Author Topic: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley  (Read 173802 times)

Offline oshizu

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #270 on: September 24, 2018, 10:38:37 PM »
Oh gosh, Iris is too lovely! Look at those leafy locks topped by the precious lavender blossom!
I like how she coordinated the purple lipstick with the accents on her head blossom and skin pattern.
Is it usual for plantsims to look so stunning? Or does Iris have Susan's genes to thank?

I've never seen Cycl0n3 acting so deliberately abrasive in your story before. Have I not been paying attention?
Shame on him, antagonizing everyone at Iris's birthday party! Lol.
Seeing him like this, it's a wonder he and Blair have gotten along so well all these years.
I do like Cycl0n3. He seemed to be doing all he could to rub everyone the wrong way, hehe.

What happens to Imaginary Friends as "their child" ages?
If, just as an example, Chris were to move out, would he take Buddy with him?
So difficult seeing Susan and Boyd grow older. They are such a great pair!

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 78
« Reply #271 on: September 29, 2018, 01:41:38 AM »
Oh gosh, Iris is too lovely! Look at those leafy locks topped by the precious lavender blossom!
I like how she coordinated the purple lipstick with the accents on her head blossom and skin pattern.
Is it usual for plantsims to look so stunning? Or does Iris have Susan's genes to thank?

Some of both, I think. Plantsims look pretty cool, and Susan is an attractive sim (at least in my opinion), so she makes a nice looking plantsim.

I've never seen Cycl0n3 acting so deliberately abrasive in your story before. Have I not been paying attention?
Shame on him, antagonizing everyone at Iris's birthday party! Lol.
Seeing him like this, it's a wonder he and Blair have gotten along so well all these years.
I do like Cycl0n3. He seemed to be doing all he could to rub everyone the wrong way, hehe.

His inappropriate trait hasn't been this amped up in the story for a while, but it's always been around to an extent. In this particular chapter, I wrote him as having one of those days where he's in the mood to needle people because he finds it inappropriately funny. It's not that he doesn't like Boyd, Susan, Patrick, etc.  He does.  He just finds it funny to get under their skin at times. Back at the lofts, Tamara was a favorite target of his, because her hot-headed trait always got him a memorable reaction. (Which is also why I think he likes needling Patrick; he can't just NOT respond, either.) Why I wrote him acting that way in that chapter was inspired by my gameplay.  When he came to the party the Wainwrights threw for Iris' birthday, he was autonomously using inappropriate socials all over the place. The scene with Boyd was the only one I got good screenshots of, though.

As for Blair, she knows how he is and will tsk-tsk him if he gets too far out of line. She knows he's not a bad person, just someone who doesn't always get boundaries. And Cycl0n3 is more likely to behave if he knows she's in earshot, much like a mischievous kid.  ;D

What happens to Imaginary Friends as "their child" ages?
If, just as an example, Chris were to move out, would he take Buddy with him?
So difficult seeing Susan and Boyd grow older. They are such a great pair!

The IFs age up on the same day their sim does. I've gotten as far as an IF reaching elder in a different save, but I stopped playing it before that sim died, so I'm not sure if they just poof or get stuck as the doll, or what.

I'm pretty sure if Patrick moved out and was the active family, and he had Buddy in doll form in his inventory, if he took him out, he'd spawn like normal on the lot. IFs turn back to doll form and go inactive if the sim they're attached to is off the lot. If he moved out and was left managed by the game, I think Buddy might exist in the save as a despawned sim like an NPC as long as he had a relationship with him, but I don't think he'd ever appear, even if the doll was on the lot and not just in his inventory. But I've never tried that, so I can't say for certain.

Chapter 78

Susan got up bright and early on the morning of the family Feast Day party to prepare.  Although the guests would bring dishes as well, she liked to serve the traditional favorites.  First, she made pumpkin pie, a holiday classic and a recipe Maria raved was her favorite last time.  She also put together a gourmet cheese appetizer plate, but most important and time-consuming was the stuffed turkey.  Susan remembered the very first time she made one, back around the time they first moved into the mansion.  She’d been so proud of how far she’d come with her cooking skill then, which she started learning back when she was pregnant with Patrick and out of work for health reasons.  She’d loved showing her cooking and their new home off.  Now, so many years later, putting out the Feast Day spread was fairly routine, but she still took pride in it.

Boyd wasn’t much help in the kitchen, and since Susan preferred to have as few people in her way as possible while she cooked, he spent the morning reviewing bot building manuals from Oasis Landing.  They were still working on their prototype, and with a little more work and a bit of luck, it would be up and running soon.

