

“It’s our little secret,” he said, meeting her eyes with a loving smile.

Offline oshizu

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #256 on: June 27, 2018, 11:28:26 PM »
My two favorite parts of the Wainrights' Spooky Day party:
The cowplant costume and the fact that both Boyd and Cycl0n3 wore it
The whole convo between Orion and Tara.

Orion and Tara are so adorably awkward together. So very happy that Orion met such a sweet person to love who also shares his hobbies.
Patrick looks more and more like Boyd.

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Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 71
« Reply #257 on: July 25, 2018, 11:41:03 PM »
My two favorite parts of the Wainrights' Spooky Day party:
The cowplant costume and the fact that both Boyd and Cycl0n3 wore it
The whole convo between Orion and Tara.

Orion and Tara are so adorably awkward together. So very happy that Orion met such a sweet person to love who also shares his hobbies.
Patrick looks more and more like Boyd.

I'm not going to lie, it amused the heck out of me that the game put them both in that costume. While you can choose the costumes the teenagers and children trick-or-treat in, the costume party ones are random, so I had to roll with whatever it put them in. So when Boyd and Cycl0n3 matched, and as cow plants at that, I loved it!  As a side note, I'd have liked Orion's hot dog outfit more if his ears hadn't clipped through it, but that's part of the charm of Sims and its glitches, I guess.

I'm glad you enjoy Orion and Tara together. She's more fun to write than I initially imagined with her colorful trait lineup.

And yup, Patrick looks a lot like Boyd, but with Susan's coloring in the hair, eyes, and skin tone.

Note:  Sorry that it ended up being a month between chapters! I've been super busy on top of feeling like a sim who had appliances that kept breaking and little things going wrong that kept me from playing and writing.

Chapter 71

After Spooky Day was over, Orion snacked on his candy and set out the gnome he got from Vita Alto.  It was an odd mix of creepy and cute, but he got a kick out of it.  When he put it on display, he felt a weird vibe from it again, like he knew it approved.  “Glad you like your digs.”  He gave it a playful pat on the head, the same way one might treat a little yappy dog trying to look tough.

Iris was still a little jealous that Orion got such a cool thing trick-or-treating, although she enjoyed the extra candy she’d gotten, too.  She hoped that the unicorn would appear at the pond across the street around Spooky Day, since magical things were supposed to happen then, but it never came.  Whenever she looked, she only saw deer.  They were cute, but nowhere near as cool as a unicorn.

“I hope it’s not staying away because of Orion’s gnome,” Patches said from behind her.

“Why do you think that?”

“It’s not good.  It’s magic, but it’s bad magic.  I can feel it, and I don’t like it.”

“It’s really magic?”  Iris wasn’t sure what to make of that.  It just looked like a figure to her.  “How do you know?”

Patches shrugged.  “Maybe because I’m made of magic stuff too.  I don’t know, but I know it’s bad!  You should stay away from it.”

“It’s Orion’s, so I wouldn’t play with it unless he said I could.  But it’s just a little gnome figure.  It’s not alive or anything, like you.  What could it even do?”

“I don’t know, but I don’t think it’d be good.”

“Do you think it’s like a bad luck charm or something?  Maybe we should tell him to get rid of it.”  Iris glanced in the direction of Orion’s room.  “But I don’t think he will.  He likes it.”

Patrick laughed that the gnome was “creepy as plum” when Orion showed it to him.  “Though that flame hat makes it look like it wants to be in a gnome metal band or something.”

“Want to audition him to play with you?” Orion joked back.

“Nah.  Gnome rock’s not my genre.  You keep him.  He kind of goes with your skull leather jacket anyway,” Patrick teased.  For the fall weather, Orion had bought a new dark blue leather jacket with a skull design on the back.  Boyd liked it, while Susan shook her head and told Orion wryly that just because he was a rebellious teenager, it wasn’t a requirement to dress the part.  Orion took it in stride, and Iris giggled later that Mom and Dad were old and probably forgot how to be cool anyway.

“Flower Girl’s not wrong.”  Buddy cast a side-eye at the gnome through Orion’s open bedroom door.  “About your parents or that thing.  I don’t like it.”

In fact, it was something that Buddy and Patches agreed on.  They rarely interacted, but for Orion’s gnome, they made an exception.  “That thing’s got to go.”  Buddy frowned at it.  “Don’t think you’re going to pull off anything on me or Patrick.  I catch you in my space, and I’ll punt your pointy hat right into the deep end of the pool.”

“You leave Iris alone, too.  And don’t be mean to Orion or Patrick or Mr. or Mrs. Wainwright, either.   We know what you are and we won’t let you hurt them!”

“Yeah, what Patchy said.  Even Alien Boy, Flower Girl, and the geezers don’t deserve your kind of trouble.”

The sinister little gnome remained silent, but it seemed to smile back at them with a defiant and wicked gleam in its eyes.

It turned out their suspicions were right.  At first, the gnome seemed harmless, but then, strange things started happening in the house.  Orion would find the gnome in random spots, even though he always took it back to his dresser.  He assumed Iris was playing with it, since she liked make-believe games and dolls.

Boyd and Susan thought it was neat when Orion showed it to them, but they didn’t think much about it otherwise.  They knew about magic gnomes, but they were rare, and the only ones they’d studied were ones turned into the lab for study.  This one looked similar, but it also appeared that someone had customized it.  True magical gnomes were sentient and resisted artistic tampering, so if it had been painted and hadn’t reverted to its true form, odds were that it was not an actual magic gnome, but a detailed replica.  They also knew just how valuable magic gnomes were.  Vita Alto might be rich, but why would she give a trick-or-treater something worth a grand?

Shortly after Spooky Day, though, Boyd started having nightmares about Orion’s gnome.  Because of his anxious nature, he often slept restlessly and had stressful dreams, but they’d never had evil gnomes in them before.  One night, he woke up convinced that it was staring at him, watching him sleep.  He sat bolt upright and swore he saw the thing beside his bed—while fully awake!

But then he rubbed his eyes, and it was gone.  He heard a faint echo of a wicked little laugh, quiet enough to make him question whether it was a taunting remnant of his nightmare, or if there was something in the room with him.  He didn’t see or hear anything else, but that didn’t ease his anxiousness, or help him sleep any better afterward.  Susan slept through it, and while he would’ve liked to confide in her, he didn’t want to disturb her.  Instead, he climbed back under the covers and closed his eyes until he drifted back into an uneasy slumber filled with more anxiety-ridden dreams.

Boyd wasn’t the only one to fall victim to its mischief.  While Susan slept through its bedroom creeping antics, that morning she discovered a favorite antique vase, a souvenir from their trip to France, smashed on the hall floor.

“That was worth a small fortune!”  She was upset.  Not only was it valuable, but irreplaceable.  Though they had other vases, and one they’d gotten in China was arguably even more beautiful, the French one had sentimental value.  Susan had bought it in the French market the day she won her chess grandmaster title.  The worst part was she had no idea how it got broken.  The table was stable, and there were no quakes or drafts that could’ve made it fall on its own.  That meant someone had to have knocked it over and broken it, but when she asked, nobody in the house knew anything about it.  There was no reason for her to believe Boyd or the kids were lying, and she still didn’t believe that Buddy or Patches existed anywhere but in Patrick and Iris’ minds.  The maid hadn’t even come in for the day yet, so it wasn’t her, either.

After cleaning up the mess, Susan caught up with Boyd in the hall at the top of the stairs.  He gestured to the plants by the window, where Orion’s gnome stood among them.  “What’s this doing here?”

“I don’t know, but the kids need to start picking up after themselves.”  She was still aggravated over the loss of her vase.  “Iris was probably playing with it.”

“I had another nightmare about that thing last night.  Had trouble getting back to sleep.”  He glanced at it.  “I’m starting to wonder if it could be a magic gnome after all.”

“It’s weird, I’ll grant you that.  But the magic gnomes we saw at the lab were much cuter.  That flame devil look is silly and tacky, if you ask me.  You’d think a real magic gnome would’ve blipped that stupid hat right off itself.  And I still wonder why, if it is a magic gnome, Vita would’ve given it away to a trick-or-treater.”

“Maybe she didn’t know what it was.”  He shrugged.  “Or maybe she did, and she’s feeling generous in her old age.”

“You’d think she’d give something so valuable to her daughter or grandkids, then.”

“Maybe it was too tacky for Holly’s taste, too,” Boyd theorized.

“Now that I could believe.”

It was almost time for the bus, so Orion was dressed to head out when he passed by.  “Oh, hey.  You found my gnome.  I wondered where it was.”

“You didn’t leave it here?” Susan asked.

Orion shook his head.  “Nah.  I put it on my dresser yesterday.  Iris must’ve been playing with it.  It’s okay.  I don’t mind.”

“She should still put it back when she’s done.  It’s yours, not hers,” Susan pointed out.  “Not to mention the maid doesn’t appreciate random clutter to clean around.  It’s her job to clean, but it’s not ours to make hers harder.”

“I’d take it back to my room, but the bus will be here any minute.  I’ll do it after school, okay?”

Boyd picked up the gnome and found its painted sinister smile unnerving in light of his dream.  “Don’t worry about it.  I’ll put it back.”

“Cool.  Thanks!  See you later!”  Orion dashed down the stairs.

After the kids left for school, Boyd and Susan went to their computers.  They didn’t need to go in to lab that day, although Susan checked on things from her laptop before doing anything else.  Meanwhile, Boyd searched the internet for lore on magic gnomes.

“Orion’s gnome has really piqued your curiosity.”

“You’d be curious, too, if it was haunting your dreams.”

“Thankfully, no tacky garden sculptures have infested mine yet.”

“You know, if it is a magic gnome, maybe that’s what broke your vase.”

“I thought they were supposed to be benevolent.  Pranksters at worst.  Not destructive.”  Susan finished answering her email and opened up another file.  For some time now, she’d been writing up accounts of some of their research and projects for posterity.  Although the technical aspects were covered in documentation at the lab, this was more personal, and read like a nonfiction book rather than a jargon-laden study report.

Boyd read an entry on the site he found.  “Normally, yes.  But it says here there are subtypes.  Gnomes from different regions behave differently, and some have more distinct quirks and traits.”

“Well, if the gnome did break my vase, I’d like to introduce it to my heel,” she grumbled.

“Now this is interesting.”  Boyd got Susan’s attention again.  “There’s one type in particular, rare, that’s got a sinister personality.  It says these gnomes are ‘pranksters that thrive and feed on chaos and frustration.  They have a particular affinity for those who are easily flustered, aggravated, or annoyed, as they give them their desired attention.’”

“So, they’re internet trolls in gnome form, then?”

“Cycl0n3 the gnome?  Watcher save us all.  But, in all seriousness, yes, a mean internet troll would be an apt comparison.”

“How do you deal with them?  Just toss them or give them away?  Or are they like cursed items that come back, like those evil haunted items you hear about that magically reappear after you throw them out?”

“Looks like people give them away or ship them off once they’re discovered and their hosts are done with them.  There’s a market for them online, apparently.”

Susan scoffed.  “Like those idiots that paid thousands for a haunted wine cabinet?”

“You can sell anything on SimBay.”

Susan got up and came over.  “So, do you think Vita gave Orion an evil magic gnome on purpose?  That’s… terrible.  She’s our friend and our neighbor.  Why would she do such a thing?  I mean, if you had an evil cursed garden ornament, who’d give that to a kid, of all people, and the neighbor’s kid at that?”

“I’m not saying she knew.  At least, I hope not.”  Boyd frowned.  “But look at this.”  He pointed at the screen, where there was an image of a gnome that looked very similar to Orion’s.

Susan and Boyd exchanged looks.  “Wow.  I’ll be darned.  That ugly thing is a magic gnome.”

“At least I know I’m not nuts.”  Boyd sighed.  “But to quote Ian Malcolm, boy, do I hate being right all the time.”

“What do we tell Orion?  I don’t think it’s a good idea to keep it in the house if it’s going to be nasty to us and break our things.”

“Maybe there’s some way to contain it.”

“With what?  A salt circle?  Holy water?  Maybe a sealed cube that it can’t blip out of?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe it works on the same logic internet trolls do.  If you don’t feed it, it gets bored and stops trolling.”  He frowned, remembering his nightmare.  “Though when it’s breaking things and creeping around the bedroom, that’s easier said than done.”

“Hey, didn’t you used to have a book on magical creatures?  I remember looking through it with you way back when we were still in high school.  Do you still have that?  You never throw anything out.”

“Yeah.  I think it’s on the shelf in the living room, now that you mention it.  I’m pretty sure it has a chapter on gnomes.”

It didn’t take them long to find the book, and Boyd flipped through it until he found the right chapter.  “Here it is.”  He skimmed the text.  “Looks like the same stuff I read online.  Lore, typical gnome tricks…”  He turned a page.  “Ah, here we go.  Types of gnomes.”  He scanned the text.  “Yup.  There’s a bit on ‘Evil Mr. Gnome’ here.  Unfortunately, I’m not seeing anything on how to keep him from causing trouble.  Just caution on if you plan to keep one.”

He handed the book to Susan, who also read it over.  “I hate to tell Orion to sell his gnome.  It’s a rare find, but I also don’t want it breaking our stuff or giving you more nightmares.  You don’t sleep that well as it is.”  She was disappointed to find no answers in the text.  “We could talk to him about borrowing it to study at the lab, but…”

“There’s a lot of things it could get into there, too.  I’m not sure I want an evil magic gnome harassing our lab techs.”

“True.  Poor Penny’s even more high strung than you sometimes, and Madison’s clumsy enough without gnomes breaking her stuff.”

She handed the book back to Boyd, who thumbed through it again.  It had been years since he’d read it, and some of the entries brought back memories.  He’d always been interested in the occult and weird things, hence why he’d bought the book back when he was a teenager.  It was then that a different chapter caught his eye—one with the title Spirit Doll.

“We can talk to Orion about it when he gets home and see what he thinks.  Maybe his alien abilities can communicate with it in some way?  He hasn’t mentioned it doing anything to bother him.  What do you think?”

“I agree,” Boyd replied, a thoughtful frown on his face.  “Hey, look at this.”  He passed Susan the book.  “I’d totally forgotten about this.  It’s been a long time since I’ve read this book… but doesn’t it sound like Patrick and Iris’ dolls?”

Susan took the book and read, her eyes going a bit wider as she did.

The Spirit Doll is a creature created by fae magic, wherein a natural inhuman spirit craving companionship is bound to a child’s toy, usually a doll, and given to an infant, toddler, or very young child.  These children play with the toy and form a friendship bond with the spirit, who often becomes a lifelong companion and protector to the child throughout his or her life.  These spirits have limited interaction on the physical plane and are rarely perceptible to anyone but those that have bonded with them, or those with innate fae magic or psychic abilities.

A Spirit Doll is typically benign, although there have been instances where spirits with more colorful personalities manifest.  If the individual bonded with the Spirit Doll becomes unhappy with the spirit, the bond can be broken through inattention or a spoken demand for the Spirit Doll to leave.  Once broken, it is only sometimes possible to repair it, depending upon the strength of the original friendship bond or the will of the spirit or mortal companion.

Spirit Dolls are uncommon, although in certain areas they appear more often.  Areas with high populations of fae typically have more children with such dolls, and families with fae blood or otherwise connected to those of fae descent will often receive them.

“That’s—that’s weird,” Susan said, somewhat unnerved.  “But I see what you mean about Buddy and Patches.”

Boyd nodded as they moved to the couch to continue the discussion.  “Do you think that maybe…?”

“Maybe we’ve been wrong about what all of our logical conclusions told us about them?  Companions that we can’t hear or see, that our scientific equipment can’t, but they can?”

“And that Orion can hear, which we thought was just his telepathy picking up on their thoughts, but yes.”

Susan frowned thoughtfully.  “I’m not sure, honestly.  On one hand it would be a relief to know Patrick doesn’t have whatever… whatever I’ve worried he might, knowing how my brother was.  But on the other hand, it’s a little disconcerting to think these spirits have been in our house for years, since Patrick was a baby, and we never felt a thing.”  She glanced over her shoulder before continuing.  “But say Buddy and Patches are these things… who sent them?  We’re not fae.  We’re human and we’re scientists, and as far as I know, we don’t have fairies in our family trees.”

“No.  Aliens and plantsims, yes, but no fairies that I know of.”  Boyd thought for a moment.  “Though it’s odd that Patrick and Iris got them, and Orion didn’t.”

“Maybe fae and aliens don’t get along?”  Susan shrugged.

“Or maybe you’ve got the fairy in your family tree, and I don’t, so that’s why they didn’t send it to Orion?  Iris is genetically connected you, but he isn’t.”

“But I still consider him my son, just like you consider Iris your daughter.  As far as the world knows, we adopted them both together.  Besides, Blair never got one.”

“But Chris did.  Remember when Cycl0n3 said he threw out a creepy doll that came in the mail when he was a baby?”

“Now that you mention it, Blair said something about Travis getting a doll, too, but he never showed much interest in it after his toddler years.”  Susan frowned.  “But my brother and I never had dolls like that, and I’m sure no one in my family was a fairy.  Unless they were really good at hiding their wings and never told anyone.”

“Could be the ‘otherwise connected’ thing it says there.  Maybe the fae give it to their friends or those they consider like family.  Did your family have any weird, close friends?”

“They never invited any fairies over for dinner that I recall,” Susan said dryly.  “I don’t remember any weird family friends of Mom or Dad’s, though maybe Jonathan could’ve had one.  He knew a lot of people.  He was always much more outgoing than me.”  Her tone became a bit more halted.  Even all these years later, Susan did not like dredging up bad memories.

Boyd noticed, and redirected the conversation.  “Well, that’s just the lore.  It might have nothing to do with fairies at all, or maybe they just picked us out at random because they found us interesting or funny.  Fae are tricksters, and nerds like us have always been favorite targets for those. But we could look into it and see what the occult studies in the lab archives have on these spirit dolls.”

“Yes, let’s,” Susan agreed.  “It’d be nice to find out for sure.”

Across town, a little while later, Blair got off the phone with her mother.  “Mom and Dad crack me up,” she told Cycl0n3, who was working on a case from home.  Blair herself was adjusting her sleep schedule; she and Hank were assigned to overnight surveillance that evening, so she’d slept most of the morning.  “Mom just called and asked me about Travis’ doll.”

“What doll?  You mean his Codzilla figure?”  Travis had a toy of the monster that he loved to play with wreaking havoc and mass destruction on block-building cities and less fortunate action figures.

“No, Rags.  That handmade patchwork looking doll he got in the mail as a baby.”

“Oh, you mean the creepy one?”

“It’s not creepy.  It’s cute!  And someone obviously went through a lot of trouble to make it and send it to him. I thought it was a bit silly you got rid of the one they sent to Chris way back when.”

“Weird doll sent to your kid out of nowhere, by someone anonymous, that stares at you, moves around on its own, and you want to keep it?  Horror movie 101 says that’s a dumb plum move.”

Blair giggled.  “Yeah, because Rags totally came to life and killed us all.  Just like Buddy did to Patrick and Iris’ doll did to her.  Poor Cycl0n3.  Afraid of the big bad dolly!”

“Well, we all can’t be big brave police officers, I guess.  And I swear that thing moved and it was not just my sleep deprivation!”  He typed a bit.  “So what did your parents want to know about it?  They finally figure out which weird Wainwright relative sent them?”

“Nah.  Mom was just asking questions about it, like what it looked like, if we still had it, if we remembered anything from when it or Chris’ doll were sent.  They heard about fairies sending dolls like that or something.  You know how they get when they’re checking out some wild internet tin foil hunch.  Though I admit this one does sound kind of neat.  Fairy dolls sound cool.”

Cycl0n3 chortled.  “Yeah, you would think that.  Though I guess after having an alien and a plantsim kid, and all their crazy experiments, a fairy doll wouldn’t be more than like a five on their weird scale.”

“Guess I shouldn’t tell you about Orion’s evil gnome, then.”

“What?”  Cycl0n3 turned around.

“Apparently that gnome he got trick-or-treating is some kind of evil magic gnome.  Mom’s convinced it broke her favorite French vase and it’s giving Dad nightmares.”

“You know, if we didn’t know your parents and that the crazy things they say and do are actually legit, I’d wonder if they were getting a little, you know,” he made a loopy gesture with his finger by his head, “in their old age.”

“I just told them what I remembered about Rags and said if they wanted to take a look at it, it’s still in Travis’ toy box.”  She giggled.  “As for the gnome breaking Mom’s stuff?  They’ve got a teenager, a pre-teen, and a barely post-teen in their house, so if you ask me, it’s more likely a gnome story and one of them isn’t ‘fessing up, but hey, that’s just Cop Mom’s professional opinion.”  She made a face.  “Though they’d have never let ‘a gnome did it’ fly with me back when I was their age!  I swear they’ve gone full easygoing grandparent even on the ones that aren’t grandkids.”

Cycl0n3 snickered.  “Like I said, old age.  Someday we’ll probably do it, too.  Much as I hate to admit it.”

“I hope we’re a way off from being grandparents yet!  Chris isn’t even out of high school.”

“Didn’t stop your parents when you came along.  Though Chris at least has biology working against him and Tad for that.”  He raised an eyebrow.  “I hope.  But who the plum knows?  Your family has some weird super-power for getting kids when they don’t expect them.”

Blair rolled her eyes.  “Very funny.  But I don’t think we need to worry.  Besides, we’re not anywhere near old enough to be Grandma or Grandpa yet.  You’re only as old as you feel.”

Cycl0n3 stood and stretched.  “Heh.  Then according my back, I’m as old as freaking dirt.  Thanks a lot.”

“That’s only because you sit in that chair all the time, mister.  Why don’t you come outside with me and do a little sim fu on Chris’ dummy?  Limber up those muscles?”

“Thanks, but no.  But I might be open to, uh, other activities that get us limber together…”  He gave her a suggestive look.

“Uh-huh.  The only exercise you don’t react like a vampire to sunlight to.”

“Hey, you said you wanted me to be more active.  I’m willing to work with you here, babe.”

“Yes, you’re the picture of compromise,” Blair teased.  “But I do have to get some stuff done before work.”

“So you can combine a workout and quality time with your husband all in one.  That’s effective time-management.”

“Oh, my Watcher.  You’re something else.  I’m still not sure what… but I love you anyway,” she said, and planted a sweet smooch on his lips.

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 72
« Reply #258 on: August 04, 2018, 11:28:25 PM »
Chapter 72

Blair and Hank’s night shift surveillance started slow, but shortly before dawn, it paid off.  They’d been working the Golden Llama case.  They now knew that it was not just one individual, but at least two, if not more.  Male and female, in similar costumes.  The descriptions varied enough that they believed there were multiple men and women involved.  Whether they’d always been a gang, or if what one person started had turned into a recruitment effort was yet to be determined, but when they caught them, they would find out.  Nobody could evade the law forever.

They got a big break.  At the same time in two different spots in town, witnesses reported someone fitting the Golden Llama’s description at both Pleasant Rest Graveyard and the Outstanding Citizens building.  They split up to pursue both leads after radioing the station to send backup for each.  Hank went to the graveyard, while Blair sped to the warehouse.

“Be careful until backup gets there,” Hank warned over the phone as he arrived at the cemetery.  “You know how much they love cops.”

“I know, but I’ll be fine.  I’m not missing our chance to get a Llama.”

“Yeah.  Just… plum!  I’ve got to go.  I think I see him—her?”  Hank’s voice halted as he broke into a run.  “Catch you soon.”

The call ended, and Blair silently wished him luck.  Even though neither of them were young anymore, Hank was still in excellent shape and more of a gym regular than she was, so that Llama would have their work cut out for them against him.

Blair’s pulse raced as she approached the warehouse.  This was the highest profile case she’d ever been on, and she was close to breaking it.  She might actually bring in one of the notorious Golden Llamas this time, and at the criminal hotbed of Sunset Valley at that!  Catching a Golden Llama would be a huge victory for the SVPD and against crime, and it meant the world to Blair.  Doing the right thing and making the world a better place was why she’d gone into law enforcement to begin with.

“Okay, Llama.  This is it.”  A shiver went down her spine as she parked her unmarked police car far enough from the building to not rouse suspicion.  Its imposing shadow reinforced her resolve.  She resented how Outstanding flourished despite the SVPD’s attempts to bring them to justice.  More personally, she remembered when Cycl0n3 investigated a case there and a thug beat him up and put him in the hospital.  They’d never gotten a conviction for that, and that bothered her to this day.  She wanted those creeps brought down!  So she could understand, in a way, why someone like the Golden Llama might be driven to do what they did.  It was hard to watch injustice happen again and again while the guilty got off scot-free.

But that didn’t make it right.  As angry as it made her, the law was the law, and no one was above it.  Not her, not the Golden Llama gang, not anyone.

When she rounded the corner of the building, she saw him.  A male figure, dressed in a black, gold, and dark red super-hero outfit with a helmet and small cape.  He was messing with the security door, attempting to break in.  He didn’t hear her approach and stiffened when she shouted, “SVPD!  Freeze!”

“SVPD.  Really?”  He answered but did not turn around.  “You know, I’m probably here for the same reason you are.  Do us both a favor and walk away.  Like the others have.”

Blair hoped he was bluffing, and that none of her fellow officers had actually done what he implied.  But even if so, she would not.  “I’m here for you, Golden Llama.  Put your hands up and step away from the door slowly.  You’re under arrest.”

“You treating me like the criminal, when all I’ve done is try to help the people of Sunset Valley?  Here, of all places?”  There was a touch of sadness in his voice.  “I’m probably the most honest guy here right now.  Present company notwithstanding.”

“Taking the law into your own hands is hurting more than it’s helping.  Right now, you’re trespassing and attempting to break and enter to do… what?  Vandalism?  Theft?  Assault?”

“Far less than most of them have done and gotten away with.  Repeatedly.”

“That doesn’t give you the right to do it, too.”

“The right?  No.  But maybe a taste of the golden rule will make them think twice about victimizing people again, since the legal slaps on the wrist they’ve gotten so far haven’t.  Tell me I’m wrong.”

“About the kind of people here?  No.  They’re slime.  But about what you’re doing?  Yes.”  Blair reached for her cuffs.  “It’s over, Llama.  Drop your weapons and put your hands where I can see them.  You have the right to remain silent—”

He turned and faced her.  “Is this really what you want to do, Officer Sw0rd?”

Blair was startled that he knew her name, and she realized with a chill that his voice did seem a little familiar.  Oh, my Watcher.  Do I know one of the Llamas?!  “My duty, you mean?  Yes!  You’re breaking the law!”

“So is everyone in that building.  Most worse than anything I’ve ever done, and we both know it.  VJ Alvi, high achiever here.  Want a list of his crimes?  I can add a few that never made it to your rap sheets.  Not everyone reports to the cops.  Ayesha Ansari, an oldie and not so much on the streets these days, but some of the stuff she’s overseen?  Bet your pal Emma, her BFF, doesn’t know the half of it.  I could go on.”

Blair held her tongue, but also her ground, as he continued.

“You people have tried for years to bring Outstanding down, but here it is, richer and more powerful than ever.  Old Nick Alto and his corrupt politician wife had a field day ripping people off and silencing the troublemakers while they manipulated city officials like puppets and undermined your work at every step.  He may be dead and gone, and she may have a foot in the grave after him, but even so, new scum always rises to the top and you and I both know it’s not ending anytime soon.  The law tries, but it’s not doing enough.  It can’t do enough, especially with cops being bought and politicians on the take.  So that’s why I’m here.  I want the same thing you want.  These guys brought down!  We can do that.  All you have to do is let me, Officer Sw0rd.  Walk away.  I’m not the bad guy here.”

“But you are breaking the law.”  While she understood and even sympathized to an extent, she could not condone his actions.  “Attacking another criminal doesn’t make you not one.”

“You know as well as I do how many people these guys have hurt!”

“That’s not the point!  Look, I get it.  I do.  The criminals in this town upset me every day, when I talk to their victims, when I see their crime scenes, when I have to give bad news to their families.  I hate it, too!  But that doesn’t mean I can just go after them outside the law.  That’s what the law is for.  Without it—”

“But it’s not working!  Not when they go free and get off on technicalities.  Or when they don’t get caught.  Too often.  Maybe not for your lack of trying, but still.”

“Yeah, sometimes, and that sucks!  We do our best, but it doesn’t always go our way.  Do you think I like it any more than you?  But what you’re doing isn’t right, either.  The good guys can’t just act like the bad guys.  There’s a saying that when good adopts the ways of evil, it becomes evil, and it’s true!  We have to be better than that.  You’re better than that, and even though I’m arresting you, I believe that.  I know you don’t want to be the bad guy.”

“And you’re a good woman, Officer Sw0rd.  A credit to the SVPD.  Don’t think I don’t know who the good and bad ones are, on both sides of the fence.  I know you’re only doing what you think is right.  Just like me.”

“Then please, just come peacefully and cooperate.  We’ll go down to the station and talk.  Get you a lawyer, let you present your case…”

“It’s too late for that.  I think we both know that, too.”

“It’s never too late to do the right thing,” Blair urged.  “Please.”

“No, the right thing would be for you to walk away.  Please.  I don’t want to hurt you.”

What struck Blair most was how sincere and almost desperate he sounded, and it was then that she knew exactly how it was going to go, whether either of them wanted it to or not.  She took a steadying breath.  “If you know me like you say, you know I won’t do that.”

“Yes.  And for what it’s worth, I respect you for it.”  He stiffened defensively.  “I’m sorry.”

“So am I.”  She took a step forward.  “You’re under arrest, Golden Llama.”

“I know.  But you won’t be bringing me in.”

Even though her backup still hadn’t arrived and a part of her didn’t want to engage him like that, Blair had no choice but to act.  Misguided with good intentions or not, the Golden Llamas had to be stopped.  It didn’t feel as good or rewarding as she imagined, but it wasn’t the first time her job left her feeling conflicted, and it wouldn’t be the last.  Reciting his rights, she reached for him, and as expected, he resisted.  Forcefully.

They tangled, and it was quite the fight.  Blair was well-trained and in decent shape, but the Golden Llama had a height and weight advantage and knew some advanced fighting moves that gained him the upper hand quickly.  She was fast, but he was faster, even if he wasn’t, she realized up close, any younger than her.  In fact, she knew he was not, because in the midst of the brawl, just before she took a blow to the side of the head that sent her reeling, she caught a glance up into his helmet and recognized him.

Leighton Sekemoto?

“I’m sorry.  I really didn’t want to hurt you.”  He pushed her back, only as hard as necessary to get away, and ran toward the road.

Blair struggled to stand and catch her breath.  Leighton Sekemoto.  The father of one of Chris’ friends and a kind family man.  Someone she’d seen many times at school functions and out with his kids at the park, the movies, the festivals, and other activities.  A well-known local ball player for Sunset Valley’s national sports team.  And he was a Golden Llama?  Having a name for him should have made her feel better, but now that she did, it felt worse.  Still, she pursued.  “Stop!”

“No can do,” he shouted back.

Blair ran, but the fight took a lot out of her and it was hard to keep up.  “STOP!”

Adrenaline got her farther and faster than most would’ve made it, especially after such a blow to the head, but it wasn’t enough.  By the time she made it up the hill, he was on his motorcycle speeding down the road, and her car was over a block away.  She’d lost him.  “Plum!”  She kicked the ground, her eyes filling with tears just as backup finally arrived.

Not only did he get away, but now that she knew who he was, she had to deal with that.  Her ability to identify him to the satisfaction of a court would be shaky at best.  A good defense lawyer would tear it apart considering she only saw him in the midst of a brawl where he had a helmet on and she took a blow to the head.  Without any physical evidence…

As she headed down the hill, she noticed a spot on her glove.  There was blood on it.  Had she hurt him?  She vaguely remembered landing a blow, but not him bleeding.  Then again, his outfit was black.  Was she bleeding?  A quick glance told her she was not.  Sore and bruised, yes.  Bleeding, no.

There is evidence.  DNA evidence.  If it’s his, all they have to do is match it to Leighton Sekemoto and that’s it.  Especially if they could compel Outstanding to turn over the security camera footage of the fight to back it up.  Blair expected they would, since he’d been trying to break into their building, despite their standard practice to help the SVPD as little as possible.

That left her even more conflicted.  Help the criminals of Outstanding, by arresting someone who wants the same thing you do.  Even though she wanted the Golden Llama gang brought down, now that she knew who at least one of them was, it felt hollow.  Leighton Sekemoto had a nice family that would be devastated by him going to prison.  He was well liked and regarded in town, and someone who, while his actions were wrong, genuinely wanted to right injustice.

She thought about how he asked her to walk away once more, and in the chill of the autumn morning air, doing the right thing didn’t feel as right as it should have.

While Blair dealt with the aftermath of her Golden Llama confrontation, her little brother had happier things going on—last minute preparations for his first term at Sims University.  Maria was over helping him pack and plan.

“I still say it’s a llama load that I can’t take my car,” Patrick groused.  “No cars for freshmen due to limited campus parking?  Seriously?”

“Yeah.  I know.  It sucks!  Not that I have a car, but I was hoping to bum rides off you when I could.  I told Mom about that and she said to look on the bright side that walking was good exercise.”  She rolled her eyes, while Patrick snorted.

“Easy for her to say.  She’s not going to have to lug a guitar all over campus on foot or public transportation.  Glad I’m rich and can just pay for cabs.  Too bad it can’t buy me a preferred parking space.  What good is being part of a millionaire scientist family when you can’t even buy your own freaking parking spot?”

“At least you were able to buy a single room in the dorm!  I don’t even know what my roommate’s going to be like.  Just her name.  I don’t think I’m going to like sharing a room.”  She frowned.  “Which reminds me, did I tell you that Tad’s practically moving his stuff into my bedroom before I’m even gone?  I know I can’t stop him from taking it over after I go, and I am moving out, but really.  Yeah, his room is tiny, and I know Caleb needs it for his own room, but he could at least have the courtesy to wait until I leave!”  She sighed dramatically.  “I wish I could’ve had my own room, too, but no, Mom and Dad both say it’s an unnecessary expense and I’d have to get part time job and pay for it myself if I want it.  As if classes and studying aren’t going to keep me busy enough.  What a crock.  They never agree on anything, but of course, this time they do.”

“Well, I kind of hoped my room wouldn’t be a single all the time, if you know what I mean.  Up there in the mountains, fall and winter are pretty cold at Sims U, so anytime you want to crash and cuddle…”  He gave her a flirtatious look.

“And you know I’ll take you up on that,” she said sweetly.  “But you know what I mean.  Even if I can chill in your space, it’s still not the same as having my own.”

“She’s right.  It won’t be the same,” Buddy remarked from nearby.  “I still can’t believe you’re taking off for months.  Without you here, there’s nothing for me to even manifest for.  I’m not sticking around for the geezers.  Ugh!”  He threw up his arms dramatically, while Patrick just glanced in his direction.  Buddy didn’t expect him to answer while Maria was in the room, but that didn’t stop him.  “Only Alien Boy would even be able to hear me, and Patches, I guess, but who wants to hang out with them?”

“You’ll figure something out,” Patrick muttered, while Maria gave him a curious look.


“Nothing.  Never mind.”

“Anyway, I think we’ve got all the stuff on this list checked off,” Maria said with a glance at the clipboard.  “So that just leaves finishing up your packing.”

“It still feels a little unreal that we’re leaving tomorrow, you know?  It’s going to be—”

“Awesome!”  Maria took his hands and met his eyes, excited.  “I can’t wait!”

“Me neither,” he replied, grinning back.

“Yeah.  He totally can’t wait for the chance to get it on with you in that private dorm room every night,” Buddy quipped with a big grin and a crude gesture.  Patrick pretended not to hear, but Buddy knew he did, and that was enough.  “All right.  I’ll let you moon over your university plans together in peace.  Catch you later, Patrick.”  He sauntered out of the room.

Patrick and Maria were just about to head to Patrick’s room to box some things up when Boyd came in.  “Patrick.”

He immediately noticed the serious look on his father’s face.  “Hey, is everything okay?”

“No.  Cycl0n3 called and said Blair just came home from Sacred Spleen’s urgent care.”

Maria gasped.  “Is she all right?”

“What happened?”

“A run-in with a perp that went bad.  She’ll be fine, she’s just a little banged up, but… well, your Mom and I are going over to see her.  She’s getting the car.  You want to come?”

“Sure.  Yeah.  I’m glad she’s okay.”

“Me too,” said Boyd.

“Do you want me to go with you?” Maria asked Patrick.

“It’s up to you, but I know you’ve got to finish packing, so if you want to take care of that, it’s cool.  I can finish this later.”

“All right, but let me know how it goes, okay?”  She gave him a quick smooch.

“Sure.  I’ll call.”  He squeezed her hand went out with his father.

Hours after the failed arrest at Outstanding, Blair came home from Sacred Spleen with Cycl0n3 while the kids were still in school.  It was more of a formality than a necessity, but she was bruised and sore even though she had no serious injuries.  Hank had called Cycl0n3, who took her home afterward.  Hank’s attempt to apprehend a Golden Llama gang member hadn’t gone well, either.  Though he’d seen a woman fitting the description, she bolted when she was spotted.  He pursued her deep into the woods behind Pleasant Rest, but lost track of her before sunrise.  By the time he got back to his car to help Blair, backup had already reported what had happened.

Blair insisted on going back to the station to recount what happened while it was fresh, and despite her conflict over it, she turned in the glove with the blood evidence.  She didn’t want to name him without proof, but she figured if DNA identified Leighton, that was that.  She’d just finished giving her report when forensics said there were no known matches, and that put her right back with the awful feeling of knowing she’d have to give the name herself.  The worst was that it wasn’t because she wasn’t sure of the ID, but because she was.  She would be the one to turn Leighton Sekemoto in, and let the world know that her son’s friend’s father—a man who was a decent, well-meaning individual at heart—was actually a criminal facing serious charges.  Blair couldn’t bring herself to name him that morning, and told the team she wanted to rest and think on it because she thought she recognized his voice and what she saw of his face but couldn’t place it.  That was sort of true, since she planned to look at his public social media pictures to confirm her suspicions.  It was delaying the inevitable, but she was sore and tired and just couldn’t deal with it all just yet.

Especially on top of the other thing bothering her—Leighton’s remark about the other cops that had let him walk, and how he knew who the good and bad ones were.  The idea of corrupt cops in the SVPD made Blair sick, and she didn’t like thinking that any of them could be bought off by Outstanding.  She couldn’t imagine who he meant, and didn’t want to believe it, but at the same time, she couldn’t shake the sense that Leighton was telling the truth.

“What do I do?” she asked Cycl0n3 miserably, after confiding as much as she could without identifying details.

“Watch your back?  Seriously.”  He wanted to reassure her, but he was agitated, too.  “I won’t tell you not to turn this guy in.  I mean, I probably wouldn’t—”

Blair looked up at him, and he gave her a pointed look before continuing.

“No.  I mean it.  He’s breaking the law, but that slime at Outstanding?  Call me bitter, but I couldn’t care less if the whole place burned to the ground with the llamas that kicked the plum out of me in it.  But that’s not how you are.”  He smiled at her.  “One of the things I love about you.  You’re sweet and not a vindictive score-evener like me.  So I know you’re going to turn him in.  Just, if he is this nice well-liked guy around town, expect that people will be mad and hurt and blame you.  It’s not fair, but they will.  Try not take it personally.  When it comes down to it, you’ve got to do what you can live with and look yourself in the mirror for.”

“But you wouldn’t.”

“I wouldn’t make a good cop like you, either.  And not just because I hate the gym.”

She gave him a tired smile.  “You’re a good P.I. though.”

“Yes.  People pay me to get dirt on other people.  That’s a little more mercenary than what you do.”

He sat down beside her.  “Which brings me to this.  You turning the Llama guy in worries me less than what you said about the corrupt cops.  It doesn’t surprise me—that crap happens everywhere—but you like and trust people.  You’re a good cop and you’ve got good instincts when you’re on the job, but you’re also nice and not a cynical suspicious jaded llama like me.  Someone that’s corrupt and not getting caught is a good liar.  You may not like to think it, but you probably know whoever it is and like them.  You also know as well as I do how unpredictable people can be when they’re cornered or desperate.  Do like I said and watch your back, all the time.  Even with the ones you’re sure are your friends.”

“I know.”  Blair sounded heartbroken.  “I hate it, but I know.  But then I think of my friends… Hank, Parker, Arlo… I can’t imagine any of them…”

Cycl0n3 couldn’t help but remember that time years ago when he saw Parker take an envelope from the now departed Nancy Landgraab that he said was only a donation to the policemen’s benevolent fund, but he kept it to himself.  “Maybe it’s not any of them.  Let’s hope not.  But be careful.”  He met her eyes.  “And promise me you won’t ever engage someone like the freaking Golden Llama without backup again.  I know you want to be a super secret agent hero, but you’re not Black Widow.  Cute as you are.  I’m not going to lie, when Hank called and said you were at Sacred Spleen, it scared the plum out of me.  I don’t want to lose you.”

“I’ll be okay, Cycl0n3.  I promise.  I’ll be careful.”

“Good.  Because if you have any more close calls, I’m going to remind you that we could easily retire before too long, and be grumpy old people together without you being in a dangerous line of work better suited to the young and fit whippersnappers.  Even though you probably won’t listen to me.”

Blair smiled despite herself.  “I won’t.  Especially since you just called me old and out of shape.”

“I didn’t say you were out of shape.  I just said those rookies out of the academy still have youth and dumb luck on their side.  I didn’t say you weren’t in great shape for your age.”

“Well, thank you for that lovely backhanded compliment,” she teased.  “Just quit while you’re ahead.”

Blair and Cycl0n3 just finished talking when Boyd, Susan, and Patrick arrived.  Cycl0n3 let them in while Blair stood to greet them.  “Hi.  You didn’t have to come over—”

Boyd didn’t let her finish before hugging her tightly.  “I’m so glad you’re all right!”

“Yeah,” Patrick added.  “You’re the only big sister I’ve got.  I’m glad you’re okay, and I’m sure I speak for Orion and Iris on that, too, even though they’re still at school.”

“I’m fine,” she assured them.  “It’s not as bad as it sounds.”

“The hell it’s not!”  Susan’s heated tone caught them all by surprise.  “What were you thinking?!”

“Mom, I—”

“You could’ve been killed!  Why would you try to take down someone like the Golden Llama all by yourself with no backup?  Don’t you know what could’ve happened?”

Blair was taken aback by her mother’s anger.  “Mom, I’m fine.”

“This time!  By pure dumb luck!  Plum!  I thought you were smarter than that!  What’s the matter with you?  He’s a vigilante!  I’ve seen the stories.  You go after someone that dangerous, and you try to take him on alone?”


“You’re lucky to be standing here right now.”  Tears filled her eyes, although she was still shaking.  “He beat you resisting arrest and it’s only because he imagines himself a good guy that it didn’t end up worse.  Well, what if he hadn’t been a good guy, Blair?  Huh?  What then?”

Blair opened her mouth to respond, but Susan continued.

“I’ll tell you!  You’d be dead!”

Cycl0n3 and Patrick watched Susan’s eruption in stunned silence, while Blair’s face rumpled and she started to cry.  Concerned, Boyd put his hand on Susan’s arm.  “Susan.”

She ignored him and continued to rail at Blair through tears of her own.  “Dead!  Because that’s what the bad ones do!  You’re just lucky this one happened not to be!  Did you even think about that?  Did you?!”

“Susan.”  This time Boyd was firmer, but not unkind.  He looked from his crying daughter to his wife.  “She’s fine.  Please.”

“This time.”  Susan’s voice wavered.  “What about next time?  Huh?”

“Mom, I’m all right!  And I wouldn’t have gotten… I couldn’t just let him go!”

She held up her hand. “You know who else couldn’t let someone go?  Who had to be a hero, and bring down someone dangerous, without worrying about what might happen?”  Her voice cracked.  “Your uncle.  The one you never met, because he was killed way back when I was pregnant with you.  Cornered alone and stabbed to death, by the criminal he was working so hard to take down.”  Susan dissolved into sobs, while Boyd put his hands on her shoulders and spoke to Blair.

“We knew we’d never talk you out of this line of work.  Even though we tried, in the beginning.  You are who you are and you have your dreams, and it’s your life.  And we’re proud of you.  Don’t think we’re not.  We crossed our fingers and tried not to think about things like this with you out there, every day, doing what you do.  Though I’m not very good at that, not like your mom, despite… logic telling her the same thing probably wouldn’t happen.  But then we get that call, that you’ve been hurt…”  Boyd squeezed Susan’s shoulders.  Usually, she was the more pragmatic one, the one who reassured him when he over-worried.  Most of the time she could keep a level head, but there were a few things, old and painful things, that she’d never dealt with well and kept buried away inside.  Losing most of her family at a young age had left deep wounds on her psyche, and though they’d healed over time, the emotional scars that remained were painfully evident at times like this.

Susan composed herself as best she could.  “I was Orion’s age when my parents were killed in that car accident.  Losing them was devastating, but at least I still had my big brother.  Even if he never was the same, never quite right, after that, either.  And I was just a little older than Chris when I lost him, too.  Younger than Patrick.”  She took a steadying breath.  “I’m not going to tell you what that was like.  I can’t, really, words don’t… but I can tell you I don’t want my grandsons to go through that.  And selfishly,” she choked on her words, but kept going, “I don’t want to lose my daughter.  None of us want to lose you!”  She pulled her into a tight hug, still crying.

“You won’t.  Mom, I’m okay.  Really.  I… I’ll be careful.  You don’t need to worry about me.  I promise.”

“Do more than promise,” Susan insisted.  “Do it.”

Offline oshizu

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #259 on: August 05, 2018, 11:02:54 AM »
I love how Blair and the cynical Cycl0n3 make such a great contrast with Susan and Boyd.
How interesting that Cycl0n3 had seen Chris's doll move!
You've done a good job of writing Buddy--he continues to annoy me, lol.

Susan's outbreak was a big surprise.
Looking forward to how the Golden Llama thing unfolds. Revealing Leighton's identity will put him at great risk, since he knows who the crooked cops are...

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 73
« Reply #260 on: August 25, 2018, 10:52:35 PM »
I love how Blair and the cynical Cycl0n3 make such a great contrast with Susan and Boyd.
How interesting that Cycl0n3 had seen Chris's doll move!

Thanks! I feel for Blair a bit sometimes, being so idealistic and such a lawful good type.

As for Chris' doll, because I don't switch active families in the game play save this is based on there was no real way to play him or Travis maintaining a relationship with an IF. The shots I got were from staging saves that don't affect the main game. When I took screenshots of Chris in one of those back around Chapter 30, I had Cycl0n3 check the house's mail and there was a doll in it, so I ran with the idea that Cycl0n3 saw the doll move and get creeped out by it to explain why he didn't have his own "Buddy" to deal with. It was the same deal with Travis. He had an IF doll named Rags in his inventory but since the household wasn't active in the main game, it didn't come to life or anything.

You've done a good job of writing Buddy--he continues to annoy me, lol.

Being annoying is Buddy's special talent! ;) I've debated having him turned real and just letting him be a townie, but I also enjoy the weirdness factor having him around gives Patrick, so I'm still undecided on that.

Susan's outbreak was a big surprise.
Looking forward to how the Golden Llama thing unfolds. Revealing Leighton's identity will put him at great risk, since he knows who the crooked cops are...

I've always envisioned Susan as someone who keeps a fairly tight lid on her more intense emotions most of the time, because she doesn't like to feel like she's out of control or illogical or foolish, especially because of her snob trait. But on the rare occasion something bad happens that does trip a wire, so to speak, it comes out like fireworks the way repressed emotion tends to.

As for Leighton, yeah, he's not in the best position, especially if he starts naming names. However, he's not the only Golden Llama. ;) Story progression has four Sunset Valley residents in its vigilante gang at present. Leighton was just the first and the leader. (And a couple days from elder, so he probably would've passed the torch to one of the younger members of the gang before long anyway, if he hadn't been caught.)

Chapter 73

It was time for Patrick to start his first term at Sims University.  He and Maria were traveling together.  She had already said her goodbyes to her mother, Tad, and little Caleb that morning before going to the Wainwright mansion.

Bright and early, they packed his things into the van.  “That’s it.  Time to go.”

Susan hugged him.  “Good luck, sweetie.  Not that you’ll need it.  You’re my son, after all.  You’ll ace your stuff.”