Patrick slept in and called Maria when he got up.  Although it was nice being home, he missed waking up with her at his side, and it was a reminder of just how much he loved her.  “Morning, gorgeous.  How’re you doing?”

“Not very gorgeous if you could see me up to my eyeballs in sticky toddler mess,” she replied with a laugh.  “Caleb gets really restless if you leave him in the high chair like a second too long now, and he splattered what was left of his applesauce everywhere.”

“Ah, you’re babysitting?”

“Yup.  Mom got called in to work this morning, and since Tad took over my old room, I’m bunking in Caleb’s with him.  It was either that or the couch.  So, I got stuck babysitting when Mom had to leave, because Tad magically slept through it all.”

Patrick chortled.  “Of course he did.”

“I know, right?  Then when he did finally get up, he sees me cleaning the applesauce catastrophe and says, ‘Oh, didn’t Mom warn you he doesn’t like sitting there anymore?  I never leave him more than a minute after he’s done,’ like he’s such an expert.  Then he goes and hogs the shower himself so I can’t clean up, after he got to sleep in!  Ugh.  I forgot what a pain he can be, and I don’t mean Caleb.”  She sighed.  “I so miss how it was at Sims U.”

“Yeah, I know the feeling.  Not so much the toddler covered in applesauce, but missing you.”

“Aw, I miss you too,” she said sweetly.  “And our good morning kisses.”

“I’ll kiss you extra tonight, then.  What time are you coming over?  Mom and Dad told people the feast-ivities would start around four, but if you want to come earlier, that’s fine.”

“I’ll ride over with Mom and Tad and the little guy here.  Either Tad or I have to watch him until Mom gets home anyway.  Stiles is out of town for a couple days doing band management stuff.”

“Sounds good.  I’ll see you then.”

“Okay, baby.  I love you.”

“Love you, too,” Patrick replied.

He decided to start a new painting after talking to Maria.  The party wasn’t for several hours, and he was in a good mood and full of inspiration.  He hummed to himself happily while he painted, and Buddy eyed the canvas as he came up behind him.

“So, that’s the beach?”

“Yeah.  The view from upstairs inspired me, but I wanted to put a warmer feel on it with a bit of storminess.  Like it is earlier in the fall, when it’s still warm during the day and the leaves are still bright on the trees, but the weather can get crazy at any time.”

“And a bad storm can blow you right into the ocean so you drown?”

“That’s… a little darker than I was going for, but kind of.”  He swished some light sea foam onto the water to make it choppier.  “I was more thinking of it like the sea is beautiful, but tempestuous.”

“Heh.  Sounds like your love life, if you ask me.”

“Pretty sure he didn’t,” Orion remarked from over at his computer.

“Pretty sure I wasn’t talking to you,” Buddy retorted.  “Shut up and go play with your creepy gnome.”

While Susan prepared her feast food and everyone else enjoyed hobby time at the mansion, Iris ventured out to fish at the beach.  Now that the days were so short, she liked getting all the sunlight she could.  Even though it was chilly, she wore a t-shirt and shorts so she could take in the full sun by the water.  It wasn’t that cold, and she didn’t want to get salt water, sand, or stinky fish grime on her stylish new white coat and boots anyway.  Besides, she knew her limits.

She ended up staying for a few hours and caught a couple of fish.  Her time in sim scouts taught her a lot about fishing, and she wasn’t bad with the rod and reel.  Unfortunately, the wintry wind picked up, and that and the sea spray got to be too much.  She shivered and rubbed her arms.  “Guess I’d better head back.”  She looked up longingly at the sun before leaving.

When she got home, she checked on the plants in the greenhouse.  It was bright and warm in there, and a few of them needed attention.  Patches joined her while she tended the glow orbs.  “Hi!  How’re the shroomies?”

“Pretty good.  I’ve got to tell Mom and Dad how much they like the fertilizer blend they’re using.  They can’t stop raving about it.”

“Oh, that reminds me!  Is there any extra life fruit in here?” Patches asked.

“Life fruit?  What do you need that for?  You’re not old or sick.  You can’t even get sick, can you?”

“Not for me, for unicorns.  I heard they really like it.  Maybe if one comes, we can feed some to it!”

“That’d be cool, but we’ve been watching a long time and still haven’t seen one,” Iris said with a touch of disappointment.  “Just the deer and those couple wild horses.  But they were just horses.”  She smiled.  “I mean, I know you like the horses, but you’ve got to admit, a unicorn would be a lot cooler.”