“Drive safe.  It’s a long ride to Sims U, and those mountain roads get icy.  It might as well be winter already up there,” Boyd warned.

“We’ll be fine, Dad.”

“That van won’t handle like your car, so take it easy on the gas pedal.  I know how you drive.”

“I know who taught me,” Patrick replied with a smirk.  “But really, don’t worry.”

“Yeah, that’s happening,” Orion snickered, while Boyd hugged Patrick.

“Good luck, and text us when you get there so we know you got there safe.”

“I will.”

Iris waved.  “Bye!  Patches says she’ll make sure Buddy behaves while you’re gone.”

Boyd and Susan exchanged a look while Patrick smiled back at her.  “That’s good.  Someone’s got to keep him in line without me around, and Orion’s spending all his afternoons with Tara lately.”

Orion straightened with feigned nonchalance at that.  “You know we’re mostly doing martial arts.”

“And kissing.”  Iris made a kissy face.

“Yeah, I’m sure she loves your moves,” Patrick quipped.  “Take care, you two.”  He picked up the last suitcase to take to the van.  “Bye, everyone!  Keep in touch.”

“Bye, Patrick.  We love you.”  Susan’s voice held a note of wistfulness.

“Love you guys, too.”  With that, he climbed into the van with Maria, who also waved goodbye as they started off on their long drive to Sims U.

After Patrick left, and Orion and Iris went to school, Boyd and Susan tended their plants in the greenhouse.  Their experimental egg and cheese plants were now on their second generation and thriving despite the shorter autumn days.

“So, that’s two out of the nest now,” said Boyd.  “And our first off to University.  As a kid, I mean.”  Although Blair had taken some classes over the years specific to her career, she’d never completed a full degree.

“And Chris won’t be far behind him.  Our grandson.  Oh, that makes me feel old.”

“Then look at Iris.  She’s got a way to go yet.”

“Hmm, I like that rationalized perspective,” Susan remarked before becoming serious again.  “I hope Patrick doesn’t go too wild out on his own.  He can be pretty impulsive.”

“I’m sure he’ll party some, but he’s dedicated to his music and art.  I don’t think he’ll slack to the point it affects his grades.”

“I hope not.  But I guess if Dr. Keg Stand isn’t worried, I shouldn’t be too concerned.”

“Really?  That happened before he was born.  It was just… I cut loose a little.  Once.”

“It was the most egregious example, maybe.  But you do get a little animated after a few drinks.  There’s a reason Cycl0n3 plies you with refills and goads you into retelling internet conspiracy theories at parties.”

“Come on.  Neither me or Cycl0n3 ever did a keg stand at any of our parties.  I’m not sure either of us would be in the shape to, even if we were so inclined.”

“You were barely in the shape to do it then.  Not to mention about twenty years past the age where it might’ve been even remotely appropriate,” Susan teased.  “Like it or not, Ludo was a bad influence on you.”

“You have to admit he was fun, though.  Did you know he still works at Sims U?  He’s a tenured professor, doing advanced research on that brain wave stuff we all collaborated on back in the day.  Wrote several papers.”

“Any good?”

“Yeah.  I’ll show you later.”

Iris was the youngest of the Wainwright children, but she was still growing up.  Her own teenage birthday was not far off, but that didn’t stop her from hanging out with Patches.  They still spent a lot of time together, although their more childish play had been replaced with nature walks and chit-chat.

Iris loved being outside, despite the weather getting colder and colder.  Susan and Boyd worried about her catching a chill, but they also knew how important it was for her to get sunshine, so they bit their tongues on the nicer days and just encouraged her to bundle up and know her limits.  It wouldn’t be long before she’d have to spend her “sun time” in the greenhouse, so she might as well enjoy it while she could.

Cheeky as she’d been about it, Iris wasn’t wrong about Orion, either.  He and Tara were now officially an item, and he referred to her as his girlfriend to friends and family.  She’d been over at their house many times, and he spent lots of time at hers.  Susan and Boyd both liked her, although they noticed how nervous she was around them and how she had an anxious air about her in general.

Susan remarked to Boyd privately that Tara had a bit of “foot in mouth” disease, although “not as bad as Cycl0n3, at least.”  Boyd noticed it, too, but since Tara didn’t come across as intentionally rude—rather the opposite, in how she fell over herself apologizing at times—he figured if it didn’t bother Orion, it didn’t bother him.  They were used to Cycl0n3, after all, and his big mouth was intentional at least half of the time.  Or maybe just a third, if Blair was around to tsk-tsk him for it.

Orion and Tara spent almost as much time sparring as they did smooching and snuggling.  Both were enthusiastic about martial arts and had improved a lot.  Tara had a board breaker on her deck, so she and Orion spent some late autumn afternoons after school practicing together.  He was still ahead of her in belts, but she was catching up fast.

“Nice try,” Tara taunted playfully as she blocked a shot.  “You’ve got to move faster than that.”

“Oh, yeah?  Challenge accepted.”

It was a challenge for them both.  Orion ended up defeating her that time, but not easily.  “Wow.  You’re going to get that belt soon.”

“I hope so!”  She grinned as they finished the ceremonial bow ending the match.  “Although I shouldn’t have gotten that hit on the left so easily.  You were distracted.  What were you looking at?”

Orion’s lip tugged into a hint of a guilty smile.  “Your, uh, form.”

Her mouth dropped open in mock offense.  “Were you staring at my butt?  It doesn’t even show off much in these loose uniforms.”

“Other things are cut a little lower,” he pointed out.

Tara looked down, and blushed.  “Oh, my watcher.  Does it really show I don’t wear a bra under this?!  I mean, I don’t have to because they’re not even that big, and… oh…” Her voice trailed off in embarrassment.

“They look fine.  I mean, you do.”

Tara flushed even more.  “What?  I mean…”

“I’m sorry.  I just meant don’t worry.  You asked what I was looking at.  It was a nice view, and it’s not like you flashed me or anything.”

“Well that’s good.  Still, I wish I’d realized.”  She sighed, although it was clear she felt better now.  “Maybe I just burned some fat and it got looser or something.”

Orion knew better than to even try to comment on that, so he just said, “I think you look fine.”

“Thanks, but I’ll still tie this a little tighter next time.”  She gave him a flirty look.  “I don’t want a false victory from distraction.”

After their match, they were hungry, so Tara made them something to eat.  “I know it sounds super boring, but trust me, this power salad recipe of Mom’s is actually pretty good.”

“‘Power’ and ‘salad’ don’t sound like they should go together, but I’ll trust you this time.”  He took a bite.

“See?  It’s better than you think.  The avocado and dressing improve it a lot.  And those tomatoes are ones Dad grew, so they’ve got that fresh taste store ones don’t have.  He’s managed to keep them alive despite the frost.  He checks the temperature every night and runs out there with frost blankets if he thinks it’ll get too cold.  I’m like, you know winter is coming, right?  They’re going to get it eventually!  But he just takes it as a challenge.”

“Maybe he should get a greenhouse.”

“Nah, he’s not that into gardening as a hobby.  He just likes being outside and kind of babies the tomato plants as a project.”  She ate a bite.  “They do taste good, though, and Mom’s always pushing the healthy stuff since the doctor’s worried about Dad’s heart.  What’s funny is supposedly it’s stress that’s doing it, but he says he can’t not stress about things, so he’s like ‘well I guess I’ll just eat better and work out and hope it works.’”  She tapped her fork.  “Though I guess I can’t talk.  I stress about a lot, too.”

“Yeah.  I wish you didn’t sometimes.”  Orion tried to put his thoughts into the right words.  “Not because it makes me mad or anything.  It just sucks when you get all upset because you’re worried about what I think or what your parents or whoever think, or what they’ll say or do.”

“I know.  It’s not personal or anything.  It’s just how I am.  I’ve always been like that.”  She sighed.  “You know I don’t think… you don’t think that deep down I think you’re a jerk or secretly hate me or anything, right?  It’s just sometimes my brain runs away and I can’t help worrying—”

“No.  I get it.”  He was frustrated he triggered exactly what he’d been trying not to.  He was glad he had his alien abilities to help figure out Tara’s moods, though at times, what he sensed of her thoughts was dizzying.  “I guess being like I am forced me to get over caring too much what other people think a long time ago, and I wish you could, too.  Llamas are going to be llamas, and if they don’t like you…”  He shrugged.

“People like you, though.  I mean, if they talk to you, and get to know you.  You’re nice and you always seem to know what to say.  I don’t.  I’m dumb and say stupid things, and people think I’m judging them or think they’re being jerks, or I take what they say wrong.  So then I don’t say anything and then they think I’m a snob or a weirdo.  It’s like I can’t win.  Mom and the counselors say stuff like ‘it’s hard for people to like you if you don’t like yourself,’ but then if I do like myself, I worry I’m a snob and I’m too high on myself so I probably shouldn’t be, especially since no one likes me anyway!  I mean, not you, but…”  She set her fork down and sighed.  “Do you get what I’m saying or did I screw that up?”

“Hey.  First of all, you’re not stupid.  Second, people do like you.  Me, and your friends.  And third,” he gave her a puzzled look, “I’m not sure where you get the idea that I’m popular at all.  I didn’t even have a date for the last prom.”

“Heh.  Well, considering I went with Tom the Cheating Pile of Plum Sekemoto, you still had a better one.  I can’t even stand to look at the pictures or think about it anymore because of him.”

“Then we’ve got to make our next one really count.”  Orion stood and drew her close.  “And yes, that is me asking you officially, in case you were wondering.”

“Not really.  Though if you hadn’t brought it up once it got a little closer, I might’ve worried a little.”

“I wouldn’t want that.”

“You actually don’t make me worry that much.  Believe it or not.”  She smiled at him.  “I know.  This is me worrying only a little.  Sad, huh?  Though when I do, it’s because I—because of what you mean… how much I—”

Orion sensed what she was too nervous to be the one to say first.  “I love you, too.  So, don’t worry.”  He kissed her.

Tara glowed with happiness and relief.  “I love you too!  So much.  You’re so… you get me so much better than anyone else!  If I didn’t know better, I’d swear you could read my mind sometimes!”

Orion stroked her hair and tried not to feel resentful that he couldn’t tell her he actually could do that, and why.  “I’ve just got a knack for reading people.  At least it’s something to balance out the whole freaky looking green thing, right?”

“You’re not a freak.  And honestly, I’m glad you can’t read my mind.  The thought of anyone poking around in there kind of freaks me out.  I feel like if anyone really knew and saw it all, they’d run screaming for the hills.”

“Aw, I think we all feel like that sometimes.”

“Maybe, but it’s hard picturing you having any deep dark secrets.”  She smiled at him.  “You’re always so confident and together.”

If he hadn’t known how wrongly she’d take it, Orion would have laughed, knowing the truth of it.  “Oh, I’ve got stuff, too.  Like I said, I think we all do.  It’s normal.”

“Well, that’s the first time anyone ever accused me of being that,” Tara said with a self-deprecating chuckle.  “But thanks.”  She rested her head on his shoulder.  “Now I’m going to try not to think about what kind of dark stuff you keep to yourself that you don’t tell anyone.”

“Nothing you need to worry about.  I know you can’t, but if you could read my mind, you’d see when it comes to you, it’s all good.”

After he came home from Tara’s, Orion joined his father in the basement lab.  Boyd was tinkering with nanite designs that would be used in his plumbot prototype’s eventual construction.  “So that’s how that connects,” Boyd showed Orion as he moved the visual design to the side.  “It needs this piece here, which is,” he checked another readout, “eighty six percent complete.  About three more minutes.”

“And when that hooks into that, then that switches on?”

“You got it.”  Although Boyd was proud of all his children, and missed Patrick already, he was thrilled to have one of them interested in science and technology the same way he was.  “You’re a natural at this.  You could probably put one of these nanites together yourself with a little more practice.”

“That’d be cool.”  Orion watched him complete the next step.  “Oh, did Patrick make it to Sims U okay?”

“Yup.  He made pretty good time.  A little too good.  I told him to ease up on that lead foot, but you know your brother.  At least they made it there safe, and didn’t get any speeding tickets.”

“That’s one thing you won’t have to worry about with me in the Galaxa.  No cop will ever catch me in that!”

“That’s not what you were supposed to take away from that,” Boyd replied, semi-amused.  “And I suspect your sister would be even less impressed.”

“Have you talked to her?  How’s she doing?”  Although Orion hadn’t been there when his parents and Patrick visited her after the confrontation with the Golden Llama, he and Iris had heard all about it.

“Still a little sore, but she says she’s fine.  I wish she hadn’t taken such a foolish risk, though.  Your mom was harsh, but she wasn’t wrong.”  Boyd queued up the next task on the bot builder.  “Blair’s more upset about the prosecution now.  They’re throwing the book at Sekemoto and there’s been some backlash.  An article in the paper painted her and the whole SVPD like the bad guys.”

Orion frowned thoughtfully.  “But in a way they kind of are.  Not Blair specifically, I know she’s just following the law, but in the big picture.  The police should be glad someone’s taking care of the criminals they can’t get.  Like the ones who get off or do things to people too scared to press charges.  The Golden Llamas are trying to do good.  Blair even said he said he didn’t want to hurt her when he tried to get away.”

“He did hurt her, though, whether he wanted to or not.  So I can’t say I’m too torn up that he’s going to jail.”

“I know, and it sucks Blair got hurt, but… I just don’t think the Llamas stopping criminals the cops can’t is all that bad.  In concept, I mean.”

Boyd regarded Orion with a raised eyebrow, and Orion frowned somewhat defensively.

“Come on, Dad.  If Blair wasn’t involved, would you really think they’re all bad?  No offense, but it’s not like you and Mom haven’t gone around the law yourselves.  Just look at my fake birth certificate and some of the stuff you’ve hacked into—”

“Doing what’s necessary to protect your identity is hardly the same as running around in a superhero outfit dishing out our own brand of vigilante justice,” Boyd cut him off sharply, conveniently ignoring the mention of hacking.  “But since you asked?  At best, I’d be wary of anyone doing what the Golden Llamas are doing.  While it might look noble, it could be someone’s personal vendetta just as much as it might be altruism.  In the heat of the moment it’s very easy to conflate the two and rationalize what’s just and fair.”  He closed the screen now that his programming was done.

“Okay, maybe, but I really don’t think that’s what they’re about.  Not from what I’ve heard or read or what you and Mom said Blair herself said.”

“I hope you’re right, but there’s no way to know for sure without being in their heads, is there?”

“In theory, I could do that.”

Boyd met Orion’s eyes sternly.  “In theory, you could give me a heart attack by suggesting even in jest that you might try to track down one of those costumed nutjobs and try using your powers on them.”

“Dad, I didn’t mean—”

“Good!  Because that would be the most irresponsible and reckless thing one of you kids has done since… well, since your sister decided to try and arrest a Golden Llama without backup.  So I’m glad we’re in agreement there, right?  You’re not going to even consider doing something so insanely dangerous and stupid?”

“I won’t get myself hurt, Dad.”

Boyd did not like that answer.  It was evasively honest, the kind a smart kid would give an authority figure when he intended to do whatever it was anyway without technically lying.  It was not unlike the sort of answer he’d have given his own parents when he was Orion’s age and inclined to do something he probably shouldn’t.  “Orion.  You’re not going to try to find a Golden Llama.  Promise me.”

I already know where one is if I want to ask him, Orion thought.  Sitting in a SVPD jail cell.  No looking necessary. “I won’t go looking for any Golden Llamas.  I promise.”

That sounded solid enough for Boyd.  “All right.  Thank you.  I just want you to be safe.”  He patted the side of the bot building machine.  “Let’s take a break while this finishes up.  I want your mom to see how this turns out anyway.”

“Sure.”  Orion followed him up the stairs.

While Orion and Boyd discussed the Golden Llama, Blair mulled over for what felt like the millionth time the events of Leighton Sekemoto’s arrest.  After identifying him as the Golden Llama she tangled with at Outstanding, the SVPD sent officers to the stadium where he worked to bring him in for questioning.  While there, they also bagged a water cooler paper cup he’d discarded to get his DNA.  Forensics ran that while they questioned him, and got the results quickly—it was a match to the blood on Blair’s glove.  That was all the proof they needed to arrest and book him on the spot.

Almost immediately, social media lit up with the news.  It seemed that everyone had something to say about it.  Some good, but more bad, and most upsetting to Blair was just how many posts were hateful toward the SVPD and her in particular. Being branded the bad guy was hard enough, but the implications some made that Leighton was only arrested because he was “onto them and their shameless corruption” hurt on a deep level.

Leighton’s wife Monika had been outraged, and she stormed into the station swearing that she’d get him the best lawyer and get him out of there.  His teenage son Tom was also furious.  He raged and cursed about what a llama load it was to even consider what the Golden Llamas did a crime, while his youngest son, Lester, cried that he didn’t want his dad to go to jail for helping people.  Monika reined in her temper long enough to try and calm her kids, but not before videos were taken by onlookers and uploaded for even more citizens to tweet and comment on.

Leighton himself took it surprisingly well.  He told his family he loved them and urged them to stay strong and not worry.  In regard to his charges he said very little other than to reiterate that he stood by his principles and would never be ashamed of doing what was right to help others.  For specifics, he invoked his right to remain silent, and in sharp contrast to his wife, he seemed resigned and a bit weary, but steadfast in the righteousness of his cause.

When he saw Blair, he told her he had no hard feelings and understood she did what she had to do as “one of the good ones.”  That still nagged at her, the implication that some of her fellow officers didn’t respect the law the way they should.  Some that looked the other way for the Golden Llama gang, and some that the Golden Llama gang believed were as corrupt as the criminals they went after.  Blair had no idea who was what, and she didn’t like thinking that anyone she worked with was guilty of either.

Just before they took him to his cell, Leighton made a final ominous statement that could’ve been taken as a declaration of innocence as much as it could a warning.  “Arresting me won’t end this.”

Blair knew he was right.  There was at least one other Golden Llama still at large, the woman, and most likely more.  The descriptions of the woman varied enough that there were probably at least two, and a male in the costume had been seen at times Leighton Sekemoto had a verified alibi—such as when he was playing in televised games at the stadium.  The DA would have to be careful about the charges they filed because of that.  Any reasonable doubt would get Leighton acquitted for all of it, even with the DNA evidence.  Especially since the Golden Llama was a sympathetic criminal, if the storm on social media was any indication.

Hank came over to Blair.  “Hey.  How’re you holding up?”

“I’m hanging in there.  Starting to get used to the dirty looks.  Did you know even the barista snubbed me this morning?  Apparently, she’s a big fan of the Llamas both as a sports team and the Golden Llama gang.”  She sighed.  “And Chris told me last night that Tom asked him in front of the whole lunch room what the hell the problem was with the cops in town, only with a lot more profanity and ‘your mother’ implications.  Chris told him off, and Tad got involved to back him up, so now there’s a bunch of school drama he’s dealing with.  He said he didn’t care, but I know my son.  He does.  He’s been friends with Tom since grade school, and it’s bothering him a lot.  He’s just doing that ‘boys are tough’ act to save face.”

“I’m sorry.  Kids can be real llamas to each other sometimes.”

“Cycl0n3 warned me it’d be like this, and I tried to anticipate it, but… well, it sucks.  Especially with my kids getting dragged into it.”  Blair frowned at her computer, where the paper’s unflattering article was on the screen.  Like the compulsion to look at a bad wreck, Blair couldn’t stop herself from reading it over again.  “Things like this stupid article don’t help.  I know River McIrish’s stories have always had that pro-Golden Llama vibe to them, but I never thought she was so un-objective or hated the SVPD enough to write something like this.”

“Funny thing about that.  I did a little digging, because I took that article personally, too, and it’s not the first time she’s seemed a little eager to make the Golden Llamas look like they should be nominated for sainthood.”  Hank rolled his eyes.  “She’s clean, no record or anything, and doesn’t fit the description of the lady llama at all, but… guess who works for her?  Direct report over there at Doo Peas?”


“Sam Sekemoto.”

“Leighton’s oldest son.”

“Yup.  What a coincidence, huh?”

“Well, the bias makes sense now.  Doesn’t help us in the court of public opinion much, though, and it’s not very good journalism.”  Her voice took on a sadder note.  “Sam’s my neighbor.  He moved into the little house next door last year.  He was always nice, too.  A good guy, like the rest of his family.  This town really is too small sometimes.”

“It’s a shame that one of McIrish’s other direct reports couldn’t keep things more on the ball.  Arlo’s girlfriend Bella works for her, too.  Guess we know who the office favorite is,” he said on a sarcastic note.  “But that’s not all that bothers me about this case.”

“You mean all the accusations of corruption, and the stuff Sekemoto keeps saying about the SVPD?”

“Ugh.  That too, although I was getting at something else.  Things don’t add up.  We know he’s not working alone, but look at the stuff these guys do, and some of the equipment they’ve got.  Yeah, he makes good money, but I did some checking into his financials, and he and his wife aren’t in the position to bankroll things like the Golden Llamas’ motorcycles and gear.  Most of their money is either tied up in their house or in savings for their kids.  There aren’t any weird transactions.  The Llamas’ gear looks like high end custom work, so I don’t think it’s a hodgepodge of stuff they appropriated for their cause.  I don’t think he’s stealing from the criminals, at least not outside of taking stolen goods back as an example of the golden rule.  And it doesn’t look like he’s keeping that stuff and selling it off, unless he’s doing some shady money laundering we’re not seeing.”

“That wouldn’t fit his M.O. anyway,” Blair mused.  “Most criminals, yeah, you could assume something like that, but his whole thing is the moral high ground.  I don’t get the hypocrite doing it for fame vibe off him.”

“Me neither.  So that begs the question, who’s funding these guys?  Someone with a lot more money than the Sekemotos.  Someone pretty freaking rich and well-connected.  Because someone’s going out of their way to make life easy for these Golden Llamas.”

“Friends in high places, and convenient places, like right here at the SVPD.  ‘Walk away, like the others have,’” Blair quoted.  “Makes you wonder just what’s been covered up, and by who.”

“And what lengths they might go to hide it,” Hank said, while Blair realized just how right Leighton had been.  Arresting him wasn’t the end of it.  It was only the beginning.

Hours away and beginning something much happier, Patrick and Maria were excited to finally be at Sims University.  They parked the van and met up in the lobby of their dorm.  “Got your room key?” he asked.

“Yup.  How about you, with your solo room?  I’m still so jealous!”

“Got it right here.  Figures it’s all the way on the third floor, and no elevator.”  He groaned.  “So many stairs.  Kind of wish I’d packed lighter.”

“Especially since you’re helping me move my stuff first.”  Maria squeezed his bicep.  “I need my big strong man to carry the big boxes to my room on the second floor.”

Patrick made a face at the stairwell.  “And you’re on the second floor?  Figures.  I don’t know how well my guitar muscles are going to serve me there, but I guess you’re going to make me find out, huh?”

“Unless you want to risk getting on my bad side.”

“I know better than that,” he said wryly.  “Come on.  Let’s get this unwanted stairmaster routine over with.”

Patrick was glad that Maria’s room was at least near the top of the stairs.  “This isn’t bad.  Your room’s bigger than mine.”

“Yeah, because I’m sharing.”

“Your bed folds up into the wall.  That’s kind of wild.”  He flopped on it and bounced, and it made a creaking noise.  “Is there some kind of safety thing on these?  It’s not going to spring back and crush us or anything if we get a little…?”  He made a suggestive movement, and Maria gave him a playful swat.

“That would be the first thing you bring up.”

Patrick grinned.  “I’m pretty sure you’re the one who brings it up.”

“Very funny.  But I’m sure they’re safe.  That thing about people getting crushed in these beds is just an urban legend.  They wouldn’t leave unsafe beds in the dorms.  Besides, I don’t think I’ll be into giving my roommate a show, so unless you’ve got one of the wall beds in your room, it probably won’t matter.”

“Nah.  Mine’s a regular bed with a frame.”  He looked around.  “Did you meet your roommate yet?”

Maria shook her head.  “Nope.  She hasn’t picked up her key.  All I know is her name’s Liz and we’re supposed to have filled out our rooming preferences close to the same so we should get along.  I hope she’s nice and not some crazy weirdo or anything.”

“If she is, you can always crash with me.  And if she’s really weird, you’ll have some great writing material.”

“Yeah, but I’d rather have someone that doesn’t make me want to kill them.  Tad was bad enough, practically moving into my room for a week before I left!”

After they got Maria’s things to her room, they took Patrick’s to his.  All the trips up and down the stairs wore them both out by the time they finished.  “You guys look beat,” another student remarked as they came in through the front door for the final time.

“Eighty thousand trips up to the third floor will do that,” Patrick quipped.

“And don’t forget the ones to mine on the second before that.”

“Ah, yeah, that sucks.  This is my second term here, so I knew to conscript friends into helping me haul my stuff when I got here this morning.  Speaking of stuff, that’s a sweet guitar you had earlier.  Just a hobby, or are you a music major?”

“I’m fine arts, focused on music.  Though I paint and draw and sculpt sometimes, too.  How about you?”

He shook his head.  “Nah.  I love art, and I would’ve majored in it, but my parents insisted I do something that’ll get me a ‘real job’ because they don’t want me living the starving artist lifestyle after I graduate.  So I’m doing science and medicine.  I’m Cid, by the way.”

“Patrick.”  He shook his hand.

“Your parents sound like mine.  Or my dad at least.  I’m Maria,” she introduced herself.  “I love art, too, but my dad’s a super stern businessman and he thinks all that stuff is a frivolous waste.”  She rolled her eyes.  “I considered doing fine arts anyway because it’s my life and not his, but decided to go with communications since I also love writing and want to get published someday.”

“She’s a great writer.  Great artist, too, and pretty good on the piano, but words are her specialty.  She’s a huge bookworm.”  Patrick put his arm around Maria’s waist while she basked in the compliments.

“Oh, you’re so sweet to me.”  She fluttered her eyelashes at Patrick before returning her attention to Cid.  “Patrick and I have been together a long time, in case you couldn’t tell.  Most of high school.”

“And you came here together, huh?  That’s cool.  I haven’t had a girlfriend put up with me for nearly that long,” he joked.  “My last screwed around with some juiced up frat jock behind my back, and I found out when one of his buddies tagged her in a picture making out with him.  So I tagged her dorm’s fence with a little spray-painted picture letting everyone know what I thought of her.  That ended that.”

“I bet,” laughed Patrick.

“Sounds fair to me,” said Maria.  “Cheaters deserve what they get.”

“That’s what I figure.  Anyway, I’ve got to finish unpacking.  It was nice meeting you two.  Catch you later.”  Cid headed upstairs, while Patrick and Maria went to the dorm’s common living room.

“He was cool,” Maria remarked while they sat on one of the couches.  Patrick picked up the TV remote and flipped through the channels to see what was on.

“Yeah.  I think his room’s on the third floor across from mine.  I saw him on one of our zillion trips carrying stuff.  Might be fun to hang out with sometime.”  Maria relaxed against Patrick’s shoulder, and he put his arm around her.  “Though right now, I’m cool with just hanging out here with you.”

“Our first day of a whole semester of us sort of living together!  It’ll be amazing.”  She snuggled close, and as their lips met for a kiss, Patrick had to agree.

Author’s Note: You may have noticed that Patrick and Maria met an original Sims U townie as a young adult, despite Boyd and Susan being there back in week 1 of the game and it now being week 6. I thought the sims there were supposed to age between visits (and I even recall Boyd and Susan getting a notification that Rex Lovelace was about to kick the bucket at some point), but apparently the aging in the University world got turned off or reset, probably when I changed or updated mods. So sims that Boyd and Susan met were still day 32 young adults instead of close to the end of the adult stage like they should be.

On the bright side, I didn’t have a bunch of random weirdly dressed YA townies to make over there, and I was able to use some of the other original Sims U personalities for the second generation’s friends.  The aging issue can be fixed in the mod once they go home. As for the sims there who interacted with Boyd and Susan earlier in the story, I just changed their ages manually with Master Controller and made them look their proper age.

Offline oshizu

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #261 on: August 26, 2018, 01:13:18 PM »
Orion and Tara are so sweet together. Orion's pretty special, the way he moves around Tara's constant anxiety.
Her paranoia sometimes reminds me of Boyd, but then Boyd seems like a very skilled socializer.
I'm really looking forward to how Iris develops as she grows.
   Wow, Blair's capture of Leighton has caused such backlash! So many unanswered questions in that plotline for you to explore and unravel.

Huh, I'd never realized that you weren't playing Blair & Cycl0n3 as an active household because of your clever staging!
By the way, it absolutely kills me to see Susan and Boyd as elders. *sniffle, sniffle
I'm thrilled to learn that Orion may be following in his parents' footprint as a scientist!!!
Such a great story, Cheezey!

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Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 74
« Reply #262 on: September 01, 2018, 01:37:47 AM »
Orion and Tara are so sweet together. Orion's pretty special, the way he moves around Tara's constant anxiety.
Her paranoia sometimes reminds me of Boyd, but then Boyd seems like a very skilled socializer.
I'm really looking forward to how Iris develops as she grows.

That alien empathy/intuition makes it easier for him to understand Tara than most. She has both the inappropriate and socially awkward trait on top of neurotic, so socializing isn't her forte to say the least! For example, in the game one time I had Susan walk over to chat with her at a party and after I switched to do something on another sim and checked back on Susan, Tara had let loose with a few socials that left Susan feeling highly insulted.  ;D

Wow, Blair's capture of Leighton has caused such backlash! So many unanswered questions in that plotline for you to explore and unravel.
]Huh, I'd never realized that you weren't playing Blair & Cycl0n3 as an active household because of your clever staging!

Yup! Story progression mostly handles their household, though I have used mods to help them along a bit. But there are too many drawbacks in Sims 3 to switching active households, even with mods, for my playstyle, so I don't do it.

By the way, it absolutely kills me to see Susan and Boyd as elders. *sniffle, sniffle
I'm thrilled to learn that Orion may be following in his parents' footprint as a scientist!!!
Such a great story, Cheezey!

Thanks! It's hard for me seeing them old, too! I'm glad Sims 3 elders last longer than Sims 4 ones, at least. They'll be around for a little while yet. Hopefully long enough to see grandchildren from Patrick and possibly Orion. (Iris will be pushing it, especially since plantsims have to grow a baby from seed and all that.) Susan already has a wish to see Patrick married. Boyd rolled one to see him be a doctor which made no sense considering he knows how artsy Patrick is. Maybe he should save that one for his older grandson.

Chapter 74

The first thing Patrick and Maria did as Sims U students was attend an orientation.  They browsed the booths and picked up freebies being handed out, and talked with the advisors about their majors and classes.  They had a lot of work ahead of them, but they were confident they could handle it.

Classes started bright and cold and early.  Boyd hadn’t been kidding about how much colder it was at Sims U compared to Sunset Valley.  Patrick had to dig out his winter coat on the first day, when he trudged to his Modern History of Found Arts class first thing in the morning.  Maria shivered the whole walk to her lecture, which was in a building all the way across campus, and she had to warm up her fingers fast to type her notes.  Sims University classes were faster-paced than high school had been.

Her worries about her roommate turned out to be mostly unfounded.  Although she had some quirks, Liz Tarry was nice, and she was quite smart.  She was a technology major, and confided to Maria that she had a crush on Cid, who Patrick became friends with pretty quickly.  The only things Maria didn’t like about Liz were how sometimes she didn’t get boundaries and overshared, and she snored “like a freaking buzz saw” as she put it to Patrick.

Still, Maria really did not like sharing living quarters with a roommate, even one she got along with for the most part.  She’d always had her own room growing up, and despite that, she and Tad still often argued about who got what or first dibs on this or that.  Having nowhere private as her own space to study or work on her writing was very frustrating.  Liz was chatty and frequently enthused about whatever was on her mind, even when Maria was reading or writing.  It irked her that Liz never seemed to get when she was busy and didn’t want to be interrupted with babble, especially when she wasn’t talking about anything important.

Maria spent a lot of time, and more than a few nights, in Patrick’s room.  Because he had a single, he practiced his music whenever he wanted without having to worry about whether a roommate would mind.  Maria enjoyed listening, especially when he showed off new music.

Even though they had different majors, they often studied together.  Like her, Patrick was quiet when he was focused on his work, unless something important or inspired struck him.  That evening, Maria did some assigned reading while Patrick did a sketching assignment.  He cursed under his breath when his lines started coming out thicker than he’d like, and reached for his sharpener.

Maria looked up.  “Everything okay?”

“Yeah, just have to redo this part.”  He sharpened his pencil and erased the offending line.  He eyed Maria, then the sketch.

“How am I turning out?”  She was flattered he was drawing her, even if her sitting with her nose in a book wasn’t a terribly sexy pose.

“Pretty good.  It helps that my subject is something I like looking at.  Though you could really inspire me and go au naturel.”

“Don’t you get enough of that with your live models in class?” she teased with the slightest hint of jealousy.

“You’re prettier than the guy who modeled today, I promise.  But here you are so far.”  He held up his sketch.

“It’s good, but… oh, Watcher!  Is my butt really that big?  Ugh.  Guess I better switch to light whip and sugar free syrup in my mochas!”

“Your butt is fine.  It looks great.  Trust me, I grab it often enough to know,” he said flirtatiously, which mollified her.

“If you say so.”

It was late by the time they finished their assignments.  “Crashing here again tonight?”

“I think so.  I’ve just got to get a change of clothes.”

“Maybe I should clear you a drawer in here.  Save you some trips up the stairs.”

“I just hope Liz is asleep so I can get in and out.  After that long dry essay, I’m not in the mood for any more unnecessary words.”

“She’s really getting on your nerves lately, huh?”

Maria sighed.  “Don’t get me wrong.  I like her, but… I just can’t with the blah-blah-blah did I tell you this blah-blah how about that on and on routine right now.  Not when I’m this tired and have class at 8.”

“Good luck.”  He smooched her.  “See you in a few, and I promise not to keep you up too much later.”

Despite her frustration rooming with her, Maria and Liz were friends, and they often hung out with Patrick and Cid.  “We should hit the Grotto tonight.  After today’s bull in class, I need to blow off some steam.”  Cid got into a heated debate with a teaching assistant in botany lab about the health benefits and drawbacks of herbs.  Given that Cid practically oozed bumbleleaf and ginseng out of his pores, it was no surprise which side he fell on.  The spectacle ended with her challenging him to turn in a bonus paper proving her wrong.  It would help his grades, but it was extra work that he didn’t particularly want.  He accepted, though, because his ego couldn’t take “that llama thinking she knows everything when she’s full of plum,” as he put it to Patrick.

“I don’t know what she was even going on about.  Bumbleleaf’s no big deal.  My parents grow it in their greenhouse, along with their engineered wonderpetal.”

“You’ve got to get them to send some of that!  It’d make some amazing tea, or hard iced tea.  Reminds me, I should grab some out of the Grotto garden tonight.”

“Maybe I’ll get some cinnamon if they’ve got any.  Maria likes it.”

“When you have it, or her?”

Patrick grinned.  “Either or.”

They met Maria and Liz and headed to the Grotto.  “You had a great idea putting the cinnamon in these for a twist, Patrick,” Liz gushed while giving Cid a coy look.  “You can hardly taste how strong it is.”

“Thanks.”  Patrick took a swig of his own.  “I like that this place never skimps on the booze.”

“How it should be,” Cid agreed as he tried his.

Maria swirled her glass and sipped it.  “Wow.  You really packed that cinnamon in.  I hardly ate today.  I’m going to be on the floor if I have more than a couple of these.”

“Have as much as you want.  I’ll get you home safe and tuck you in.”

“Yeah, I bet you will,” Liz quipped, much to Cid’s amusement.

“Meanwhile, we poor singles get to go tuck ourselves, right, Lizzie?”

“Well, maybe you’ll meet someone.”  She made eyes at him, and he leaned a little closer.

“You never know.”

The Grotto catered to an artsy crowd where Patrick and his friends fit right in.  When Cid decided to mess around in the empty DJ booth, Patrick picked up the guitar on stage alongside it and strummed a tune.  “Give me a beat for this.”

Cid put on a track.  “Like that?”

“Oh, yeah!”

While Patrick and Cid jammed on stage while Liz and some others danced, Maria started to feel tipsy, so she just watched.  “Cid and that guitarist sound pretty good,” the girl next to her remarked with an admiring note.  “Look pretty good, too.”

Maria straightened.  “That guitarist is my boyfriend, actually.”

“Oh, yeah?  Lucky you.  Hot and talented.”

“Mmm-hmm,” Maria agreed a bit possessively.  “So, you know Cid?”

“We’re in some classes together.  Same major.  Is that how you know him?  Oh, and I’m Shannon.  Nice to meet you.”

“Maria, and it’s nice to meet you, too.  But no, I don’t have any classes with him.  His room is across the hall from my boyfriend’s at De Anda.”

“Ah.  Never roomed there, but my first term I was in Malan, until I pledged Tri-Fruhm.  I’ve got to say the sorority house is a big step up.”

Maria was curious.  “Oh?  What’s it like?”

“Cushy.  Nicer beds and bathrooms, some private, and a sweet private pool.  Plus, as a sister I’m automatically in to all the exclusive parties where we screen out the losers and creeps who show up at the dorm parties and bars.  We’ve got pretty much an open invite to the parties at Urele-Oresha-Cham, too.  We do a lot of co-sponsored events with them.  Fun stuff.  Worth it, and my sorority sisters are cool.  I’ve made a lot of friends.”

“That sounds nice.”

“If you think you might want to join, we’ve got a party for potential pledges this weekend.  Stop by and check it out.  You can tell them I invited you.  The Urele-Oresha-Cham guys are having theirs the same night, if you think your boyfriend might be interested.”

Although Maria hadn’t really thought about the sorority before now, the idea appealed.  A nicer room with possibly a chance for a private one?  The only drawback would be not being in the same building as Patrick, but if he joined the fraternity, he’d only be across the street.  Maybe they could both pledge, and go to all the special events the fraternity and sorority did together.  It sounded fun and romantic.  “Cool!  Thanks!  I’ll let him know, and I’ll definitely stop by.”

“Great!  See you then.  Good luck!”

Maria hugged Patrick when he and Cid got off stage.  “You sounded great.”

“Thanks.”  He kissed her.  “How are you doing?  I can still taste the cinnamon and juice on your lips.”

“I had one more while you were playing.”  She nuzzled against him.  “I know you like those cinnamon kisses.  Fiery hot like your red hair.”

“That sounds like a line for a book,” he teased with a smirk.  “But a good one.”

“Want to head home and inspire me for a love scene?”

“Oooh.  On that note, I’ll call us a cab.”

“Think we should give Liz and Cid a heads up before we go?”

“Probably.  Though they seem to be getting along fine without us.”

Maria stopped in her room only long enough to get a change of clothes to take to Patrick’s for the night.  “Tonight was fun.”  She sighed happily in his arms after they indulged their cinnamon enhanced passion.

“It was.  Too bad I’ve got an early class tomorrow.  Kind of don’t want to call it a night, but morning’s going to hurt if I don’t.  Especially after my five juices.”

“You’re getting such a tolerance.”  She snuggled up to him.  “I’m still tipsy after a couple.”

“If you’re going to be a sorority girl and go to all those parties, you might have to work on that,” Patrick teased.  She’d told him about her conversation with Shannon on the cab ride home, and pitched the idea of them joining the sorority and fraternity together.  He hadn’t been as gung-ho about it as she was, but he was also far more content with his living situation.

“I think I can manage.  So, does this mean you’ll check out the fraternity and do it with me?”

“I’ll go to their rush or whatever, but I don’t know.  I don’t really see myself as the frat boy partying jock type.  I’m pretty much the opposite of a jock.”  He poked his belly, which was slim but far from the chiseled six-pack of someone athletic.  “Abs of noodles.”

“Oh, stop.  You don’t have to be a gym bro to be in a frat.  You think I’ll be a cardio bunny or doing pilates with my sorority sisters?  Please!  Besides, Shannon didn’t seem like that stereotypical preppy sorority snob type.  I think there are people from all crowds in them.”

“We’ll see.  If they’re cool, and you pledge the sorority, I’ll give the fraternity a try.”

Back in Sunset Valley, Susan sat with Iris to talk over a game of chess.  With her birthday approaching, it was time for one of those awkward but necessary discussions about certain aspects of growing up.  It had been a long time since she’d had to do one.  Back when Blair was a pre-teen, she and Boyd agreed that it made the most sense for the parent of the same gender to give the talk.  She’d teased at the time, when they’d never planned on having more children than Blair, that he got himself off the hook for that nicely, but years later, with Patrick and then Orion, it came back to bite him two-fold.

Now, the shoe was back on her foot with Iris, and it would be a little more complicated.  Plantsims had some major differences from what Iris would’ve been taught in health class, and while Boyd had gone through something similar with Orion in having to explain what was different with his alien genetics, at least he’d had some backup from Eni Jish Xip.  Plantsim biology, on the other hand, Susan was just as well-versed in as Boyd, and he was happy to let her handle it all herself.

“So, your birthday is coming up soon,” Susan began as she made her first chess move.  “Any thoughts on what you’d like?”

“Patrick got a car and Orion got a spaceship, so…”

“We’re planning to get you something of your own once you’re in driver’s ed, but don’t be disappointed when it’s not a Galaxa.  If we could get another one of those, it’d be parked next to Orion’s already.  So, anything else?”

Iris moved a pawn forward.  “I want some new makeup.  When I was at Kristal’s, we tried on some of her mom and sister’s and we looked really pretty!  I don’t have much.  Just nail polish and the lip gloss that tastes like bubble gum.”

“Okay, but remember you need to be careful about what chemicals you put on your skin.  Remember what happened when you spilled the nail polish remover on your hands.”  It hadn’t caused a serious injury, but the acetone had given her an itchy wilt-rash where it soaked in before she got it washed off.  “And while it’s fine if you like how it looks, remember that you never need makeup to be pretty.  Plantsims are considered beautiful all over the world, and I might be biased, but I think you’re lovely just as you are.”

“I just like the pretty colors it comes in.  I want some new clothes, too.”

“Sure.  You’ll need warmer things for winter anyway, and you’re growing fast.”  Susan pressed on with the awkward subject matter to get it over with.  “Speaking of which, I know sometimes, at your age, things can be a little… confusing.  Or frustrating, with things going on and your body changing so fast.”

Iris made a face, just as uncomfortable as her mother.  “Are you talking about hormones and stuff?  I’m fine.  They told us about that in health class.  And I got an A in that so I know about it.”

“Well, that’s good, but did they cover anything about plantsims specifically?  How it all works for you is different than everyone else.”

“My teacher gave me a book after class one day that had a chapter about plantsims.  She said she didn’t want to say anything in front of the class because I was the only plantsim, but it might answer any questions I had.  She said I shouldn’t search on the internet because a lot of stuff was wrong or inappropriate.”

“She was right,” Susan agreed.  She was glad she hadn’t waited any longer to have this discussion with Iris, as she could only imagine what she might see in an internet search about plantsims in that context.  “Did you read it?”

Iris nodded.  “I know I can’t get ever get pregnant to have a baby like other girls.  I just make seeds, even if the boy is human and not a plantsim.  And the seeds have to be planted and grown to turn into plantsim babies.”  She shrugged.  “So, I guess I don’t ever have to worry about that.”

“That’s true, but it’s still not a good idea to go… ‘seeding’ too carelessly, either.”  Susan felt more awkward than ever.  “Just because you can’t get pregnant doesn’t mean nothing bad can happen.”

Iris was also embarrassed and looked out the window.  “I’m not going to catch a blight, Mom.  The book said I can’t even get a lot of that stuff regular humans get, either, but I know I can some.”

“I’m glad you understand you need to be careful when the time comes, then, but I don’t mean just physically.  It’s easy to get hurt when you let yourself get close to someone, and the closer you get, the more potential there is to be hurt.  Not everyone is honest, especially when they want something.  Remember that, and don’t let anyone take advantage of you.”  She paused.  “Which brings me to another thing.  Did the book go into your plant pheromones and moods and how they… transfer?”

It had, and because she knew what her mother was getting at, Iris just wanted the conversation over as much as she did.  “You mean that flower and poison kiss stuff?  Yeah.”

While Susan understood Iris wasn’t having any more fun than she was, she didn’t appreciate the impatient edge to her tone because it was important.  “The ‘flower kiss,’ as they call it, is a powerful pheromonal reaction.  It causes an aphrodisiac effect.  You know what that means, right?”

Iris nodded.  “Uh-huh.”

“Then understand it might make whoever you give it to not just romantic, but eager, and possibly pushy.  Anyone who respects you won’t cross a line they shouldn’t, but there are creeps out there who might not.  It’s also not something you should smooch out as a joke or a gag or a dare, or show off with, or give to anyone who doesn’t want it, or use to try and make them like you more.  Save it for special times with someone you trust, who wants the flower kisses.  Especially since it gets more… powerful, the closer you are with someone.  Physically, I mean.”

“Okay.”  At that point, Iris was so embarrassed she was ready to crawl into the ground and root with the plant outside.

“As for the poison kiss, the chemical you make is one that makes someone very ill, and can even change them into a plantsim in some cases.  Again, it’s not something to show off with or do as a prank or to even the score with someone.  Even if you’re very angry or hate them.  It’s like Orion’s bio-draining ability that way.  Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

“I know, Mom.  I don’t want to hurt anyone, and I wouldn’t want to kiss or touch anyone I hated anyway.”

“All right.  Good.  I didn’t think you would, but I wanted to make sure you understand how powerful your abilities will get.”  Susan was relieved now that the major points were covered.  “Do you have any other questions?  About your plantsim abilities, or boys, or…?”


“Okay, then.”  Susan looked at the chess board, although their game had been all but forgotten.  “I forget whose turn it is.”

“It’s all right.  I’d kind of like to go outside, if that’s okay.”

Susan understood and didn’t blame her.  “Sure.  Have fun.”

After that, Susan got herself a strong cup of coffee while Boyd caught up with her.  “How’d it go?”

“About as fun as you’d expect.  Phew.  I’m glad it’s over.”

“So, how’d it compare to me having to tell Orion to be extra careful if he doesn’t want unplanned kids, because Sixam engineers their hybrids to be especially fertile to spread that ‘optimized’ DNA far and wide?”

“I’d say it ranks up there.  At least Iris’ health teacher gave her a book explaining some of it, so I didn’t have to spell it all out.  But it was pretty clear she just wanted it over and done.  Not that I blame her.  I did, too, but you know.”

“Yeah.  No kid wants to sit through that with their parents.  I remember Patrick just said, ‘they taught me this in school, so I’ve got it covered, literally’ and that was pretty much that.  Which was fine by me.”

“I’m just glad she was the last talk like that, and the grandkids are on Blair.”  Susan sipped her coffee.  “Though can you imagine what it must’ve been like if Chris got that talk from Cycl0n3?  I bet that was memorable.  Poor kid.”

Luckily for Chris, that embarrassing moment was a distant memory.  Currently, he was over at Tad’s being shown his new room, the one he took over when Maria left.  “Pretty sweet, huh?  So much space compared to that tiny closet of a room I had.  Still an upgrade for Caleb, though, since he was still in Mom’s.”

“I like it!  But out of curiosity, where’s Maria going to sleep when she comes home?”

“The finest couch will be prepared for Princess Maria this upcoming holiday season between terms, or a delightful air mattress or sleeping bag will be provided for her comfort,” Tad said with a smirk.  “As for after university, if she does the ‘responsible adult’ thing Dad’s always going on about, she’ll probably get a place of her own.”  He shrugged.  “Or shack up with Patrick.  That’s probably what she’s thinking.  The second he coughs up a ring, you know she’ll be right there in the mansion with him.”

“Yeah, probably.”

“Speaking of rooms, she really hates having a roommate.  She whined to Mom in like a thousand calls and messages about how annoying it is.  Like she’s a freaking ray of sunshine to live with herself!  Then she decided to join some sorority to get something better.”

“What sorority?  Alpha Diva?”

“Ha!  Right?  But I hope she gets in.  She may be a drama queen, but she’s my sister.  And I’m not giving this room back.”

“Speaking of drama queens, Tom apologized to me on the bus today.”

“He did?  What’d he say?  What’d you say?  After what he pulled, I’d tell him to shove it sideways.”

“Just that he was sorry he blew up and acted like a llama.”  Chris shrugged.  “At least he owned being out of line.  So, whatever.  I let it go.  We’ve been friends a long time.”

“Yeah, I know.  Me too.  But it was still a crock.  I’d have made him grovel a little first.”