“Definitely!” Patches agreed.

“We could take a piece, but I think Mom and Dad use life fruit for experiments, so I don’t want to pick it until we see it.”  Iris looked at the life fruit plant.  “Especially since it’s telling me it can’t grow much fruit this time of year, even in here.  Not enough light.”  She sympathetically stroked its leaves.  “I hear you.  You and me both.”

When it was time for the party, the Wainwrights dressed up and arranged their food spread.  “That turkey smells great,” Boyd said while Susan carefully transferred it from the roasting pan to the platter.  “I can’t wait to dig in to all of this.  You outdid yourself, as usual.”

“Thanks.”  She saw him snatch a bite of cheese off the plate.  “That’s imported.  What do you think?”

“It’s good.  Oh, I brought that nectar you wanted up out of the basement.  Apple-Renoit, right?”

“Yes.  That’ll pair nicely with most of these cheeses and the meat.”

“Iris is pouring that now,” Patrick informed them as he came into the kitchen.  “Maria and her family just got here, so we might as well start serving stuff.”  He picked up the cheese platter and sprinkled some sweetgrass over the soft cheese spread.

Susan raised an eyebrow.  “Did you just herb the cheese?”

“It’s just sweetgrass, from your greenhouse.  It’s good on stuff like this, and a little herbal aid in digestion never hurts on Feast Day.”

Boyd was amused.  “We know.  But, uh, if you don’t mind, keep it to that.  Sweetgrass is mild, but not everyone’s stomach deals well with herbs.”

“I’ll save the cinnamon for my nectar, then.”  He dipped a cracker in the cheese spread to taste test it, and then gave a thumbs-up before heading out to the living room.

Iris tasted some of the nectar she’d just served.  It was sweet, but she found the bite of the fermentation very unpleasant.  She shuddered and set it down while Orion gave her a sympathetic look.

“Not something that agrees with plantsims, huh?”

“No.  I feel like it made my hair wilt.”  She touched it to confirm that it hadn’t, and offered her glass to him.  “Here, you finish it.”

Orion sipped the nectar, but set it down when Tara came in.  He brightened when he saw her, and how pretty she looked in her yellow dress.  “Wow!  You look great!”

She smiled, although she seemed to be on edge.  “Thanks.  You look nice, too.”

“Is everything okay?  Can I get you anything?”

“Uh, something to drink would be nice, I guess.  Thank you.”

Orion poured her a glass of her favorite soda and walked with her into the kitchen.  “What’s wrong?  I can tell something’s bothering you.”

“I… well, there’s some stuff going on, but I don’t want to bother you with it at your party.”  Tara went quiet as Susan approached.  “Hope she’s not still mad at me,” she murmured, but Orion didn’t get a chance to say anything before his mother spoke, so he took Tara’s hand instead.

“Hello, Tara.  Glad you could come.”

She swallowed nervously.  “Hi, Mrs. Wainwright.  Thanks for inviting me.”

“Oh, of course.  You’re always welcome.  Please tell Wilbur and Penny and your parents that Boyd and I said hello.  Feel free to help yourself and make yourself at home.  We’ll be having dinner in a little while.”  Susan then moved on to greet another guest, leaving Orion and Tara alone again.

“See, I told you she had no problem with you.  Was that what was bugging you?”

“No.  Well, yes, kind of, but that wasn’t the main thing.  There’s something else.”

“What is it?”

Tara looked around nervously.  “Can we go somewhere to talk, just us two?  I don’t want anyone to hear.”

“Sure.”  Orion led her out onto the back patio.  It was chilly outside, but not too cold to talk for a few minutes.

“What’s wrong?”

“Orion, what would you do if you found out something about someone you weren’t supposed to, and it was bad?  Like, really bad, major secret they’ve been lying about for a while kind of bad?  And it was someone you love?”

All of a sudden, Orion wondered if Tara pieced together the truth about who and what he was, and his heart pounded.  “What do you mean?  How bad?”

“Law-breaking bad.  Wanted criminal bad.”  She was shaking.  “I can trust you, right?”

He was relieved it wasn’t about him, but concerned for her.  “Yeah.  Absolutely.”

“And you won’t say anything to anyone.”  Her voice was barely above a whisper.  “I mean anyone at all.  You promise?”

“I promise.”  He met her eyes.  “Did someone hurt or threaten you?”

“No.  Nothing like that.  It’s… I found out Wilbur’s a Golden Llama.”

Orion was shocked.  “What?”