“Ah, no you wouldn’t.  You’ve never made me grovel.”

“You never blew up at me and made a scene that’d do my sister proud in front of the whole lunch room,” Tad retorted.  “And I did say just a little.  Not a whole lot.”

“Just enough to be satisfying?”

Tad couldn’t help but smile a little.  “Pretty much.”

The drama from the Golden Llama arrest was dying down for her son, but Blair still had plenty to deal with.  Hank fell off his roof while fixing some shingles that blew off in a recent storm, and he’d been injured badly.  He was in a wheelchair until his back and legs healed enough for him to walk again, so he was stuck on desk duty until then.

As for the case, Leighton Sekemoto was being represented by a high-profile, and some would say notorious, attorney named Paul Goodsim.  His services didn’t come cheap, and neither did the bail that he got for Leighton.  It was impressive he got it at all, since the state tried to deny bail because of the numerous crimes attributed to the Golden Llama gang, and its presumed resources.  Goodsim argued that Sekemoto was a low flight risk being a family man with no priors and plenty of ties to the community.  It won over the judge, although he set bail high.  But it, and Goodsim, were all paid by an anonymous and apparently wealthy benefactor.

It seemed to Blair, however, that Goodsim was the sort of weaselly lawyer that she imagined Leighton couldn’t have much respect for.  He was good at what he did—getting charges dropped, cases dismissed, and clients acquitted—but both the retired and controversial mayor Vita Alto and her late husband had retained his services many times, as had some higher-ups at Outstanding.  Blair wondered why he’d want a lawyer that helped the sort of criminals he’d been meting out justice to, to go free.  Perhaps he didn’t want to turn down the generosity of someone putting themselves out helping him, or perhaps he believed he could do more good out of prison than in it, and Goodsim was his best shot, even if he didn’t like him.  Or maybe he just wanted to be with his family now that his role in the Llamas’ crusade was over.

“But I’d like to know who’s footing the bill for it all,” she told Hank.

“I’ve half-wondered if Vita Alto is getting one last one over on us before she kicks the bucket,” he said with a cynical chuckle.  “Sekemoto walking would be some real egg on the face of the SVPD.”

“Oh, but she was never convicted of anything, or her husband.  As far as we all know, she’s a wealthy, generous sim of the people,” Blair intoned with a sarcastic roll of her eyes.  “But seriously, that doesn’t feel right.  Whatever she thinks of us, she likes her public image, and that wouldn’t support vigilante chaos.  Especially not now that the old scandalous feud between her family and the Landgraabs died out with her husband and Nancy Landgraab.  She even supported Malcolm Landgraab running for mayor.”  She lowered her voice.  “Plus, her family’s still got a lot of investments in the Llamas’ favorite target, Outstanding.”

“I know.  It’d just be nice to make some sense of it.  Wish I could help more.  I feel useless as plum sitting at a desk all day.”

“You just need to get better and take it easy.  Catch up on that paperwork the chief loves nagging you about.”

He groaned.  “Don’t remind me.  But speaking of nagging, now I don’t have to nag you anymore about being careful in the field with those rookies you keep getting as stand-in partners.  I schmoozed the chief and convinced him to assign you someone with experience.”


“Yup!  As of this afternoon, Bunch is temporarily your partner.  He decided Langerak can show rookies the ropes while Arlo’s with you.”

“Great!  Though I doubt Parker thinks so.”

“Not necessarily.  There’s one, Cole, he’d love to make an impression on.”

“Heh.  I bet.  Though he’s old enough to be her father.  Not all the ladies are into older men.”

“No.  Some go for geeky computer nerds,” Hank teased, while Blair giggled.

“Just goes to show, there’s someone for everyone.”

Blair caught up with Arlo in the break area.  “Hey!  I hear we’re working together now.  Welcome to the Llama task force.”

He smiled back at her, but it seemed a bit weary.  “Thanks.  But that’s something I want to talk to you about.”


“I… don’t take this wrong, but I’m not happy about this assignment.  It’s not you, and I appreciate the favor Goddard did me, but it’s not for me.  I was hoping maybe you could convince the chief to get someone else.  He likes and respects you, so he’d probably listen.”

Blair was both disappointed and puzzled by the request.  Most officers would be chomping at the bit to be assigned a case like that.  “But why?  Don’t tell me you’d rather be the one training rookies?”

“Ordinarily, no, but…”  He looked around.  “Can I talk to you somewhere private?  This is kind of personal.”

“Okay.  Let’s go over to the java hut and get some high-test.”

When they got to the coffee shop, they got their drinks and chose a private table away from prying ears.  “So, what’s going on?  Are you okay?”

“Not really.  I—I don’t even know where to start.  Can I trust you?”

“Of course.”  Blair swallowed an uneasy feeling.

“I mean, really trust you.  Not just as a fellow officer, but as my friend.  As someone I’ve known my whole life.”

Now she knew it wasn’t good.  No.  Tell me Arlo’s not one of the bad cops.  She couldn’t bear to think it.  She remembered Arlo as a boy scout.  Good memories of him and Darlene roughhousing around the Bunches’ yard as a boy.  Rambunctious, but kind-hearted, and nice.  He couldn’t be…

“I know who one of the Llamas is.  Not Sekemoto.  Another one.”


“And no, I haven’t reported it.”  His voice almost broke with emotion.  “I know I should.  I know.  But I—I can’t.  I can’t bring myself to do it.  And that’s why I can’t work this case.  Please.  I can’t.”  He looked utterly guilt-stricken and heartbroken, and Blair’s heart broke, too.


“I’m not in cahoots with them.  I swear that.  And I’m not one of the cops taking bribes, I swear to you on my mom and dad’s graves I’m not.  I’d never do that.  But…”

Blair was relieved on some level, and she wanted to believe him, but she had to know the whole truth.  “But…?”

“Promise me you’ll keep what I say here between us.”

“We swore an oath…”

“I know.”  He buried his head in his hands.  “But I swore another one, to her…”

“The female Llama?  You know who she is.”  Arlo looked at Blair, but didn’t say anything, so she gave her word.  “Okay.  I promise.  Off the record.  Just between us.”

“I swore an oath to her, too.  When Angel was born.  That I’d always be there for her and never betray her.”

It was then Blair realized what he was telling her.  “Bella.  She’s a Golden Llama.”

Arlo didn’t have to say anything.  The tortured look on his face said it all.  Suddenly, so much made sense.  One of them had been described as a woman about Bella’s age and complexion, and one witness had seen a shock of dark hair fall from under her helmet.  Bella was fit and spent a lot of time at the gym, and while she was kind and pleasant, she was also someone that came across as strong in her convictions and beliefs.  The pro-Golden Llama articles in the local news made more sense, too.  They’d suspected Sam Sekemoto of pushing them, but Bella also worked for River McIrish.  Perhaps they both knew, too.

“I didn’t know until she was in deep.  She kept it from me.  When I figured it out, it almost split us up, but… I love her, and our daughter and our family.  I know what she’s doing is illegal, but she believes she’s doing good.  And she’s never gone too far that I know of.  She’s taken stolen stuff from crooks and given it back to the people they stole it from.  She beat up one guy she caught drugging a girl’s drink at a club and asked him how he liked someone knocking him on his plumbob without consent.  Stuff like that.  I know Bella.  She’d never hurt anyone innocent.”  Arlo was miserable as it all poured out.  “I’ve told her, begged her, pleaded with her to get out.  She won’t.  So I had to make a choice.  Give up her, our family, the love of my life, or walk away.”  He choked on his words.  “I couldn’t do it.  Can’t do it.  So I look away.  I stay away.  She tries to keep me out of it, and I try to avoid it.  That’s why I can’t work this case, Blair.  Please.  It’ll destroy my family.”

Blair couldn’t help but feel for him.  “I can ask for someone else on the case, but… Arlo.  Be straight with me here.  Are you who Leighton meant when he told me to walk away like the others?”

“Probably,” he confessed.  “I’ve never let a crime I encountered go unstopped, but it’s only luck that I’ve never come across a Llama crime on duty.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t glad.  By the Watcher, I don’t know what to do anymore.  All I know is I don’t want Bella in jail!  I love her.  I don’t want to lose her.  I don’t want Angel to grow up without her mother around.  And Jocasta, she’s so old and her health’s not good.  Her daughter’s arrest, a trial, the stress would probably kill her!”  He gave Blair an imploring look.  “What if it was your family?  If they were doing something wrong, and you knew it, and didn’t like it.  What if they did something that made you have to choose between doing the right thing for the law and the right thing for the people you love?”

Blair couldn’t help but remember a conversation with her parents long ago, when they’d confessed the truth about where Orion really came from.  Their lies, the forged papers, the bribes paid to make an adoption that never happened look legit.  They’d told her they’d lied so she wouldn’t have to make a choice like Arlo did, and she supposed when Bella got involved with the Golden Llamas, she might have believed the same, that he’d never find out.  The difference was, Blair had never been put on a case investigating her own parents or Cycl0n3.  She looked the other way and asked no questions about the shady things he did online, although she lectured him whenever she suspected he was up to something illegal.  In the grand scheme of things, hacking might not be as big a deal as the Golden Llama gang, but what if he’d hacked something like a government or military file, or hacked for the Golden Llamas?  Would she really be able to turn him in?  The love of her life?  It wasn’t a test she wanted to be put to.  Was it fair for her to force it on Arlo?

She took a deep breath.  “Okay.  I’ll talk to the chief.  I’ll tell him you have some personal things going on with your family and can’t commit to such an involved case right now.  That’s not a lie.”

He nodded gratefully.  “Thank you.”

“Because this is all off the record, she’s not in hot water.  Yet.  That said,” she warned as kindly as she could while conveying the seriousness of the situation, “the entire Sekemoto family and everyone they associate with is already being looked at.  Friends and co-workers.  If any routine questioning or investigating pans out with evidence, that’s that.  And she will be arrested if she’s caught.  I don’t have to tell you how that’ll blow back on you.”

“I understand.”

“So, convince her to get out for good right now, and remind her that jail isn’t the worst thing that could happen to a Golden Llama that will leave your little girl without a mother.”

Arlo set down his cup and stood.  “I’ve been trying, but I won’t give up.  Thanks.”

Blair realized two things as she got up.  One, she’d just given Arlo a speech like the one her mother recently gave her about foolish risks, and two, doing the right thing kept getting more complicated.

Offline oshizu

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #263 on: September 02, 2018, 11:51:54 PM »
Haha, I absolutely love that shaka brah (sp?) shot of Cid and Patrick together.
Liz Tarry struck me as resembling Blair's friend Emma but probably my memory is just bad. Or, maybe it's just the short hair and body shape?
Not personally a fan of the frat/sorority scene at all irl, so no comment there.

Awww, Susan giving Iris "the talk." I can't wait to see Iris as a teen, even though it means her parents will be older, too.
Poor Arlo in a double bind, but that makes work/life difficult for Blair as well.
What does Cycl0n3 think of all that or does Blair not bring work home of that nature?

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 75
« Reply #264 on: September 08, 2018, 02:13:55 AM »
Haha, I absolutely love that shaka brah (sp?) shot of Cid and Patrick together.
Liz Tarry struck me as resembling Blair's friend Emma but probably my memory is just bad. Or, maybe it's just the short hair and body shape?

I can see some similarities between Liz and Emma appearance-wise. The short hair, dark makeup, round face, deep blue eyes, and quirky kind of style.

Not personally a fan of the frat/sorority scene at all irl, so no comment there.

Awww, Susan giving Iris "the talk." I can't wait to see Iris as a teen, even though it means her parents will be older, too.

She'll be aging up soon, but it won't be in the story for a couple more chapters yet. Because of the way Sims 3 freezes the home town while sims are away at University, there's been no aging there with Patrick and Maria at school. That's why they're the main focus of this chapter and the next, to move that along so once they go home, I can more easily balance the other arcs with it. Then there will be several more age-ups. Old man Cycl0n3 and young adult Chris are just around the corner as well.

Poor Arlo in a double bind, but that makes work/life difficult for Blair as well.
What does Cycl0n3 think of all that or does Blair not bring work home of that nature?

Blair vents and confides to Cycl0n3 as much as she can, but she takes the issue of privacy and confidentiality seriously enough that she'll speak in generalities and leave names out. As far as the Golden Llamas themselves, Cycl0n3 falls somewhere in between Boyd and Orion's take on them. Like Boyd, he's suspicious of why they're so gung-ho to do what they do, and he doesn't like seeing Blair mixed up in something that could get her hurt, but like Orion, he cheers a little inside every time someone truly deserving gets their plumbob kicked.  He's pretty jaded after years as a P.I. seeing what lows people can sink to and his own experience getting beaten up at Outstanding, so he gets a sense of satisfaction when someone like that gets karma that's coming to them.

Chapter 75

At Sims University, Patrick and Maria trudged through their classes, some with more enthusiasm than others.  Patrick’s morning lecture was a snooze fest even when he hadn’t spent the previous night out with Maria and his friends, and Maria shivered her way through an outdoor broadcast activity after it snowed the night before.  It felt cold enough to be the dead of winter in the mountain hometown of Sims U.

One of the few classes they shared was a core requirement, and it had an online module that they chose to do together in the library.  While Patrick had a great laptop—his parents wouldn’t have sent him to Sims U with anything but top of the line—and Maria’s wasn’t bad, the wi-fi in the dorm had been unreliable the last few days.  It was the latest addition to Maria’s laundry list of frustrations living there.  She could not wait to go to that sorority party and join so she could move somewhere nicer.

“You ready for tonight?” she asked as they worked through their assignment.

“Yeah.  I guess.  Though if they’d just get the freaking wi-fi in the dorm working, it wouldn’t be so bad.”  He looked over at her.  “I know it’s driving you nuts, but I kind of like having you over so often.”

“That part’s nice, except I shouldn’t have to.”  Maria sighed dramatically.  “And I love you, but I want some of my own space without Liz’s constant chattering where I don’t have to depend on you to let me in and out.”  The students were forbidden to make any sort of key copies for their rooms, so Patrick had the only key to his.

“I know.  I get it.  Just wish it didn’t suck so bad that you’ve got all your hopes on this sorority thing.”

“It’ll be great, though!  Think of all the exclusive parties and stuff.”

“Cid and I have found some good parties without them.”

“With all his herbs, he could probably start a party anywhere.”

“Can’t argue that.  He’s going to Urele-Oresha-Cham tonight.  Is Liz tagging along with you?”

“No.  She said she’d let me try it for a term and maybe think about it if I liked it.  I’m kind of glad.  I’d rather not hurt her feelings telling her I don’t want to room with her when I get in.”

When it was time for the parties, Patrick and Maria shared a cab ride over.  Maria was dressed up, since the sorority’s soiree was a formal affair, but Patrick wasn’t, since the fraternity’s party was casual.  He considered that a good sign.  He didn’t know much about fraternity life other than stories he’d heard and what he’d seen in TV and movies.  Despite growing up a rich kid, he didn’t feel like he’d fit in well with the preppy snob crowd, or a bunch of partying jock types like Julius Langerak.  He’d already made up his mind if that was how it was, he was out.  It wasn’t like Maria needed him to be in the fraternity for her to join the sorority, after all.

He was pleasantly surprised that the guy who greeted him was nothing like the stereotype in his head.  Patrick recognized him as a Grotto regular, Jeffery Dean.  They’d never talked much, but it was nice to see a familiar face.  “Hey, I know you.  The guitar guy at the Grotto.  You’ve done some pretty rocking solos.”

“Thanks!  Glad you like the music.  I’ve seen you around.  I’m Patrick.”

“Jeffery.  So, what brings you to rush night?  The party scene, I’m guessing?”

“Heard you guys had a… unique crowd, so I thought I’d check it out.  Heard there were some cool guys here.”  He figured that sounded better than “my girlfriend talked me into it.”

“There are.  We’ve got all types.  Not just the juiced-up football players who get all the attention.”  Jeffery laughed.  “Though some of us prefer other kinds of attention.”

“The ladies?” Patrick guessed.

“That’d be my personal favorite!  We get a lot of hot ones at our parties.  Especially the wet and wild slip ‘n slides.”

“Oooh.  I bet.”  Patrick wondered what Maria would do at a party like that.  Probably nothing too wild, although he imagined the sight of her in a bikini, or less, on a slip ‘n slide, would be exciting.

“Well, grab a juice from the keg around the corner in there, and I’ll give you the grand tour and tell you about us.”

“Sounds good.”

As he approached the keg, Patrick noticed a photo collage on the wall behind it.  It was a huge mural-like collection of photos grouped by year, some from back when the old frat house had been constructed and the first brothers founded it.  It was wild seeing pictures that pre-dated even his parents’ birth, and like a time capsule trending from then to now.  Most memorable was that they were all pictures of people partying and having a wild time.  Not just fraternity brothers, but friends, girlfriends, alumni, guests… one was even labeled as a senator cutting loose.  That was back in the eighties, long before his time.

Patrick’s expression changed when he spotted one closer to the time he was born, and he dropped his thankfully still-empty cup.  “Oh, plum!  Dad?!”  There was Boyd, doing his infamous keg stand.  Patrick did a double-take, wondering at first if his mind was playing tricks on him and it was just someone who looked like his father, but no.  No doubt about it, it was him.  Boyd still even had that same bathing suit until not long ago.  Patrick had never seen the picture before, since Boyd had done his computer whiz best over the years to nuke it from everywhere he could, but much like George Lucas could never destroy every copy of the Star Wars Christmas Special, Boyd would never be able to purge all pictorial evidence of that moment.

Jeffery came in to get Patrick, and noticed him eyeing the pictures.  “Ah, our Wall of Fame distracted you, huh?  These are some of the wildest, funniest, or craziest moments of every party of a given year.  It’s a tradition.”  He pointed to one from about eight years back of a gorgeous girl posing naked on a keg.  “She’s my favorite, personally.”

“Yeah, she’s better than what I was just looking at,” Patrick said with a sheepish chuckle.


“Okay, this may either get me laughed right out of here, or make you laugh, or plum, both.”  He shook his head.  “I just spotted my dad on this wall.  He wasn’t ever in a fraternity, but… it’s definitely him.”

Jeffery was curious.  “Seriously?  Where?”

Patrick pointed, and Jeffery burst out laughing.  “That’s great!  Nerdy middle-aged keg stand man is your dad?  Guess he taught you how to party, huh?”

“Hardly,” Patrick laughed with him as he poured his juice.  “You don’t understand.  Suffice it to say that’s not the side of him I saw growing up.  He’s a scientist and pretty much fits the part.  He also worries about all sorts of crazy things, and while I wouldn’t go as far as to say he’s real uptight, he’s also not what you’d call a party animal that goes to keggers.”

“That makes it even funnier, you know, but it makes a great story!  Bet I could pitch you as an honorary legacy based on being the kid of someone on the Wall of Fame.  You wouldn’t be the first.”

“Really?”  Patrick was surprised.  Apparently, the fraternity guys had a sense of humor, and he appreciated that.

“Sure, but of course it’s not the only thing.  Other stuff matters, too.  We don’t want any real llamas.  Your grades have to at least be passing, and our brothers should have qualities others aspire to, be it charisma, brains, talent, or just knowing how to have a good time.  But your guitar playing qualifies for that, and you seem cool otherwise.  So, come on, let’s go introduce you to some of the brothers.”  Jefferey motioned for him to follow, and they continued their tour.

Patrick got a good impression from the other fraternity brothers he met, and he felt positive about going.  He was surprised by how much he enjoyed himself, and he thought that maybe he would like to join.  They seemed like a cool group of guys, and from a practical perspective, connections he made there could be beneficial to his eventual music career.

Jeffery told his brothers that he’d seen Patrick play at the Grotto before, and one of them, a hobby player, loaned him his guitar for a demo.  Patrick played some of his favorites, and it went over well.  He got several compliments and even had a nice chat about music with the guy whose guitar he played.

After the tour and some time talking with fraternity brothers and others aspiring to join, the Urele-Oresha-Cham brothers brought Patrick and the others to the front of the house.  Jeffery talked to him and Cid, who’d showed up a little later and hung out with them toward the end of the evening.

“So, the brothers and I are going downstairs to discuss all of you we’ve met here tonight.  We only accept a certain number of pledges per term, so not everyone will make the cut, but we won’t keep you hanging.  You’ll know before you leave tonight if you’re in.  In the meantime, there’s still plenty of juice in the keg, so, have fun.”

“Sounds good.  Thanks,” said Patrick.

“Oh, and if you keep up the family tradition, you might want to avoid the camera,” Jeffery said with a wry grin.

“Yeah, I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Do I even want to know?” asked Cid.

“I’ll show you over a refill,” Patrick said as they headed toward the keg.

After what felt like a long wait, the brothers came up from the basement and pulled their potential pledges aside to speak with them privately.  Patrick was glad they were classy enough to not reject anyone in a public display.  Some fraternities and sororities had the reputations of being elitist snobs, but Urele-Oresha-Cham didn’t seem to be one of them.  Jeffery went to Patrick first and motioned for him to follow him outside.  “All right, man, I’ve got some good news and bad news for you.”

“Okay.”  He was not sure what to expect.

“Good news first.  You made the cut.  You’re a go.  Welcome to Urele-Oresha-Cham, pledge.”

Patrick’s eyes widened.  “Really?  Wow.  Thanks!”  He was surprised he didn’t even stop to think about it, but he liked the guys, so why not?  It wasn’t like he couldn’t change his mind later if he decided it wasn’t for him after all.

“No problem.  Congratulations.”

“And the bad news…?”

“You and Cid, you’re pretty good friends, right?”

Patrick nodded.

“Sorry, but he didn’t make the cut.  Not my choice.  I pushed for him, since I know him from the Grotto, too, but it came down to numbers and you and some of the others made a better impression.  Nothing personal, no one disliked him, just…”

“Yeah.  I get it.”  Patrick was disappointed, but they’d both known it was a possibility going in.  Cid had even said he wasn’t sure if a free-thinking independent type like him could do the fraternity thing, so odds were he’d just tell himself that and move on.

“Anyway, I’ll tell him myself next, but I thought I’d give you a heads up.”  Jeffery brightened as he moved on.  “So, that’s where we stand.  I’ve got your info, we’ll be in touch, and we’ll see you at the next event.”

“Cool.  Thanks!  See you then.”

“Good night!”  He and Jeffery shared a celebratory shaka-bra, and Patrick left the party in good spirits.  As he got in his cab to head home, he glanced over at the sorority, and hoped Maria’s night went as well as his.

Maria had a much different experience at the Tri-Fruhm sorority than Patrick did at Urele-Oresha-Cham.  Unlike the laid-back party atmosphere of the fraternity house, the sorority house was posh, well-decorated, and oozed sophistication and class.  Maria was impressed, and glad she’d put every ounce of effort into looking her personal best for the occasion.

“Welcome to Tri-Fruhm,” a blonde girl greeted her as she came in.  She looked her over, but seemed to approve.  “My name is Ashley DeSorrento, and I’ve been a sister here for the past year.  And you are?”

“Maria Wolff.  It’s nice to meet you.”

Ashley blinked, but shook her hand cordially and gave her a warm smile.  “Wolff, hmm?  Interesting.”

“Oh, do you know someone else with my last name?”  Maria was hopeful.  Could she have some family on her father’s side that had been a sister, making her a legacy?  He rarely talked about his relatives on the occasions she saw him, and she and Tad had only met a couple of their cousins in passing once when they’d come to town.  Thornton had been polite, but not warm, and Tad surmised it was because they were “Moonlight Falls Hillbillies” and their father probably didn’t appreciate how they might tarnish his corporate image.

“Uh, yeah, we had a sister named Wolff here a while back.  Like way back, before my time.  Anyway, let me show you around.  How’d you hear about us?”

“Shannon recommended you.  We met at the Grotto.”

“Oh, she’s a blast!”  Ashley showed Maria through the dining room.  “And let me tell you, she’s an ace in the garden and grows the most amazing vegetables and herbs.  Total power salads, which is important to me, since I’m vegan.”

“Really?  I’ve heard that’s so healthy.”

“It is!  And with the stuff I can cook and Shannon’s organic garden stuff, you totally never even miss meat.”  Maria wondered if she’d have to eat vegan to fit in, which didn’t sound all that great to her, but Ashley continued and laid that fear to rest.  “I mean, obviously not all the sisters eat like I do, and the frat guys sure don’t, but it does help keep you thin and pretty!  Speaking of which, we have a sweet private gym down here.”  She led her down the stairs.

“Isn’t it great?”  Ashley gushed as she gestured around the room, which had a couple of high end treadmills, a very nice weight machine, an expensive stereo, and lots of mirrors.  “You can do almost any resistance or weight on that total gym, and the treadmills are high end gym quality.  Not like in the dorms.  And you won’t have to trudge all the way to the other end of campus to the public gym or run outside in this icy weather.  With these mirrors, you can see every ounce of fat from every angle to give you motivation to burn that flab off!”

Maria was not sure if Ashley had just implied she was fat, but she decided she was just an overly enthused athletic type.  Still, if she’d had qualms about eating vegan, Maria found the notion of eating a steady diet of tofu, zoodles, and kale far less objectionable than being expected to work out in her own home on the regular.

“That’s… great.”  She forced a smile, and luckily, Ashley didn’t seem to notice.

“It is!  You’ll love it, I’m sure.  There are a couple rooms down here, but they’re all taken.  One’s actually Shannon and her roommate’s.”  They went back upstairs.

When they got to the kitchen, Ashley introduced her to Ye, another sorority sister, who she left her with to “get a bite” while she went out to introduce herself to another potential pledge.  “So, help yourself.  And don’t feel any guilt about those hot dogs.  They’re tofu dogs.  Low calorie and those are light buns.  Kind of carby, but not bad overall.  Nothing you can’t burn off later.  Guilt-free, and great after a juice.”  Ye smiled pleasantly at her, but Maria felt rankled again.  Did she look fat?  She hoped not.  Maybe the sisters just worried about gaining weight, working out, and eating light because of all the empty calories in juice at parties.

She got a plate and sat with Ye.  “They’re pretty good.”  She’d never had a vegetarian hot dog before, and while it was not up to par with a good one at a barbecue, it wasn’t bad for a diet food.

“And one hundred percent vegan, because Ashley and a couple other sisters do that.  I’m not vegan, though, because I love cheese.  And vegan cheese, just, ugh.  No.”

While they finished their tofu dogs, Maria and Ye chatted some more and discovered they shared a love of books.  They discussed a recent controversial best-seller and then Ye showed her around the rest of the house.  The sorority house was very nice and would be a great upgrade from the dorm.  Shannon hadn’t been kidding about that!  Maria saw her in the hall and talked to her briefly, but she was with another girl interested in joining Tri-Fruhm.  Afterward, Ye took Maria back downstairs and introduced her to another sister, Hanna.

“This is Maria Wolff, one of our aspiring pledges.  She’s a freshman and a communications major,” Ye said before moving on.

Hanna looked her over and Maria thought she heard someone snap a picture behind her.  “Just capturing some photos of our potential future sisters engaging at the party!”  Ashley grinned before moving on, while Maria hoped it was a flattering angle if it was going to end up on social media.

“So, Maria… Wolff?”  Hanna eyed her rather intently.

“Yes.”  Maria straightened with pride.  “Ashley mentioned a sister here had that last name.”

“Heh.  Yes.  A long time ago, but one could say she made a memorable impression.”  She looked at Maria again.  “How’d you hear about us?”

“Shannon suggested I come when we were talking at the Grotto.”

“Ah, Shannon.  Yes, she’s a fun one.”  Hanna smiled, although there was an edge to it.  “So, tell me, are you by chance related to a Wilhemina Wolff from Moonlight Falls?”

Maria perked up as she realized she might be right about not being the first of her family in the sorority.  She had a cousin in Moonlight Falls named Wilhemina that was about fifteen to twenty or so years older than her.  Well, she was more like a second cousin or something, since her dad was cousins with either her dad or grandfather.  She couldn’t remember which, but regardless, they were still related.  That could only help her in getting accepted!  “Yes,” she said proudly.  “Willie is one of my cousins, though I’m from Sunset Valley.  Not Moonlight Falls.”

Hanna’s demeanor changed instantly and she straightened with a look of disdain.  “I see.  Well, in that case, I won’t waste either of our time.  You’re not what we’re looking for.  One loony werewolf girl in this sorority was more than enough.”

At first Maria was sure she’d heard her wrong.  “What?  Are you saying…?  I’m not a werewolf!”  It was the most ridiculous and insulting thing Maria had ever heard.  While supernaturals were a known phenomenon and werewolves had been documented as something that existed, she sure as plum wasn’t one, and she did not appreciate Hanna’s snide tone one little bit.  “And neither is my family!  That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!”

“Oooh, testy.  Someone’s showing that animalistic spirit already.  Yup, right call,” Hanna said huffily.  “You can see yourself out.  Sorry we don’t have a dog door.”

“You pretentious little troll!”  Maria was so offended that she didn’t even care that she was nuking whatever chance she might have had of making a good impression, while those around turned to watch the spectacle.  “How dare you speak to me like that?  You’ve got a lot of nerve for someone so incredibly stupid!”

“Stupid?  Well, insulting a sister certainly wouldn’t get you in even if you weren’t some crazy howling bit—”

It took all of Maria’s restraint to not haul off and slap her, but somehow she managed to rein in her anger and wounded ego enough to not earn herself an assault charge.  “Oooh!  I wouldn’t join this ignorant cesspit if you paid me, especially seeing what their standards are letting you in!  So, whatever!  I’m sorry Shannon and Ashley and Ye and the other sisters who aren’t utter trash like you have to put up with you!  Hopefully they’ll wise up and realize what huge, fat llama you are!”

Hanna sneered back at her.  “Bad dog!  Go outside!  Now, before I call the cops.”

“Gladly!” Maria shrieked.  She grabbed her coat and stomped out, slamming the door behind her.

Maria was still fuming as she dialed the cab to take her home, but then reality sank in.  Her chance at a cushy new room and her plans with Patrick to do the sorority and fraternity thing together were no longer going to happen.  That sucked, but she supposed if nothing else, she could get through the rest of the semester and keep crashing with Patrick in his single when she wanted.  He hadn’t been all that excited about the fraternity anyway.  Maybe over the break between terms, she could convince her mom or dad to spring for a single next time…

Since the blowup resulted in Maria leaving the sorority much earlier than Patrick did the fraternity, she waited and watched for him to come home so she could tell him what happened.  She vented extensively to Liz, who was suitably sympathetic, and Maria was glad that despite her quirks, she had her as a friend to talk to.  When Patrick got back, Maria hurried to his room and told him the whole sorry tale.

“It was so humiliating!  A werewolf, can you believe such a stupid thing?  And the nasty dog jokes, what a trashy llama!”  Maria cried into his shoulder.  “I can’t believe they treated me like that!  It was so awful!”

Patrick held her close and smooched her.  “I’m sorry they turned out to be such llamas.  You’re a million times better than those stuck-up snobs anyway.  Who needs them?”

“I know, but now that means I’m stuck here!  And I guess Liz is like, absolutely nothing to complain about compared to them, but still!  I’m just glad I’ve got you and your single to come to when I need you.”

“You can always come to me,” Patrick assured her.

“At least now you don’t have to worry about being a frat boy,” Maria said with a sigh.  “With me not joining the sorority, you can just stay here like you wanted.”

“Well, believe it or not, the frat guys aren’t anything like those sorority girls.  They were cool.”


“Yeah.  I liked them.  So, hey, we’ll still get to go to those parties.”

“And have to deal with Hanna and her friends when they show up?  Hah.”  Maria made a face.  “Well, nothing against Shannon or Ye or Ashley.  They were all right.  But Hanna, ugh!”  She met Patrick’s eyes.  “So, you think you’ll still get invited even if you don’t join?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, if you’re not joining the fraternity, are you likely to get invited?”

“But I never said I wasn’t joining.  They invited me.  Not Cid, unfortunately, but he was cool about it, and I promised to invite him to the good parties.”

Maria stared back at Patrick dubiously.  “But you’re not going to actually join, right?  I mean… I’m not joining the sorority, so…”

Patrick was surprised, and a little put off.  “So, I don’t blame you.  I’d tell them where to stick it if they’d treated me that way, too.  But the frat guys didn’t do that.  Like I said, they were cool.  I would’ve told you about it, but after the night you had, I wasn’t going to—”

“Of course, you’re not joining,” Maria said with an edge to her voice.  “You only even considered it because I was doing the sorority.  What’s the point of you joining now?”

“Because they invited me and I want to?”  He didn’t appreciate her bossy tone, and while he understood she was upset, he didn’t see what the sorority girls being a bunch of uptight llamas had to do with him giving the fraternity a try.  After all, if she’d liked the sorority and he’d been the one put off by the fraternity, he wouldn’t have stopped her for going for it.

Maria didn’t see it that way.  “Seriously?!”

“Yeah.”  Patrick felt defensive.  “What’s the big deal?”

“What’s the big deal?” Maria repeated on a shrill and incredulous note.  “How about they freaking humiliated me and treated me like a pile of dirt, and you want to join their brother organization?  How could you do that to me?!”

Patrick gaped back at Maria.  “Do that to… what are you even talking about?  The Urele-Oresha-Cham guys had nothing to do with that.  They just partner up for events and stuff.  They’re totally different organizations.”

“I don’t care!  You weren’t even going to join, and now you are even though I’m not?  It was supposed to be something we do together!  How can you just abandon me like this?!”

“Abandon you?  I’m not abandoning you!”

“Yes you are!”  Maria’s eyes filled with tears as she yelled back at him.  “You didn’t even want to join the stupid fraternity, said it was probably a bunch of dumb juiced up jocks like freaking Julius, and now you’re joining it even though I can’t be in the sorority!  The whole reason was so I could get out of this stupid dorm, and now you’re going to leave it and—”

“Oh, for plum’s sake, is that what this is about?  Your room?  You can have my freaking room!  It’s paid for two terms anyway.”

Maria was not mollified.  “You’re going to graciously give me your leftovers?  Oh, thank you sooooo much.”

Patrick was out of patience and his temper flared.  “My leftovers?  You know what… I don’t have to give you anything!  I offered because I love you and I thought it would help since you whine and complain about how much it sucks rooming with Liz every freaking day!  I’m sorry that the Tri-Fruhm girls turned out to be a bunch of llamas and the frat guys didn’t, but don’t take it out on me!  It’s not my fault that I got an invite and you didn’t!”

“It’s your fault you’re not turning it down!  What’s so appealing about it anyway, huh?  You said yourself you and Cid can find good parties and booze and herbs on your own!  Is it the girls?  Maybe you like the thought of all those trashy sorority chicks showing up hammered and streaking to gawk at!”

“If I want to see naked girls that aren’t you, I can just turn on the computer or go to a live model class,” he retorted hotly.  “I can’t believe you’d even say that!  When have I ever cheated on you or acted like some stupid horn dog chasing someone else?  Huh?  Name once.  I’ll wait.”

Maria’s jaw hardened in a sullen scowl.  “Then don’t join.  Say you’ll stay here with me and not abandon me!”

Patrick let out an aggravated sigh.  “I don’t believe—oh, my Watcher, Maria.  Believe it or not, this isn’t about you!”

“What?”  Her voice rose to almost a shriek.

“You heard me!  This.  Isn’t.  About.  You,” he enunciated slowly with scalding sarcasm.  “I want to join because I like them and they like me.  It has nothing to do with you.”

“You went there because of me!”

“And I’m joining because of me!  Because it’s what I want to do!  And I thought my girlfriend, who suggested it in the first place, would be glad it at least worked out for one of us!  Because I would’ve been for her!”

“Well, you have fun with your frat boy friends, then!  I hope thoughts of them keep you nice and warm tonight!”  She turned on her heel and stalked out in a huff.

“So that’s how you want to play this?  Just stomp off like some sulky kid who didn’t get her way?” Patrick hollered into the hall after her.

Maria threw her hand up dramatically and flounced down the stairs, while Patrick slammed his door in a rage.  He was furious.  He couldn’t believe Maria was being so selfish and childish!  He’d seen her be oversensitive and take things too personally at times, but that was when Tad was being grouchy or people at school were being rude or one of her parents was being unfair.  While he knew she had her moments, she’d never so utterly turned on him like that before, especially not over anything so ridiculous.  How could she treat him that way?  He loved her and wanted to see her happy.  Didn’t she want the same for him?  Didn’t she even care that being in the fraternity might be an opportunity for him and make him happy?

He kicked the dresser.  When had he ever been anything but supportive of Maria?  Anytime she wanted something, he got it for her or did it for her.  When she shared her dreams and hopes, he encouraged them, and when she achieved something or got something important, he was glad for her.  But now, when something happened for him when it just happened to be on a bad day for her, she couldn’t manage to swallow her ego for five minutes?

Patrick let out a string of resentful curses and kicked the wall.  It felt good, so he did it again.  And again, that time with enough force to put a hole in the sheetrock.  Adrenaline and anger surging, Patrick kicked it once more for good measure, leaving a second hole next to it, and stormed out into the hall.  He knew he’d probably catch hell for that from someone, but whatever.  It was just a wall and it wasn’t like he couldn’t afford a repair bill.

A glance down the stairs made him even angrier as he thought about the hurtful things Maria said and the way she implied that if he joined the fraternity, they were over.  Over!  Years together, and she was considering chucking it over stupid sorority and fraternity drama?  What a load!  It hurt on a deep level and made him even angrier, and before he knew it, Patrick was halfway into flipping the hall pool table.

“Whoa!”  Cid’s startled voice cut through the haze of his anger.  He’d heard the commotion and came out to see what was going on.  “Patrick!  Chill.  You don’t even have an opponent,” he cracked to ease the tension.

Patrick took a deep breath and calmed himself enough to talk.  “Yeah, I do.  Her name’s Maria.”

“Oh.  One of those nights, huh?”

“You wouldn’t freaking believe it,” Patrick vented as he came over.

“Try me.  I’ve dated some crazy ones.  Though you two have been together for, like, forever or something, right?”

Patrick nodded sourly, feeling drained and miserable.  “Most of high school.”

“Come on.”  Cid gestured to his room.  “I’ll get you a cold one and you can tell me what happened.”

“Thanks.  I could use it.”  He followed him in and swallowed back a fresh swell of resentment, and as he took the offered juice from Cid, he hoped that would at least dull it away.

Offline oshizu

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #265 on: September 13, 2018, 09:13:28 PM »
Maria's sorority experience was dismal, but her self-absorbed self emerged even less likable in her reaction to Patrick's frat experience and invite response.
I was a bit shocked how she more or less threatened to break up with Patrick if he joined the fraternity. Ugh.
Patrick, why do you put up with that?
But we know, I guess, that they'll stay together because of Susan and Boyd's glimpses of the future?

Petty Maria aside, I laughed at Patrick's discovery of his father's notorious photo.

By the way, thank you Cheezey for informing me that time doesn't advance on the home lot during Patrick's time at the uni.

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 76 Part One
« Reply #266 on: September 15, 2018, 02:55:27 AM »
Maria's sorority experience was dismal, but her self-absorbed self emerged even less likable in her reaction to Patrick's frat experience and invite response.
I was a bit shocked how she more or less threatened to break up with Patrick if he joined the fraternity. Ugh.

That diva trait is something else, huh?  :D  Maria does genuinely love Patrick, but she also has an unfortunate self-centered attention-craving streak, rooted in deep insecurity, that results in that obnoxious drama queen behavior. This is the first time poor Patrick has run afoul of it and caught the brunt personally, but I'm sure it won't be the last.

Patrick, why do you put up with that?

Short answer is, because he loves her. Longer answer is that, plus they have a lot in common and enjoy spending time with each other, and usually get along fine without conflict. Also, Patrick is used to diva behavior, because Buddy also has that trait. Usually he blows it off, unless it's blasted right at him. But Patrick does have anger issues, (he became hot-headed at young adult) so he could very well tire of that someday, if he's lashed out at one time too many.

But we know, I guess, that they'll stay together because of Susan and Boyd's glimpses of the future?

What Boyd and Susan saw in the future, in theory, could change the second they return and make a different decision than they might've before. They still have Maria's novel text and they haven't seen changes in it, but it's fiction, so they don't know what's real or what's embellished, or if her characters are completely based on people she knows, amalgamations, or just amped up for the sake of her story.

In the game, the future the Wainwrights saw on their last visit was wiped as soon as Orion and Iris aged to teen and child. In the ITF expansion, once the future is changed, you get a popup from Emit telling you to come back because things are different. Dramatic changes in family funds, or children aging up and getting different traits, usually cause a complete reconfiguring of any descendants you have. Also, major relationship changes like divorces or new partners. I haven't gone back to Oasis Landing again as far as I've played (I'm waiting for a few more things to be accomplished first) but I'm expecting a lot of changes, like whether Orion's will reflect his relationship with Tara, how Iris' two new traits might've changed hers, and Patrick's final trait his.

As far as the story goes, though, they haven't heard anything from Emit yet, so they're not aware of any changes.

Petty Maria aside, I laughed at Patrick's discovery of his father's notorious photo.

By the way, thank you Cheezey for informing me that time doesn't advance on the home lot during Patrick's time at the uni.

No problem. I've been looking forward to writing out all the upcoming birthdays and stuff. Iris is eager to become a teenager finally!  ;)

Author's Note: Due to the length of this chapter, I had to split it into two posts. Sorry about that!

Chapter 76

Over in Sunset Valley, Tad and Chris hung out outside school before the first class of the day.  Chris noticed Tad rolling his eyes as he checked his SimBook notifications.  “Let me guess.  Another Maria meltdown?”

“It’s like her fifth vaguebook post in 24 hours,” Tad said, amused.  “Just more passive-aggressive whining.  Nothing as funny as the sorority picture drama.”  He was talking about a photo from the pledge party that Maria had been tagged in.  Hanna commented saying that the only thing bigger than Maria’s ego was her butt, and it blew up spectacularly from there.

“Last I saw, that was up to 75 comments.”

“It got locked at 77.  But this one’s just another snide shot at Patrick about owing her an apology.  Without naming names, of course.”  He showed Chris, who also snickered.

“Probably a good thing he hasn’t responded.  All he’s said so far is that ‘what a bunch of plum’ post last night.  I think he was half juiced.  Usually he types better than that.”

“I saw that!  I wanted to say ‘Hi, and welcome to life with my sister for everyone that isn’t sleeping with her,’ but I didn’t really want to step in that pile.”

“I get you.  Would’ve been funny, though.”  The bell rang, and they went inside together.

Although Susan and Boyd also saw some of the online drama involving their son and his girlfriend, they were more concerned than amused.  That morning they got a voicemail from Patrick apologizing for the bill they’d get from Sims U housing about the holes in his dorm room wall.  He said he’d had “a bad night” and “kind of lost it” but to let him know when the bill came and he’d pay it.

“It’s not the money I’m worried about.”  Boyd was agitated as they discussed it.

“I know.”  They couldn’t help but think of the novel written by Maria in the future.  “I don’t like it, either.  I wish he’d find some better outlets for that anger.  His music, or a painting.  Something.  He sounded so down and worn out, too.  It wouldn’t surprise me if he’d been drinking.”

“Me neither, and I’d be lying if I said that didn’t worry me, too.”

“Whatever happened, he’s obviously hurt.  I just hope he’s all right.  Whether things work out with Maria or not.”  She paused.  “I know he loves her, and she seems to be in love with him, too, but…”

“You just want him to be happy, and you’re wondering if he really is.  Or will be.”  He sighed.  “Yeah.  Me too.”

Back at Sims University, after a night’s sleep, Patrick calmed down enough to try and work things out with Maria.  After their fight, she’d gone straight to her room to cry to Liz.  Liz informed Patrick at the door that Maria wasn’t speaking to him unless he was ready to apologize, which got his hackles right back up.  If anything, Patrick felt like he was the one owed an apology.  He fired off a curt response that he’d talk to her when she was ready to grow up, stop playing telephone, and talk to him directly.

Needless to say, his phone didn’t light up with any communication from Maria that day.

He tried to distract himself with music and art, but after a couple more days passed, the more he missed Maria.  He hated fighting with her and wished they could just stop.  Stupid as she’d acted, all he wanted was her back at his side, like normal.  Nothing felt the same or right without her around.

After class, Patrick kept Cid company while he worked on a mural.  Although most places at Sims U frowned on street art in public places, the Grotto’s owners didn’t mind as long as it was kept to the upper loft floors and no one complained.  Even if someone did complain, as long as the artist cleaned it up, it was no big deal.  Usually, no one did, unless it was really ugly, vulgar, or just plain bad, and Cid joked that the latter was the only truly objectionable kind.

“You look miserable as plum,” Cid informed him.  “Sure you don’t want to grab a can?  It’s therapeutic.”

“Not in the mood today.”

“Too depressed for angsty art and you left your guitar at home?  You are in a funk.”

“Guess so.  I tried playing earlier, but ‘I Wish My Baby’d Stop Being A Baby’ isn’t really an inspired tune.”

“For what it’s worth, Liz said Maria misses you, too.”  Cid and Liz had become friends.  Although they’d hooked up a couple of times romantically, it never went beyond that.  Cid wasn’t one to commit lightly to a relationship, while Liz wanted something serious.  She’d moved on to dating Alfred Jobb, a nerdy introvert she met in one of her classes, but she and Cid still hung out sometimes.  “She just doesn’t want to be the first to apologize.  Wants you to come bowing and scraping.”

“Yeah, not happening.”  Patrick stared at the floor.  “But she could at least talk to me.”

“Not to pry, man, but are you sure you really want to keep dragging this along?  I know you’ve got history and you love her, but… well, I’m just saying, there are a lot of other girls here at Sims U if you decide you’re done with that drama.”

“I’m mad, but I’m not over her.  I still love her.  I don’t want anyone else.  Just want her to cut the crap.”

“What are you going to do, then?”

He leaned back against the wall.  “I don’t know.  I’ll think of something.”

The blowup with Maria was the most odious part of pledging the fraternity.  While some aspects weren’t as fun as others, Patrick wasn’t subjected to any bad hazing or any kind of deal-breaker.  He liked the fraternity brothers and had fun at the house.  He and Jeffery became good friends during the pledge period.

“Oh, just a heads up.  We’re only able to take about half you pledges in to room here next term.  If you want one, let Harold know to add you to the list.  Though I can’t guarantee you won’t get Garlic Socks as your roommate.  He’s already on it.”  That was the nickname of a pledge who had an unfortunate habit of eating too much goopy carbonara and not changing his workout clothes often enough.  Each pledge had an unflattering nickname, but it was in fun.  Patrick’s was Red-Headed Step-Pledge.

“Nah.  Much as the dorm can suck, in a single it’s not so bad.  It’s fun here, but it’d be hard to concentrate on my art and music with a roommate, you know?”

“Especially when he smells like Garlic Socks!  Not to mention how it’d kill the mood when your girlfriend’s over.”

“Well, I’m still trying to calm that plum-storm, but yeah, that too.”  It was then that Patrick thought of a simple solution to the whole thing.  Maria wanted to pledge the sorority in the first place because she hated living in the dorm, had no privacy to do her own thing, and didn’t want his old room if he wouldn’t be there with her.  But what if he did something to change all of that?

After she got back from her last class of the day, Patrick pounded on Maria’s door.  “Maria!  Come on.  We need to talk.”

“Are you ready to apologize?”

That confirmed she was there, and since her door was unlocked, he just walked in.  She’d been reading a book, but she set it aside and looked up expectantly.  “I have something for you.”  He tossed her his phone, which was open to a web browsing screen on a rental site.  “That’s all the off-campus housing listed for rent.  Pick one.  I’ll call them right now.”

Maria was stunned.  “I—what?”

“Pick one,” Patrick repeated.  “I’ll get it.  For both of us.  You hate the dorm, I don’t want to live in the frat house anyway, and if we do this, we both get what we want.  We’ll be together.  We can move as soon as the ink is dry on the lease.  Just pick one and say the word.”

“Wait, are you saying you want to get a house with me?”

“Yeah.  Just the two of us.”

She didn’t even know what to say, she was so shocked.  “But, Patrick—”

“Look, I don’t want to fight with you anymore.”  His voice was thick with emotion as she approached, and he met her eyes.  “I miss you.  So, let’s just forget this whole stupid argument, and—”

Before he could finish, Maria cut him off with an impulsive kiss.  Patrick pulled her into his arms and the two of them lip-locked in a long and passionate moment every bit as heated as their fight had been.  “I’m glad you’re here.  I missed you so much,” she said as they broke apart.