“Wilbur.  My brother’s a freaking Golden Llama!”  Tara started crying.

He didn’t know what to think of that.  While he admired the ideals of the Golden Llama gang, trying to right wrongs by teaching lessons to criminals that slipped past the police, it was not only illegal, but highly dangerous.  It was also surprising, considering Wilbur and Tara’s mother was a retired and well-respected member of the SVPD and their father was as much of a worrywart as his own.  “Wow.  That’s… are you sure?”

“Yes!  I saw the stuff at his house.”  She broke down and leaned against him, and he held her.

“What did you see?”

“I—oh, Watcher, you swear you won’t tell your sister, right?  I don’t want him arrested!”

“I promise, and I mean it.  I won’t say anything to Blair or anyone else.  You can trust me.”

Tara swallowed and took a steadying breath.  “Okay.  I was at Wilbur’s house, helping him sort stuff for the baby that they got at Penny’s shower.  When I was in his room, I went in the closet and kind of, well, snooped in a drawer in there.  I know, I shouldn’t have, but I was just thinking, like, it’d be funny if I found something like fuzzy handcuffs or funny boxers I could razz him about.  You know how it is, joking around.”

Orion nodded, and she continued.

“Well, I saw some gold cloth and figured it was some kind of costume, maybe from Spooky Day, but then I pulled it out and it totally wasn’t.  It was an actual Golden Llama outfit.  It even had a couple of stains and tears on it like it had been roughed up that weren’t fake.  There were boots and a helmet and a cell phone in there too, one of those pay as you go kind of deals, and a key ring with what looked like some kind of car or maybe a motorcycle key?  I freaked out and closed the drawer, and just in time because he came in, and he flipped out about me being anywhere near his closet.  I told him I was just seeing if there was room in there, but he practically bit my head off.  I know he didn’t want me to see that.”

“That’s weird, but are you sure it wasn’t just a costume?  Like maybe he dressed up like a Golden Llama back on Spooky Day or something?”

Tara shook her head.  “No.  That phone wasn’t a prop.  Why else would he have an extra phone?  I don’t think he’s cheating on Penny.  And the helmet and boots with the scuffs, like they’d been worn a lot.  It was all real!  If you saw it, you’d see.”  She started crying again.  “Why would he do that?  I know they think they’re heroes, but he could die!  What if a fight goes bad, or some criminal figures out who he is and goes after him?  He and Penny are supposed to get married, and their baby’s due soon.  And Mom’s a retired cop!  Is he crazy, Orion?  What if he gets arrested?  And what am I supposed to do now that I know?  Confront him?  Pretend I don’t know?  I can’t turn him in.  He’s my brother!  I don’t want him in jail or on trial.  But if I don’t say anything, doesn’t that make me an accessory or something?  I don’t want to get in trouble, either!  Am I wrong to not turn him in?  But what if I don’t, and then he gets hurt or killed?  I’d never forgive myself!”

“Hey.  You’re not responsible for what Wilbur does,” Orion tried to reassure her.  “You can’t know what will or won’t happen.  That’s all on him.  He’s the one who chose to do it.”

“But what do I do now that I found out?  What would you do if it was your brother or sister?”

It was a ridiculous comparison, considering Blair was the one who had Leighton Sekemoto arrested, and the thought of Patrick playing vigilante was almost laughable.  He couldn’t imagine Iris doing it, either, but Tara was serious and he wanted to give her an honest answer.  “I probably wouldn’t say anything if they didn’t know I knew.  I’d just hope they’d be all right, and I’d do what I could to make sure they were safe.”  Like keep an eye on them at night when I don’t sleep because I’m half alien, and use my powers or the Galaxa to bail them out of a bind if it came to it.  He couldn’t tell her that, though.  Boyd and Susan were still adamant that only family could know anything about his alien origins.

“So, what, you’d follow them like a ninja and jump in with your martial arts to kick the plumbob of a bad guy getting the better of them?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe.”  Orion smiled a little.  “Do you think I’m that good?”

“We might be,” Tara replied with a sniffle.  “Probably not, but it’s a nice thought.”  She hugged him.  “Thanks for listening.  I—I guess I’ll keep it to myself for now, and hope he doesn’t get himself killed out there, or caught and arrested.  And that my parents never find out.  Oh, my Watcher!”

“I hope he’ll be okay, too.”

“I’m so glad I talked to you.  Thanks for being someone I can trust with something like this.  You have no idea how much that means to me.”

He held her close in the cool evening air.  “I’ll be here whenever you need me.  I promise.”

“And I’m here for you, too.  I love you so much.  At least I know you’d never keep a secret like that from me, right?”  She met his eyes with a pleading and shaky trust, and Orion’s heart sank knowing that until she knew who and what he really was, he was already betraying it.

“I wouldn’t ever want to hurt you like that.”  It was the truth, but not the one he wished he could tell her, and that made him feel guilty, too.  He stroked her cheek and added, “I love you, too.”  That, at least, was a truth he could freely tell.

While Orion and Tara talked before dinner, Patrick caught up with Chris.  “So, Mom and Dad said you applied to Sims U’s science and medicine program.  Guess I’ll be seeing you around campus after you graduate, then?  Tad too?”

“I don’t know.  Tad’s placement scores and grades weren’t really…”  Chris lowered his voice. “Not that great.  He applied, but the counselor at school told him it was a long shot that he’d get in.  But don’t say anything, or tell him I told you.  He’s upset about it.  His dad gave him a really hard time.  Told him if he couldn’t get into a good school then he ought to accept that his lack of effort earned him community college, and he should just take a starter job and maybe then he’d understand the value of hard work.  Tad told him off, and they had a big fight.  He applied to the business major at Sims U anyway, and he hopes he gets in so he can shove it in his face, but…”

“Ah, that sucks.”  Maria hadn’t mentioned any of that, but it didn’t surprise him.  Patrick knew all too well how harsh Thornton could be toward her and her brother.  “Well, good luck.  Both of you.  If you do go, I can put in a good word for you with the frat guys if you think you’d like to pledge.”

Chris laughed.  “What, you want make it a three-generation keg stand picture on the Hall of Fame?  Maybe I could wear a toga for it and go down in history in style!”

“You’d probably fall and knock the keg over,” Patrick teased back.  “But I’d still sponsor you.  Tad too, if he’s there.”

“I don’t think I’m a frat type, but I might go to your parties.  All studying and no play makes Chris a bored student.”

After the guests had time to enjoy their appetizers and drinks, Susan announced that the feast was on.  Everyone piled in to the kitchen and filled their plates.  “Travis!”  Susan regarded her younger grandson with amusement.  “Was the first thing you took pumpkin pie?  That’s supposed to be dessert, you know.”

“There’s a saying that life’s uncertain, so you should eat dessert first.  I did.”

Maria took a bite of her own pie slice.  “I can’t say anything.  I did the same thing.  Pumpkin pie is my favorite and I just couldn’t wait.  It’s really good, by the way!”

“Thank you.  I’m glad you like it,” Susan replied before turning back to Travis.  “Well, now that you’ve got the uncertainty out of the way, remember that turkey has protein and vegetables are good for you, so grab a plate of that next.  You’re still a growing boy.”

“I was going to, Grandma.  I like that stuff, too.  Your cooking doesn’t suck like Mom and Dad’s.”

Chris almost snorted in his mashed potatoes while Susan, Boyd, and others nearby did their best to keep straight faces.  Blair stuck her tongue out playfully at her younger son.  “Meanie!  Picking on your poor mother and her kitchen fail.”

“Hey, young man,” Cycl0n3 protested, “I’ll have you know I can microwave a hot dog with the best of them!”

Once everyone’s bellies were full, the guests lingered around digesting, socializing, and a few even went back for more of the delicious food despite being stuffed.  Susan and Boyd couldn’t eat another bite, though, and neither could Blair.  “I’ve had so much turkey and stuffing, I think I’m going to burst!  Or fall asleep.  Or maybe both.”  She giggled.  “Someday you’ll have to teach me how to do the holiday feast thing, even if my cooking does suck according to my little gourmand over there.”

“What, you trying to retire me out of the kitchen already?”

“No, Mom.  Never.”  She hugged her.  The truth was, Blair was acutely aware of just how old her parents were, especially considering how close she and Cycl0n3 were to their senior birthdays.  The thought of losing them someday broke her heart, but saying so would only distress them.  “I just figure you’ve worked so hard all these years, you should relax and let some of us wait on you for a change.”

“You ought to know that telling your Mom not to work hard is like dealing with the Borg.  Resistance is futile,” Boyd said.  “Though we’ll be happy to relax through Chris’ graduation party and Cycl0n3’s birthday, unless you want our help, of course.”