“I missed you, too.”  He tangled his fingers in her hair.  “And I don’t want to fight with you, or be mad, or… be away from you again.”  He held her tight against him, his lips brushing against hers.

“Me neither!  I hated being without you.  It was horrible!”

“Then let’s not be.”  He kissed her again, and they tumbled onto her bed together, where they made up much more intimately.

They snuggled afterward, their fight completely forgotten in the afterglow.  “So how about it, then?  We pick a house, go check it out, and if it’s good, get it?”

“I’d really like that, living with you here.”  She nuzzled against him.  “But I can’t afford rent, and I don’t feel like I should just mooch off you.”

“You’re not mooching.  I wouldn’t have offered if I couldn’t handle it myself.  I know your parents didn’t give you a lot of spending money.  Mine did.  Perk of being filthy rich.”

“That’s so sweet of you!  I love you so much.”  She traced her hand across his chest.  “How could I ever stay mad at you?”

“I love you, too.”  Patrick savored the euphoria of things being right between them again.  “A place together will be great.  We can get a two-bedroom so there’s plenty of space for our stuff, and a quiet place you can go write or study while I do loud things like my music.”

“I’d love that!  But what about our rooms here?”

“Just leave them, I guess.  The university won’t care.  They already got their money.  Probably won’t give refunds, but whatever.  I bet Liz will like the free upgrade to a single.”

“Probably.  She can bring Alfred over and… ugh, yeah, I guess I didn’t get to tell you because we weren’t talking, but boy did they over-share in the worst possible way last night when they thought I was sleeping.  I don’t sleep that deeply!”  Maria reached for her clothes.  “So, yes, let’s do this.  Right now!”

They looked at their top two choices.  The first, closer to campus, was a bust.  The second was a small two-bedroom house farther out, but nicer.  Even better, it was available immediately.  Patrick signed the lease and deposit check that day, and they were given the keys.  That weekend, they moved in together.

Boyd and Susan were shocked when Patrick called and told them, but for the most part they kept their reservations to themselves.  Much like Blair had been at his age when she made decisions they considered unwise, Patrick was going to follow his heart whether they thought it was a good idea or not.  He was an adult on his own now, so they just hoped things would work out as well for him as they had for her.

Morgana was a little more concerned, not because she disliked or distrusted Patrick, but because of how upset Maria had been during their spat.  Maria called her several times to cry about how mean and unfair Patrick had been, and while Morgana was glad they worked things out and seemed happy again, she hoped her daughter wasn’t blindly rushing in to something she wasn’t ready for, like she had with Maria’s father.  Thornton, on the other hand, just reminded Maria that she was at Sims University to get a degree, not play house, and to make sure she stayed focused on her priorities.

Despite the concerns of family and friends, things were good between them after their move.  The fight that kept them not speaking for days was never discussed or given much of a thought, and they imagined themselves a power couple of young artists making their way in the world.  Day to day life was different, but not bad.  Neither could cook, so they ate a lot of fast and convenience food.  Instant noodles and macaroni and cheese were staples, and they ordered pizza at least twice a week.  Hardly gourmet fare, but not bad.  Maria liked the peace and quiet for reading and writing, and Patrick worked on his music and art at his leisure.  Even when he went to the fraternity house for pledging events, Maria didn’t really mind, as long as it didn’t involve the sorority.  She still twitched when that sore subject came up.

They had enough space to do their own thing in the house, but it was still cozy for couple time.  Unlike the dorm, where the only TV was in the community room, there they could watch all their favorite shows in peace without worrying about who was there first or if someone would randomly join or interrupt.

Patrick played guitar as loud and long as he wanted, and Maria liked having his easel and paints to use in her spare time.  While art wasn’t her major like his, she enjoyed painting as a hobby and prided herself on her skill and artistic eye.

Patrick focused on his art as much as his music.  His painting class assigned a project where he had to paint a portrait of a live model in the pose of his choice, so he asked Maria if she’d do it for him.

“But nude?”

“It’s the best way to wow the professor with my grasp of anatomy.  Clothes just hide it.”

“Like you don’t grasp my anatomy enough already,” she teased.

“With someone as gorgeous as you, I’d almost be guaranteed an A,” he encouraged flirtatiously.  “Besides, it’s not like you’ll be in front of an audience modeling in a studio.  Just you and me right here at the house.”

“It’s not the modeling audience I’m worried about.  I don’t… I mean, it’s not like just taking some naughty selfie and sending it to your eyes only!  People are going to see this!”

“They’ll see a portrait of a beautiful woman.  Nothing to be ashamed of, I promise!  It’ll be classy and tasteful.  The kind of nude you’d see in a respectable gallery,” he assured her.  “I’d rather use a subject that personally inspires me than just pay some other student to model.  But if you’d really rather not, I understand.  I don’t want you to do anything you’re not comfortable with.  I can find someone to model for cash.”

The thought of Patrick spending that much time alone with some other naked girl, even in a platonic art student setting, cinched it.  “All right.  If you promise it’ll be tasteful and classy, and you don’t hang it in the living room or anything.”

“Anything less wouldn’t do you justice, baby.  I promise not to put it up anywhere you don’t approve of.”  He gave her an affectionate smooch, and she disrobed and posed while he got started.

Patrick’s painting turned out even better than he expected, and he got the A he hoped for.  Despite being anxious about baring it all, Maria had to admit she did look rather stunning in paint.  She told Patrick not to hang it anywhere but the bedroom, though, because she didn’t want any visitors making unwanted comments.  There had already been an awkward moment when Cid and Liz dropped by unannounced, and saw the painting as Patrick was finishing up.  Maria was relieved they didn’t say anything embarrassing, at least.  Liz just told Maria she looked very pretty, and Cid’s only comments other than that he liked it, were specific about the lighting and pose, artist to artist.

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 76 Part Two
« Reply #267 on: September 15, 2018, 03:12:20 AM »

Around the time of midterms, the fraternity had a party where all the pledges had to attend, but other guests could come as well.  Patrick brought Maria and hoped that if she had a good time, she’d get over any lingering grudge against the scene after what happened at Tri-Fruhm.  None of the sorority girls would be there, since they had their own event that night.

“Ah, nice to see you again, Mrs. Red-Headed Step-Pledge,” Jeffery greeted them.  “How are you?”

“Pretty good.”  Maria fluttered her eyelashes at Patrick.  “Mrs. Step-Pledge?  Is that a hint of something I should know about?”  Things had been wonderful between them since moving in together, aside from the minor squabbles that arose between two people adjusting to the same living space.  Patrick wasn’t a slob, but he was used to having a maid back home, so things like cleaning a dirty sink or toilet were never on his radar until it became an eyesore of a mess.  Those things bothered Maria before they bothered him, and she complained about doing more than her share of housework.  It got on his nerves, but hiring a cleaning service to come by twice a week resolved that.  It wasn’t like he couldn’t afford it.

He was trying to think of the best way to answer Maria’s loaded question, but Jeffery bailed him out.  “Nah.  Just messing with him.  I don’t have the authority to marry pledges, though if I did, I’d hook up Garlic Socks with my Simlish Lit professor.  He has a thing for older women, and she’s uptight enough she could use the action.”  He took a swig from his cup.  “You two have fun.  Catch you later!”

Patrick brought Maria to the keg for drinks and showed her the Wall of Fame.  “So, there’s Dad cutting loose at a kegger, if you can believe it.  That was taken about a year before I was born.”  He snickered.  “Too bad they didn’t get Mom in the shot.  Bet the look on her face was priceless.”

“I’m sure!  It’s weird seeing him so young.  I mean, compared to now, not that he’s young like we are in that picture, but you know what I mean.”  She giggled.  “And I can’t even picture it with mine.  Mom probably was all serious studying all the time through medical school, and Dad, well, I could swear he was born a stern businessman.”

When the party ended, the fraternity brothers made the pledges stay after everyone else left.  Patrick kissed Maria goodnight and she whispered that he’d better make it up to her when he got home.

As it turned out, he didn’t come home that night.  He texted Maria so she wouldn’t freak out, but when he came home around eleven on Saturday morning, she wanted details immediately.  “So, what happened on your wild night, mister?”  Her tone was playful, but it had a jealous edge that made it clear she was a little salty about him being gone overnight.

“They kept us here to initiate us.  I’m no longer Red-Headed Step-Pledge, but full on Red-Headed Step-Brother.  We did a bunch of fraternity tradition ceremony stuff.  It lasted most of the night, and the better part of two kegs.”  He winced a little.  “Good stuff, but I’d be lying if I said I couldn’t use something for a headache this morning.  Especially since they had us all sleep on the basement floor and get up at 9 to make and serve an official breakfast.  Another tradition.”

“You’ll make them breakfast, but not me, huh?  Maybe I should make you, now that you’ve got experience.”  She smooched him on the cheek.  “Congratulations, though.  And wow, you’re stubbly.”

“Yeah.  We didn’t have time to shower or shave, so… I probably smell like old juice and bacon grease.”

She traced her finger across his cheek.  “You know, I kind of like that rugged look on you.  Maybe not without the showering, but the stubble.”

He raised an eyebrow and touched his chin.  “Really?”


“In that case… maybe I’ll keep it for now.”

She gave him a flirty smile.  “Do that.  But like this… no going full grizzly beard on me.”

“No problem.”

“And you’re taking me out to that movie that just came out to make up for not coming home last night, Red-Headed Step-Boyfriend.”

“Right after a shower and power nap,” he promised, heading for the bathroom.

Things went mostly well as the term continued, although there were annoyances.  The cleaning service kept the house tidy enough that neither had to do much housekeeping, but their kitchen sink was a lemon.  One day, its perpetually leaky faucet broke, soaking Maria’s pants right before class.

“I don’t even have time to change!  How embarrassing!  Ugh.”  It was all over her knees and down to the ankle, but at least the spray pattern was such that no one would mistake it for wetting herself.  That she’d have changed out of and been late to class over.

“Yeah, well, I’m not exactly having a picnic, either.”  Patrick struggled with the cheap wrench from the tool box under the sink.  His parents had much better tools at home than the bargain basement crap there.  A stray stream hit him in the eye, and Patrick let loose with a string of profanity that, had they been there to hear it, would have earned him a withering look of disapproval from his mother and turned Blair at least three different colors.

“Maybe you should just call someone.”

“I said I can fix it!  I got a freaking tools badge back in sim scouts for stuff like this.”  Although he’d never fixed a sink specifically before, it seemed pretty straightforward.  The wrench slipped in his wet fingers again, and he kicked the cabinet angrily while Maria pouted.

“Okay, but you don’t need to yell at me!  It’s not like I broke it on purpose!  I literally just turned the faucet and it blew up.”

“I’m not blaming you!  I’m just annoyed, all right?  Stupid pile of…”  He tugged on the wrench, his face almost as red as his hair.

“Fine!  Guess I’ll see you later, then.  Good luck.”  She put her bag over her shoulder and left, still grumbling about her pants.

They kept going full steam on their academics as well.  On an unseasonably warm day, they sketched outside in one of Patrick’s art classes.  The subject was challenging for the short amount of time allotted, with lots of angles in lighting half-shaded by the building, but it was a good exercise for his skills.

There was plenty of studying to do as finals loomed, and they hit the java hut for their extra strong blend of wonderpetal tea.  Although Boyd and Susan sent some of their home grown wonderpetal when Patrick asked, he and Maria could never get their teas at home to the same just-right quality and taste that the Sims U java hut baristas did.

They were gearing up for a study session when Maria made a face at the door.  “Ugh, Tri-Frumps.”  She scowled at Hanna when she came in with Ashley.  Although she had nothing personal against Ashley, the company she kept was enough to keep Maria from feeling any warm fuzzies.

“Just ignore them.”

“Oh, I am, but it’s ruining the taste of my tea.”  She sighed.  “I don’t think I’ll bother getting that donut now.  My appetite’s ruined.”  Truthfully, Maria was still steamed about the rude comment Hanna made on that picture, and she wasn’t about to let those snobs see her eating a donut and give them even the slightest excuse to gossip.

“You sure?  If you want, I could grab it and my brownie to go, and we could just study back at the house.”

Maria considered, but decided against it, especially after she caught Hanna giving her stink-eye.  She returned it with equal venom.  “No.  She’s not running me off.  I was here first.  Just get my donut bagged for later.”

They finished their tea and Patrick his snack, then broke out their books and studied.  “Ugh, this reading from Tuesday’s lecture is putting me to sleep all over again,” Patrick groaned.  “It was dull enough the first time.  Thank the Watcher it’s not going to be an essay.  I keep catching myself skimming to get it over with.”

“I wish I could get away with that.  Mine is an essay.”

“Problem is, I won’t if I don’t read in detail.  My professor loves to throw in questions about stupid minutiae just to prove his point that we should be doing the reading.  He found some of the most random stuff to put on the midterm.  I did all right since I read it, but a lot of the class didn’t, and got screwed.”

After studying, they went to the Grotto.  Patrick needed a break from anything related to his major, so he had a drink and played pool to relax.  He wasn’t very good at it, but neither was the other guy playing, and it was early enough that none of the regulars who played seriously were around.

Partway through the game, Patrick looked around for Maria.  She’d gone to get a drink but hadn’t returned.  He was surprised to see her chatting with Shannon, especially since she still had such a grudge against the sorority girls.  Curious, he leaned back and eavesdropped while waiting for his turn.

“…yeah, that was out of line.  I had words with her over that.”  Shannon sounded a bit frustrated.  “Sorry you got that impression.  Not all the girls are like that, but I don’t blame you.”

“Well, I don’t blame you, personally.  You were nice to me, so…”  Maria shrugged in a way that made it clear she was still upset, but didn’t hold it against Shannon.

“I get it.  No problem.  So, how’re things otherwise?  Cid said Patrick painted a portrait of you.  That’s pretty cool.  Not all guys put that kind of dedication into mementos of their girlfriends.  Though Cid offered to paint me,” she said wryly.  “Joked that ought to prove he’s into me, and not just fooling around.”

Patrick smiled, both at the compliment and as he realized Shannon was the girl Cid told him about the day before.  When they ran into each other after class, he’d said he had a new thing going with a girl from the Grotto.  Apparently, it was Shannon.  He was glad Maria was getting along with her, since they still hung out with Cid pretty often.

After Patrick’s game ended, he and Maria went to the bar together.  “So, did I overhear that right?  Cid and Shannon?”

“You were eavesdropping?”

“I see you talking to a Tri-Fruhm girl, I go on alert.”  He smiled.  “Glad she’s still cool.”

“She thinks Hanna acted like a llama, too.  Did you know Hanna’s a legacy?  I bet that’s the only reason they put up with her.  It’s definitely not what passes for her personality,” she said with a catty sneer.  “But whatever.  Shannon’s okay, and yes, she and Cid are together.  Liz told me she stayed over at the dorm last night.”

Patrick chortled.  “Glad Alfred’s not the jealous type, if she’s keeping tabs on who’s sleeping in Cid’s room.”

“It’s not like that.  She said they were in the dining room together this morning and came down together.”

“Oh.  So, what’re you having?  Simoleon Sunrise or a Woohoo on the Beach?”  Those were Maria’s two favorite cocktails.

She rubbed her arms.  “Hmm, it’s a little cold for a Woohoo on the Beach.”

“This time of year?  I’d say,” Patrick joked, and put his arm around Maria flirtatiously.  “Simoleon Sunrise it is, and we can save the woohoo for somewhere warmer later.”

Maria giggled and kissed him.  “Keep sweeping me off my feet like that, and I might say sooner rather than later.”  Her eyes fell on the photobooth in the corner.  “Hey, before we get our drinks, how about we take a couple new pictures of us?  I don’t think we’ve done one since the start of term.”  Back when they first got to Sims U, they took a set of pictures that came out cutesy and romantic.


“Let’s be all romantic in these, too.  I want at least one shot of us kissing.  I like those.”

“No problem.”

They went into the photobooth and posed.  The first two were cute couple shots, but when Maria coyly tickled Patrick as their kiss ended, he couldn’t resist a sly grab in return.  Things got a little heated after that, and they were distracted enough to forget the camera was still going.  They stayed in there a little past the normal time.

The beep that their photos were done prompted them to come out, and Patrick picked up the sheet.  “Let’s see… whoa!”  He remembered lifting her sweater and reaching, but he didn’t think it rode up that far, or that the pictures would show her hand on him there.

A painting of a tasteful nude in his bedroom was one thing, a hard copy of a decidedly less tasteful scene was another.  He quickly tore it up.  “That didn’t come out well at all.  Blurry and bad and just, yeah.”  He tossed the pieces in the trash.  “We’ll have to redo it and keep a little more… still.”

“More still?”

“I’ll put it this way.  If my painting makes you at all self-conscious, you didn’t want that picture anywhere.  And I don’t, either.”  He glanced down.  His pants were buttoned now, right?  Apparently, he’d gotten more distracted in there than he thought.

Maria blushed when she realized what he meant.  “So that last flash wasn’t my imagination, then?”


She cleared her throat and straightened.  “Good call.  We’ll do it over.”

Soon finals came, and despite some nervousness going in, both Patrick and Maria emerged confident they did well.  They’d get official transcripts of their grades soon, but they knew they aced their first term.  Next, they would go home for a holiday break.

“I can’t wait to shove my grades in Dad’s face and tell him I made the Dean’s List after that lecture about moving in with you,” Maria said haughtily.  “Now he can eat the whole Feast Day bird’s worth of crow.”

Patrick had no doubt his parents would be pleased since Boyd and Susan had always been supportive of his achievements, but her mentioning Feast Day reminded him of something else.  “What’s your family doing for that, by the way?  Mom’s having a big Feast Day party, and said to let you know it’s not just you and Tad invited, but the rest of your family too, if they want to come.”

“Half the time on holidays my mom ends up filling a shift someone bailed on at the hospital, and Dad, who knows.  Tad and I will definitely bring Caleb if Mom’s working and Stiles isn’t doing his own thing with him.  He might come.  I don’t know.”

The night before they left, the fraternity held one last end-of-term bash.  Even though it was freezing cold outside, they still had a “Wet ‘n Wild” swimsuit party.  Maria questioned that considering they didn’t even have a pool, but Patrick explained that they did slip ‘n slides with juice and after enough of it, you didn’t care about the temperature.  That, and keg stands were easier to clean up from if you were just wearing a bathing suit.

“I suppose so, but during pledging you probably got pretty experienced, anyway.”

Patrick grinned.  “Oh, yeah.  I can hold my own.  My tolerance is pretty high right now.  Kind of ticks this one gym bro in the frat off.  But I’m like a foot taller than him and probably weigh more, so of course I can handle it.  Especially since I drink more during the week.  He’s one of those guys that only has it on weekends because he’s got to balance his macros and drink protein shakes and junk like that.  Whatever.  I’ll stick with pizza, chili, and juice.  Balanced enough for me.”

“Hey, guys!” Jeffery greeted them after they put their coats away.  “We have a slide out in the back for the brave, or juiced, polar bears who want to try the Arctic Juice Slide, and one in the basement for the ones not afraid to hit a wall.  Keg stands are ongoing in three spots, so find the shortest line, and have fun!”  He continued down the hall while Patrick and Maria sought out a keg.

“I am not slip and sliding,” Maria said before Patrick could even ask.  “Juice would leave awful stains on this suit.”

“Only the red stuff, but they’ve got others.”  He gave her a suggestive look.  “And if the suit’s an issue, there’s always the option to—”

“And that’s an absolute no.”

He laughed.  “I figured, but it didn’t hurt to throw it out there for you to make an informed decision.”

The line was long at the first keg, so they went to another.  Jeffery, Garlic Socks, and a couple of others were in the room.  “Red-Headed Step-Brother!  You’re just in time.  Step on up.”  Jeffery’s gestures were exaggerated from his juiced state.  He looked at Maria.  “Unless the lady would like to go first?”

“No thanks, I’ll stick to cups.  I hate getting juice in my hair.”

“Fair enough.”  He filled a cup and gave it to her.  “Enjoy.”

“Thank you.”

He turned to Patrick.  “Ready?”

“You bet.”  They high-fived and assumed the position, and Jeffery hoisted Patrick over the keg.  Maria watched as he gulped and swallowed the rushing juice in the awkward upside-down hang, glad she wasn’t in that undignified position.

Then there was a flash.  “For posterity!” shouted Garlic Socks.  “The tradition continues another generation!”

“Plum, guys,” Patrick muttered when he was back on his feet.  “You said you weren’t going to do that to me.”

“If you remember, I said that none of us brothers, at that time, would take such a picture,” Jeffery replied with a grin.  “As such, we were honor bound to abide.  But Garlic Socks,” he put his arm around his shoulders, “was merely a pledge like you then, and thus not bound by the oath.”

Patrick couldn’t help but laugh.  “You freaking llamas.  I’m going to get you for that.”

“Look at it this way.  Now you’ve got a spot on your Wall of Fame,” Maria teased, while Patrick looked over at it.  Truthfully, he didn’t mind.  It would be an amusing follow-up to the family tale over holidays, if nothing else.

“Tonight, the Wall of Fame.  Tomorrow, a star on Starlight Shores!”  Patrick raised the cup Garlic Socks handed him to a toast with Maria.  “Rock on!”

“Rock on,” she giggled.  They drank and enjoyed the rest of the party, their last hurrah of the term, together.

They stayed until almost four in the morning and slept late the following day.  They spent that packing, and by the time the van was loaded, it was too late to start the long drive back to Sunset Valley.  Luckily, their lease ran through the end of the next term, so they didn’t have to be out by a specific time like those in campus housing.  They ended up leaving just before sunrise the following morning.  “We’re about ready to hit the road.  Got the keys?”

“Locking up now.”  Maria turned the key while Patrick put the last suitcase in the van.  Both were a little sad to leave, despite looking forward to seeing their family and friends at home.  “I’m going to miss living with you.  It was great having our own place.  Like maybe a preview of what it’ll be like… you know.”

“Yeah.  I do.”  Even though they had a rough patch, and a few minor things that would’ve been major if one or the other hadn’t bitten their tongue, Patrick felt closer to Maria than ever.  Sure, she had her moments, but so did he.  Things felt right being with her, even when they went kind of haywire.  Every couple compromised sometimes, right?  His parents had been together forever, so even though they were a well-oiled machine of a pair now, surely there was a time they weren’t quite so fine-tuned.  Blair and Cycl0n3 had been together his whole life, but they both had quirks not everyone could deal with.  Why wouldn’t that be him and Maria someday, too?  He closed the van door.  “Ready?”

“Ready.”  They started the van and left Sims University behind, bound for home.

Offline oshizu

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #268 on: September 15, 2018, 03:31:43 PM »
I'm glad Patrick and Maria managed to make up, without either demanding an apology.
How hilarious that the frat's Wall of Fame should become a Wainwright family tradition. I hope Patrick has a son in the future, too!

Congrats to the couple for acing their first term. Does it take two terms to earn a degree or eight?
I'm excited to meet a teen Iris, too. I wonder if she'll look like a green Susan?

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 77
« Reply #269 on: September 23, 2018, 01:43:40 AM »
I'm glad Patrick and Maria managed to make up, without either demanding an apology.
How hilarious that the frat's Wall of Fame should become a Wainwright family tradition. I hope Patrick has a son in the future, too!

Congrats to the couple for acing their first term. Does it take two terms to earn a degree or eight?
I'm excited to meet a teen Iris, too. I wonder if she'll look like a green Susan?

How long the degree takes depends on how many credits you sign them up for at University, if you send them for 1 or 2 weeks (technically 1 or 2 terms, I guess, though I count each travel trip as 1 term), and if they get any credit toward the degree from existing skills when they take their placement test. 

Boyd and Susan had existing skills that had about half their degree completed when I sent them in the first game week, so they were able to finish degrees taking a high credit load in just one 2 week stay. Patrick had enough painting and guitar skill to get a decent boost toward the fine arts degree, but not enough to finish it in 2 weeks.  Maria had very little credit toward communications since she only had one skill point in writing.  So, they'll require two two-week trips for their degrees, and they just finished the first.  Patrick just gets to coast on a lighter class load thanks to his higher skills, which leaves him more time for fun stuff while he's there.  On the bright side, sims don't age while they're at University, so it's a great way to skill up sims without losing play time.  That helped Boyd and Susan a lot early on!