“Oh, no.  Travis might be a little wise llama, but he’s not wrong that Cycl0n3 and I aren’t up to cooking for a big crowd, especially not with all that’s going on.”  Blair was still working long hours on the Golden Llama case.  Leighton Sekemoto had gone to trial, and it was still ongoing.  She’d been in and out of court, as well as continuing her own investigation.  Another Golden Llama fitting a description different from the others had appeared, and while she was glad the one fitting Bella’s description hadn’t come up in surveillance lately, which hopefully meant Arlo got her to stop, the gang was still shamelessly playing vigilante in town.

“We’re looking forward to it, and seeing Chris graduate,” Susan told her.  “I know I don’t have to tell you to be proud, but you and Cycl0n3 both should be.  He’s a wonderful young man.”

“We really are.  I’m glad he wants to go to Sims U.  Not only will he have Patrick and hopefully Tad there, but… I only finished my own degree a few years ago, kind of like you and Dad back when I was about Chris’ age.  And Cycl0n3 never did because he didn’t need it for his P.I. business, but I know a part of him wishes he had the bragging rights.”  She smiled as she met her parents’ gazes.  “You two were right, when you told me how once life got in the way, it’d be hard.  I don’t regret anything, but it definitely would’ve been easier at times to have it done.  I’m glad Patrick took that to heart when I didn’t.”

“You followed your heart, Blair.  It’s what you’ve always done,” Boyd said fondly.  “It might’ve driven us a little crazy at times, especially old paranoid me, but it’s who you are.  That good heart is one of the things we love most about you.”

“Aw, Dad, you’re going to make me cry.”

“Now, don’t do that, or your mascara will run,” Susan teased.  “But we’re both proud of you, and your kids, and yes, even Cycl0n3.  But expect us to rib him on his birthday.”

“Why, Mom, you’re getting feisty in your… mature age.”

Boyd smirked.  “Don’t you think he has it coming?”

“Oh, he does!  But you’ll probably have to take a number behind Chris and Travis.”

“I always knew I had good reason to be proud of my grandkids,” Susan said with a wry smile.

As the party wound down, some guests headed home to sleep off the feast while others helped clean up and pack leftovers.  Morgana took Caleb home since he was exhausted and cranky, but she got a ride so Maria and Tad could stay as long as they wanted.  “So, any chance I can convince you to crash here tonight?” Patrick asked Maria.

“Oh, probably.  The twin bed in Caleb’s room is nowhere near as cozy as being with you.”  She put her arms around his neck flirtatiously.

“Isn’t that the truth?” he murmured in agreement, circling his arms around her waist.  “It’s been awfully cold sleeping without you all warm at my side.  I’ve really missed it.”

“Me too.”  She smooched him.  “I’m not looking forward to the classes and studying, but it’ll be so nice to be back at Sims U together in our little house.”

“Yeah.  About that.”  Patrick smiled and straightened.  “There’s something I want to talk to you about.”


“I’ve been thinking a lot lately.  Since we moved in together, and especially since we’ve been back home here on break.  I’ve realized just how much I love you.  How important you are to me.  And how much I want you at my side, with me, always.”

Patrick took a box out of his pocket, and then got down on one knee and opened it to reveal a dazzling diamond engagement ring.  “I love you, Maria.  Totally, completely, with all my heart.  I want to spend the rest of my life with you.  Will you marry me?”

The elated squeal Maria let out before she could speak made it clear what her answer would be.  “YES!” she gasped.  “Oh, my Watcher, yes, yes, YES!  Yes, I’ll marry you!  Absolutely!  Oh, I love you, too!”

Buddy had his own thoughts on the proposal.  “Aw, that’s the most romantic life-altering mistake I’ve ever seen!”

Luckily for Buddy, Patrick didn’t hear him, not over Maria’s giddy delight and his own heart pounding with happiness as he slid the ring onto her finger.  He committed the look on her face to memory.  He loved seeing her so happy, and knowing he made her that happy.  She threw her arms around him and practically leapt into his arms, and he in turn dipped her low for a heartfelt kiss.  “Happy Feast Day, fiancée,” he murmured as they stood back up.

“How long have you been planning this?  I’m so happy!  When do you want to get married?”

“After we graduate University.  That’ll give us time to plan things together.  And I’ve been thinking it for a while.  Just wanted to wait for the right time.”  Patrick had known for a long time that he wanted to marry Maria someday, but their fight and separation followed by the honeymoon-like period of living together drove home how just much she meant to him.  Originally, he’d planned to propose after they graduated, but after being apart from her on break, he missed her so much that he didn’t want to wait.  Their wedding could be after graduation, but he wanted her to know how he felt right now, and he’d had a feeling—an accurate one, by her reaction—that she felt the same.

“That’ll be wonderful!  We should tell everyone.  I want the world to know how happy we are.  Me and my amazing, handsome, loving fiancé that I love more than anything in the world!”

Patrick mirrored her smile and her sentiment.  “Then let’s.”

He straightened and cleared his throat to get everyone’s attention.  At that point, it was just Maria, Tad, and Tara left at the party.  Orion was getting ready to take Tara home once she and Tad finished their video game when Patrick spoke up.  “Hey!  We’ve got an announcement to make.”

Tad and Tara paused their game while Boyd, Susan, Orion, Iris, and Buddy gathered around.  Even Patches listened from the bottom of the stairs.

Patrick couldn’t hide his smile.  “I just asked this lovely lady here to marry me, and she said yes, so… now we’re engaged!”

“Oh, my goodness, Patrick!”  Susan and Boyd were both happy for their son, but surprised and a bit concerned.  While they knew how much Patrick loved Maria, and expected that if they stayed together they would probably marry after University, the proposal seemed soon and sudden.

“Congratulations,” Boyd told them.

“That’s great, guys,” Orion said, and Tara nodded her congratulations along with him.

“Awesome!  I’m so happy for you,” Iris said.

“Wow, congrats!” said Tad.  “Mom will be sorry she missed this.”

“I know, but I’ll tell her all about it first thing tomorrow!” Maria gushed.

“So, when’s the wedding?” Tad asked.

“After University,” answered Patrick.  “No firm date yet, but we’ll keep you all informed.”

“I hope you’ll be really happy,” Orion wished them sincerely.

“Thanks, little brother!  I’m sure we will.”  He squeezed Maria’s hand and imagined what the future held for them both.

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Offline oshizu

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #272 on: September 29, 2018, 12:49:01 PM »
Thanks for the detailed explanation about IFs.

Iris might be my favorite Wainright at this moment!
Are there other plantsims in your game or do they only appear in actively played households?

First Arlo Bunch and now Tara! The Golden Llamas are dragging unwilling family members into their secret activities.
Didn't Tara really test Orion by confiding her brother's secret to Orion? I mean, Blair is his sister, lol.
Well, Tara's mother is a retired cop. Poor Tara, being the one to discover Wilbur's secret. I wonder what their mother would do?

What? Cycl0n3 and Blair's elder birthdays are approaching!?
Awww, that would be sad for Tad not being able to attend Sim U with Chris. I sure hope he gets accepted!
Patrick is a saint! That whole drama with Maria over his fraternity didn't faze him one bit.
Congrats to Patrick and Maria on their engagement!

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 79
« Reply #273 on: October 08, 2018, 02:51:28 AM »
Iris might be my favorite Wainright at this moment!
Are there other plantsims in your game or do they only appear in actively played households?

There are a couple of NPC plantsims in the Sims University town, but those are the only ones the game has by default. There aren't any in Sunset Valley, and I don't think they're a type of occult sim that will auto-populate.

First Arlo Bunch and now Tara! The Golden Llamas are dragging unwilling family members into their secret activities.
Didn't Tara really test Orion by confiding her brother's secret to Orion? I mean, Blair is his sister, lol.
Well, Tara's mother is a retired cop. Poor Tara, being the one to discover Wilbur's secret. I wonder what their mother would do?

Justine is hot-headed, so I bet she would flip out! Hopefully Wilbur can keep his vigilane hobby a secret.

As for Tara, yes, that was a pretty strong test of trust. Especially considering she's neurotic. But she really does trust Orion, and she did make him promise first. However, she is also still young and naive, and hasn't really suffered any major betrayals to make her think someone who promised something so important might break their word. Luckily for her, Orion is a good sim who keeps his word once he gives it.

What? Cycl0n3 and Blair's elder birthdays are approaching!?

Yup! It's not in this chapter, but coming up right afterward. Cycl0n3 and Chris age up on the same game day, and Blair and Travis age up 2 game days after that.

Awww, that would be sad for Tad not being able to attend Sim U with Chris. I sure hope he gets accepted!
Patrick is a saint! That whole drama with Maria over his fraternity didn't faze him one bit.
Congrats to Patrick and Maria on their engagement!

Chris and Tad aren't in this chapter, but you'll find out where that's going in the one after this one. :)

In Patrick's mind, that's all in the past and everything is fine, because he and Maria love each other. He hasn't thought about the fact that she never apologized, or that she acted so childishly and selfishly, and that it could happen again. In his mind, it was all a misunderstanding/bad day kind of deal. Especially since he has a short temper himself, he chalks it up to her just being angry and it not really meaning anything. Which he still should've at least talked to her about before deciding that, but since they patched things up and they've been happy since, he's convinced everything is great and probably wouldn't listen to anyone saying different anyway.