As for Iris, her birthday is in this chapter. :)

Chapter 77

The Wainwrights were thrilled to see Patrick when he got home.  “Welcome back!  Glad you made it safe and sound.” Boyd gave him a hug.  “I was a little worried.  My weather app said some of the roads up that way had ice.  No trouble?”

“Nah, it was fine, Dad.  Thanks.  It’s good to be home.”

Susan hugged him next.  “We really missed you.  Congratulations on your good grades.  I’m glad you had a good learning experience at Sims U, even if you did forget how to use your razor,” she finished on a wry note.

“Oh, right.”  He smiled and stroked his chin.  “It’s my new rugged guitarist look.  What do you think?”

“I think it looks like you were up all night playing guitar, so if that’s what you’re going for, I suppose you nailed it.”

Boyd chuckled.  “Sorry, Patrick.  I think you look fine, but your mother’s never been a fan of that look.  Don’t take it personally.”

“Ah, so is that why you never tried to grow a beard that I can remember?”

“That and even before I went gray, I look like some old banker or a magic gnome with my light hair.  But you got your mom’s, so, no pointy hat needed for you.”

“If he wore one, he could match my death metal gnome,” Orion joked.  Despite its sinister nature, he’d kept it.  He gave the gnome a telepathic warning that it could stay if it behaved, but if it broke anything or harassed anyone else, he would send it somewhere it couldn’t cause anyone any trouble again.  So far, there hadn’t been any more wicked shenanigans out of it.  Evil or not, it liked the mansion and was content to stay put.  “And welcome back, big brother.”

“Thanks, but I think I’ll let your gnome rock that look solo.”

Iris also gave Patrick a welcome home hug.  “Well, I think you look cool, and I’m glad you’re back, too.”

“Aw, thanks.  You’re looking pretty cool yourself, birthday girl.  I didn’t forget.  I got you something.”  He reached into his pocket and pulled out an envelope containing some seeds.  “I found these at Sims U.  Stuff that doesn’t grow here.  Mom and Dad can help you plant them, and you can get to know some different kinds of plants.”

“Oh, thank you!  I’ve been learning how to grow things.  I’m helping take care of the plants in the greenhouse now.”

Boyd was impressed as he and Susan checked out the seeds.  There were several different herbs as well as a rare plasma fruit seed.  “Good eye!  These are very nice quality.  You’ve still got your sim scout gathering skill.”

Susan agreed.  “We’d be happy to help you grow these.”

After his family welcomed him back, Patrick went to unpack his stuff for break.  On the way to his room, another familiar face greeted him.  “Look who’s back!”

“Buddy, hey!”  Although he hadn’t been able to stay in touch with Buddy like everyone else, he had missed him.  “It’s been a while.”

“Yeah, I’d say.”  Buddy’s tone was sarcastic, but still warm.  “Do you know how boring this place is without you around?  I’ve been half asleep for ages.  Lately, I only pop in to see if you’re back, if that creepy gnome of Alien Boy’s needs his can kicked, or to see if the geezers are still alive and kicking.”

“You crack me up.  I know they’re old, but come on.  They’re still pretty spry.  No need to worry about them.”

“Oh, I’m sure.  Epic nerdiness seems to be a preservative, and they’ve got that in buckets!”  He followed Patrick into his room.  “I only heard whatever Alien Boy, Flower Girl, and the geezers talked about while you were gone, so fill me in.  What’s the deal with you and Maria?  First you love her, then you leave her, then you move in with her?  That story’s changed more than Alien Boy’s sweaty socks and I can’t keep up.  And you’re a frat boy now, or something?”

“I am.  Grab a suitcase and help me unpack.  I’ll tell you the whole story.”

After Patrick caught up with Buddy and finished unpacking, he came downstairs and joined Orion and Boyd.  They were watching a rerun of an old monster movie while Susan and Iris discussed the birthday party.  “Iris is pretty excited about her birthday.  Who’s coming tonight?”

“Her friends, and of course Blair and Cycl0n3 and the kids.”  Boyd chuckled.  “Kids.  I need to stop calling Chris that.  He’s graduating soon.  Even you’re too old to really call a kid anymore,” he with a look at Orion.  “That’s what I get for being the old man in the rocking chair.  You’re all still kids to me at my age.”

“At least you’re not shaking your cane and telling us to get off your lawn yet,” Orion teased.

“Nah.  Your mom and I like having you around.  Much as I find too much chaos and noise nerve-wracking, this big house gets too quiet when you’re all gone.”  Boyd leaned back in the chair.  “Without Patrick there’s been no guitar riffs, no hammering on sculptures or canvases being moved around…”

“No loud strings of cursing when something goes wrong,” Orion interjected with a smirk.

“Oh, like you’re such a sim scout!” Patrick retorted, amused.  “I remember what came out of your oh-so-pristine mouth the first time you tried to break a wood board instead of foam.”

“That’s because it freaking hurt!”

“Still would’ve turned Mom purple and probably make Saint Blair pass out.”

Boyd laughed from the rocking chair.  “Saint Blair?  Please.  You don’t think she’s heard worse from Cycl0n3, let alone on the job?”

“Yeah, but no one expects Cycl0n3 to behave,” said Orion.

“I’ll give you that, but aside from my music, I don’t think I’m that much louder than you and your martial arts training and your chemistry explosions.”

“I haven’t blown anything up in a long time.”

Boyd peered over his glasses.  “No, but that miscalculation on the stink potion was brutal.  We had to ventilate the room for three days.  Be glad you missed that, Patrick.”

“Tell me about it,” Buddy piped up.  “Pee-yew.  I popped out for a week until it went away.”

“I had to shampoo my hair three times to get the smell out before I went to dinner with Tara.  I thought I’d have enough time to try making it between school and our date and… kaboom.  Stink bomb.  Only time I was ever late meeting her.  I always try not to be because she gets so freaked out and thinks it must be because of something bad.  So, I had to message her saying I’d be late because I smelled so bad we’d both lose our appetites.  That made me feel real cool.”

“Things are going well with you two, huh?  You’ve been seeing her a while now,” Patrick remarked.

Orion smiled.  “Yeah.  Pretty good.”

“Tara’s been over a lot lately,” Boyd said.  “She and Orion are always practicing martial arts up there in the rec room.  You can hear them all way down in the study, the way they go at it.”

Patrick gave Orion a sly look.  “I wouldn’t be sure that’s all ‘sparring,’ Dad.”  He elbowed him, and Orion flushed and shoved him back.

“Shut up, you llama!  It’s not like you can talk.  There were plenty of times you had Maria over and—”

Boyd put up a hand.  “I’m sure you boys don’t do anything your mother and I wouldn’t have at your age, and if that’s not a mental image you wanted… there, we’re even.”

“Ack!  That’s an image nobody wanted,” Buddy groaned dramatically.

“I hear you, Buddy.”

At first Boyd thought Patrick might’ve been speaking to him, but then he glanced at the empty space beside him, and Orion also looked at same spot.  “Buddy.  You mean your Buddy.”  Boyd stood and eyed the area uncertainly, and Patrick chided himself for forgetting and responding in front of his parents.

“Yeah.”  His tone soured.  “I know, you don’t—”

“No, Patrick.  I believe you.”  Boyd stared at the empty space and tried to discern a sign of anything there.  There was nothing he could see or hear, and that unnerved him, but he kept an open mind.  While Patrick had been away, he and Susan researched more about the spirit dolls, and they concluded that was most likely what Buddy and Patches were.  Both of them felt bad about previously believing Buddy was all in Patrick’s mind, even if it had been what the science they knew at the time implied.

Patrick didn’t know that, however, and was dubious since neither of his parents had ever truly believed him before.  Orion was also surprised.

“I do,” Boyd asserted.  “I still can’t see or hear him, but I believe you.  Your mother and I did some research, and we discovered there’s a type of spirit that manifests like Buddy and Patches do.  They’re not detectable like other paranormal entities, with the kind of equipment that the investigators from the lab use.  Probably something in the fae magic attached to them that we don’t yet understand.  But I do believe you.  So, here’s a long overdue apology for all the misunderstandings about it, and for how frustrated you must’ve been.  I’m sorry.  We both are.”  He called over to Susan.  “Susan, come here.  Patrick’s got Buddy here.”

She and Iris came over while Patrick, Buddy, and Orion stood there in shocked silence.  “So, you believe he’s real now?”  Patrick glanced at Iris.  “And Patches, too?  You mean it?”  He desperately wanted it to be true, as did Iris, but it was hard not to be cynical after hearing for so long that Buddy had to be just in his head.

“We do.  We can’t perceive them, but you can tell them that, if they can’t hear us.”

Buddy put his hands over his heart.  “Holy llama!  The geezers finally believe in me!  Who’d have thunk it?  It’s a miracle!  Congratulations on finally getting a clue!”

Orion glanced in Buddy’s direction.  “No need.  He heard it.  You’re lucky you can’t hear him, most of the time.  I know sometimes I wish I couldn’t.”

“Bite me, Alien Boy!”

“Like Orion said, he heard you,” Patrick said.  “He’s just surprised, like me.  What changed your minds?”

“Orion’s gnome, believe it or not,” Susan said, and Boyd continued.

“I looked him up in a book and came across another chapter describing dolls like Buddy and Patches, and it went from there.”  They explained how Buddy and Patches were most likely spirits bound to dolls by fairy magic that were given to them as toddlers to be their companions and friends.  While they didn’t know who sent them or why, it was obvious they were meant to be a beneficial gift.  Both Susan and Boyd apologized again that their skepticism caused Patrick and Iris so much stress.

“So, yes, we believe you,” Susan finished.  “We’re sorry it took so long.”

“Well, I won’t say it didn’t suck having you think I was crazy, but I’m glad you finally understand.  It was pretty hard sometimes, you know.”  Patrick’s voice rose a little in its raw honesty.  “Having this thing going on that’s real, that no one else can see or hear, while you all thought I was insane.  Even after Orion said he could hear him, and after Patches showed up.”

“I’m glad, too,” said Iris.  “Patches likes you, but she felt bad for me that you didn’t think she was real and I was just confused or had a vivid imagination or whatever.”

“I’m so sorry we made you feel that way.”  Boyd remembered all too well how alone he’d felt after his abduction, and what it was like knowing his experience would be dismissed by everyone else as a delusion.  He hated that he’d made his kids feel that way, and although she didn’t have that same personal experience to compare it to, Susan also felt awful about how Patrick and Iris must have felt.

“Me too.  I hope you can forgive us.”

“Yeah, I do.”  Patrick appreciated their sincerity, even if it would take a bit of time to get over completely.  “As for Buddy…” He glanced over his shoulder, and his invisible friend smirked.

“Tell them I’m glad they finally pulled their heads out of their—”

“He’s cool with it, too.”

“Well, that’s one way to translate it,” quipped Orion.

“Patches and I aren’t mad,” Iris said.  “But you could make it up to us by letting us stay up as late as we want.”

Susan smiled.  “Tonight on your birthday?  Absolutely.  Have fun.  But if you mean every night, I’m afraid not.  You get the same curfew they did at your age.  Nice try, though.”

Soon the guests started arriving for Iris’ party.  Blair picked up the birthday cake they’d special ordered from Emma’s bakery.  Although Iris didn’t need to eat, and her earliest cakes had been decorated fertilizer patties, she developed a taste for sweets during her elementary school years.  She couldn’t eat them often without feeling ill, but she liked having the real thing instead of fertilizer on special occasions.

“Where’s the birthday girl, my favorite little sister?”

“Hi, Blair!  Wow, that looks so good!”

“I’m sure it is!  Emma said she put the double fudge frosting on it.  The best one.”  Blair grinned.  “She also said to tell you happy birthday, and she’s sorry Rashida couldn’t make it.  She’s got a cold and didn’t want her getting you or anyone else at the party sick.”

“That’s okay.  I’ll see her in school.  Thanks.”  Although she was a little sad Rashida couldn’t come, her two closest school friends, Jeanine Andrews and Kristal Steel, were both there, as was Travis, of course, and Lane Mae.  Maria and Tad also both came, as did Orion’s girlfriend, Tara.  Iris wondered when she would have a boyfriend.  There were some boys she liked, like Lane and Lester Sekemoto, although she knew Kristal had a crush on Lester.

Once all the guests arrived, they gathered to blow out the candles.  “Don’t forget to make your wish!” Patches called out, although only Iris could hear her.  Everyone else got out their party horns and started cheering.

“Blow out the candles, sprout, and get ready for the joys of high school homework,” Chris teased.

“She’ll do fine.  She’s a smart little sunflower,” Susan said proudly.

“Mom, you can’t talk about me like I’m a little kid anymore.”  Iris stood tall by her cake, while Blair giggled.

“Don’t take it personally.  She’s a grandma!  That’s what they do!”

“One day you’ll be a grandma yourself, you know,” Susan said.  “Probably sooner than you think.  But I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.”

“Not that soon.  Let me graduate first, please,” Chris protested, and his father snickered.

“That didn’t stop your grandparents.  See exhibit A, your mother.”

While Boyd rolled his eyes and Susan shot her son-in-law a sharp look, Iris put her hands on her hips.  “Cycl0n3, don’t be full of fertilizer while I’m blowing out my candles, okay?”

“Sorry, Chief Medical Officer.  Proceed.  Advance to your new rank.”

Iris took a deep breath, made her wish, and blew out her birthday candles.  She was now a lovely young plantsim lady.  Her grass-like hair had grown into bright green leaves, and the natural bud on her head that she’d kept under a hairband now bloomed as a pale purple flower.  The foliage on her body grew in thicker, and it formed a pattern of color that was subtle but beautiful.  Her resemblance to Susan was stronger than ever now that her features had matured.

Iris was flattered by all the compliments she got, both in general and on her makeup and clothes.  She’d picked them out carefully and loved feeling so pretty.  She hoped the boys thought so, too.  She smiled a little more sweetly at Lane as he took a slice of cake and passed her on her way to the table, and thought again that it was a shame Lester didn’t come.  She wondered if it was because Blair had been the one that got his father arrested.  Lester hadn’t been mad at her or anything, but she wondered if it was too weird for him to come to their house when Blair was there.

While Iris’ eye was on the boys as she entered her teen years, her companion, Patches, showed a bit more mischievousness.  Perhaps it was the fae magic that brought her to life on their plane, or maybe her limited interactions with Orion and Buddy had inspired it in her, especially when it came to keeping Orion’s evil gnome in check.  It may have just been from living with so many teenagers and now being one herself, but regardless, sweet little Patches now had a decidedly rebellious streak.  She wasn’t mean or rude like Buddy, though, and Iris liked her friend’s feisty side.  It made her even more fun.

After cake and presents, Iris chatted with Jeanine.  “Thanks for the cool makeup.  I really like that lipstick.”

“Glad you like it.  That brand’s the best!  You can only get it online or at the spa.  It’s the only kind I use.  It should be fine on plantsim skin, too.  Chris checked for me when I bought it.”

“Cool!  Though I didn’t know he’d become such an expert working there.”  She smirked.  “Maybe he’s tried all the concealers for the bruises he gets bumping into everything.”

“He’d better get some for Tad’s feet, then.”  Jeanine gestured to where the two of them were dancing, or at least attempting to.  Tad hopped backward, while Chris winced out an apology for crunching his toes again.

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.”  He shook his foot to take the sting out.  “Guess our dance moves got rusty since last time.”

“I don’t think mine never get un-rusty,” Chris said with a sheepish laugh.  “But hey, at least you’ve got matching crunched toes on each foot now, right?”

“You really know how to make a guy feel better.”  Tad took him back into his arms.  “But I think I’ll lead this time.”

“Oh no.  You’re getting revenge.”

“Not on purpose, but we both know I dance as well as you do.”

Chris sighed playfully.  “I’m doomed.”

After cleaning up some of the cake plates, Orion found Tara by herself in the living room away from everyone else except Travis, who was playing a video game by himself, and Diddy, who Chris had brought with him.  The cat was happily chowing down on a bit of food he’d either stolen or that someone dropped.  “Hey, what’s got you hiding out back here?”  He could tell immediately that she was distraught.

“I think I offended your mom.  I didn’t mean to, but… I don’t know.  She and your sister were talking about Iris and I said something like yeah I can’t believe how much like your mom she looks except green and young and she just gave me this look and… ugh.  Guess I put my foot in it again.  So, I was like ‘sorry I didn’t mean to say you were super old or anything, you’re not that old’ but then she looked even madder so I just said sorry and got the plum out of there.”  She sighed.  “She probably hates me.”

“Nah, Mom doesn’t hate you.  Don’t worry about it.  She’ll forget about it and get over it.”

“So you do think she’s mad at me.”

“I think you shouldn’t worry about it.”  He took her hand.  “Believe me, my brother-in-law has said far worse a bunch of times, and she still puts up with him.”

“I’d rather not be someone that people just put up with.  That they tolerate.”  She looked down.  “Not like.”

“That was my point.  She does like him, even though he’s got a big mouth.  Which you don’t.  You’re not even like that.  So, don’t worry.  They like you, and so I.”  He met her eyes and leaned in close.  “More than like.”

Tara tried to smile through her anxiousness.  “I know, and I’m glad.  It’s just… I don’t know what I’d do without you, Orion.  I hope I don’t manage to screw us up, too.”

“You don’t need to worry about that, either.”  He kissed her.

While Tara worried about offending Susan, Cycl0n3 chatted with Boyd.  “So, you’re on your fourth teenager now,” he joked.  “If you weren’t so ancient, I’d say it’d be enough to turn the rest of your hair gray, but let’s face it, you’ve been there a while now.”

“You’re no spring chicken yourself, in case you forgot.  Your birthday is just around the corner.  Now behave, or I’ll write you out of the will,” Boyd replied dryly.

“I’ve still got nothing on you and Mother-In-Law Time!  Besides, you wouldn’t do that to me.  I’m your favorite son-in-law!”  He smirked.  “And you’d never do it to Blair, and we’re a legal set.  Disinherit one and you punish the other.”

“You’re my only son-in-law, so I’m not sure I’d count on the security of default settings, especially when you’ve been on such a roll tonight.”  In addition to the quips Cycl0n3 just made and what he said when Iris blew out her candles, Boyd had also overheard him comment rudely about the size of another guest’s backside which said guest overheard and didn’t appreciate, and he’d said something that rubbed Travis the wrong way, too.  He didn’t hear exactly what, but Travis snapped back harshly at him and left to go play video games by himself afterward.

“Oooh.  You’re salty tonight, Space!  All these crazy kids and their shenanigans must be getting on your last nerve.  After four, I know they’d be on mine.  Hope the younger set takes after Blair and me with the ‘no accident’ policy and not you and Susan.  Otherwise you’ll be up to your eyeballs in alien, plantsim, and angsty emo band geek grandchildren in no time!”

That crossed the line, and Boyd was not in the mood for it.  “Cycl0n3, do you think that once, just once, you could try to get through a family gathering without trying to tick me or Susan or one of my kids off?  I realize not trolling is a challenge for you, but I think you could do it if you really, really tried.”

“Whoa!  Fine.  Don’t get your depends all in a twist.”  Cycl0n3 rolled his eyes.  “I was just joking.  Sorry I didn’t realize you were so sensitive tonight.”

Boyd let out an aggravated sigh, while Patrick passed by and noticed the look on his father’s face.  “What’s going on?”  He glanced at Cycl0n3.  “Is he being himself again?”

“In spades.”

“Don’t be a llama, Cycl0n3, and don’t start drama on Iris’ birthday.”

“Relax, Captain.  Iris is in there chatting it up with her gal pals having a grand old time, and Space here can relax.  I’ll stop picking on him.  Wouldn’t want to get his old ticker too riled up.”  He patted Boyd on the shoulder.

“Wow.  Saddest apology ever,” Patrick remarked, while Boyd just gave a diplomatic wave to drop it.  Over the years, he’d learned that the best way to deal with Cycl0n3 when he insisted on trolling after being asked to stop was to quit feeding into it.  Unfortunately, Patrick hadn’t learned that lesson yet, and Cycl0n3 redirected to him.

“Sorry.  Guess I can’t match the groveling expertise of the guy who got a house just to get back into his girlfriend’s pants.”

“Oh, screw you, Cycl0n3!”

“Ah-ah-ah!  No drama, remember?”  Cycl0n3 wagged his finger sarcastically, while Boyd stepped between them.

“Just drop it.  Please.”  He gave Cycl0n3 a stern, if not imploring look to knock it off, and then turned to Patrick with one urging him to let it go.  For Boyd’s sake, he did, but it was obvious he was still aggravated.

“Fine.  Think I’ll go get a drink.  You want one, Dad?”


Patrick stalked off, while Cycl0n3 turned to Boyd.  “Okay, message received.  I’ll be good.  But the Captain makes it too easy.”  He wandered off in the opposite direction.

Luckily, Iris missed the exchange between her father, brother, and Cycl0n3, and luckily for Cycl0n3, so did Blair.  She chatted with Iris.  “You must be pretty excited for high school, huh?  And driving?  Did you get a car yet?”

“Not yet,” Susan said as she joined them.  “We’re going to start shopping once she’s in driver’s ed.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t buy her one for her birthday like you did Patrick,” Blair said with a touch of playful jealousy.  “Sounds to me like the boys are the favorites, huh?”

“Considering Orion got the freaking Galaxa?  Yeah.  How about that, Mom?”

“Oh, come on now.  First of all, you know we couldn’t afford to get you your own car when you were that age, Blair.  If we could’ve, we would’ve.  Second, we didn’t get Orion the Galaxa.  While we were going to get him something once he finished driver’s ed, pretty much anything we could offer paled in comparison once Eni Jish Xip dropped that off.  Though now Orion wants something else to drive, since he can’t take Tara or his friends around in the Galaxa.  He’s been using Patrick’s car, but now that he’s living off campus, he’s taking it with him to Sims U next term.”

“That was what I was supposed to learn to drive in, too.  Orion told me he wants a motorcycle.”

Susan sighed.  “I know.  Not to sound like your father, but really?  It’s almost winter, and he wants to tool around town in something without heat and more likely to get in an accident while the roads will be icy.  Brilliant choice.”

Iris snickered and struck an imitation of a bad-boy type pose.  “More like he wants to look cool and impress Tara.”

Blair giggled.  “Well, it would go with his skull leather jacket.  You should humor him, Mom.  They’re not that unsafe.  Hank’s had one for years, and the Chief Engineer might rock that biker look.”

“I’m not sure your partner that fell off a roof and landed in a wheelchair for six weeks is the one I want giving Orion safety tips, and Patrick’s newfound aversion to a razor is bad enough without you encouraging Orion to take on a biker’s appearance.”

“Guess I ought to warn you about the leather rock star pants Patrick left in the laundry room, then,” Iris said with a snicker.  “But as far as driving goes, don’t worry.  I want an actual car.  Just make sure it’s a cool one.”

“Wouldn’t dream of getting you anything less, sweetie,” Susan replied, while Blair gave a thumbs-up.

After the party was over and everyone went to bed, Boyd and Susan unwound in their room.  She felt wistful.  “Time sure flies.  It doesn’t feel like that long ago when we discovered baby Iris in our greenhouse.  Now she’s a young lady who wants a cool car.  She specified that, by the way.”

“That shouldn’t be a problem.  Unless we’re too old to remember what cool is,” Boyd said with a smirk.

“I think what’s cool depends on which of our kids you ask.  For Iris that might be something cute and stylish, but Patrick seems to think it means partying rocker and Orion thinks it’s leather jackets and motorcycles, and Blair, well, she married Cycl0n3, so…”

“Oh, he was in rare form tonight, wasn’t he?”  Earlier, he filled Susan in on what she missed, and she’d been suitably unimpressed.  “It’s all right, though.  Travis will pay him back bigtime when he becomes a teenager.  He’s every bit as sarcastic as Chris with twice the cynicism.”

Susan chuckled.  “I know.  It’ll be spectacular.”

“Did I ever tell you you’re gorgeous when you imagine karmic revenge?”  He drew her into his arms, and she smooched him.

“Not specifically, but I appreciate the compliment.”

“But to be fair, I think you’re gorgeous when you do pretty much anything.”

“In that case, what do you think about this?”  She kissed him again, that time more deeply, and they held each other in a loving caress as their lips parted.

“Oh, yes,” Boyd said as he nudged Susan toward the bed.  “Definitely that.”