Chapter 79

After the Feast Day party was over, Iris helped tidy up the living room before bed.  She was happy for Patrick, and as she wiped down the bar, she wondered when she’d meet the right guy and get married.  Would it would be anyone she knew, like the boys at school, or someone she hadn’t met yet?  Would they get together in high school and stay together forever, like her parents?  That was sweet, but what if you met who you thought was the right someone, only to find a more right someone after that?

She yawned, and supposed since she didn’t even have a boyfriend yet, she didn’t need to worry about that.  She was about to go to bed when something outside caught her eye through the window.  It was a bright night, with the moon nearly full, and it seemed to reflect off an animal at the pond.  “Oh, hey, a horse.”  It was a shame Patches was already in doll form for the night, but by the time she could go upstairs to get her, it could be gone anyway.

Then, Iris realized the horse had an otherworldly shimmer to it.  She gasped.  “Is that…?”  She pressed against the glass for a better look, and to her amazement, it looked like a white horse with a horn!

“Oh, wow!”

There was no time to get Patches, or even life fruit from the greenhouse.  This might be her only chance to see it!  Without even bothering to grab her coat, Iris ran out the front door in her party dress and heels to find out.

She slowed as she approached, taking care not to startle the creature.  The unicorn was beautiful.  Its coat was a luminous white and its mane and tail glistened in the moonlight.  She really wished Patches was there.  She reached for her phone to take a picture, but realized she’d left it inside.  Perhaps that was for the best, though.  Any sound or sudden moves might startle it, too.  “You’re so pretty,” she whispered softly into the night air.

The unicorn sensed her presence, and lifted its head.  It looked in her direction, and Iris went still.  She didn’t want to spook it.  It sniffed at the air and then relaxed, sensing no threat.

That encouraged her, and she took another tentative step closer.  The unicorn stepped back, but did not run even though it kept its eyes on her.

“Don’t be afraid,” Iris said softly, her voice barely above a whisper.  “I won’t hurt you.”

The unicorn stayed where it was, but watched her intently, and Iris took that as a sign to try another step forward.  “Hi.  I’m Iris.”  As she got closer, she could tell that the unicorn was female.  “You’re a pretty girl, aren’t you?  I’ve never seen a unicorn before.  Have you seen a plantsim, like me?”  She extended her hand, and the unicorn sniffed in her direction.  She nickered, and took a step toward Iris.

“I wonder if you can tell if I’m a little different, like you?  Not like the other horses, while I’m not like regular old humans?  I bet it gets weird for you sometimes, too, huh?”

The unicorn moved a little closer, and so did Iris, until they stood next to each other.  “Wish I’d gotten some life fruit for you after all.  I bet that’d taste better than this dormant grass.”  She stayed still while the unicorn sniffed her hand, but then she neighed and backed up.

“Okay, okay.  I didn’t mean to scare you.”  Iris stepped back also, and the unicorn kept watching her, but did not leave.  “You’re safe here, and you’d be safe over there, too.  I promise.”  Iris gestured toward her yard.  “Nobody there will hurt you, either.  My parents and brothers might stare or talk to you, but nothing worse than that.  And Patches, if you could see her like I do, she’d love you.  Meeting you would make, like, her year!”

The unicorn neighed again, and tossed her head back before taking a few more agitated steps toward the water.

“You want to go.  I’m making you nervous, huh?  That’s all right.  I should probably go home anyway, and get to bed.”  She smiled at the unicorn.  “But it was nice to meet you, and find out you’re real.  Maybe we’ll see each other again?”

The unicorn stared back at her for a long moment as if to let her know she was considering it, before she turned and fled in the opposite direction, off into the darkness.

Iris wasn’t the only Wainwright out late in the dark, although Orion was up on the roof deck.  Had he turned his telescope in a different direction, he might’ve seen the unicorn, too, but his eyes were on the sky.  He often used it at night, when it the rest of his family was in bed and he had no need to meditate.  The stars and astronomy were interesting, and there was always a chance he might spot a spaceship or another sign that his Sixam brethren were poking around Sunset Valley.

That night, though, it was just the heavenly bodies and the icy breeze blowing in off the ocean.  The coming winter nights would be long, and too cold for much time at the outdoor telescope.  They had one inside, on the floor below, but its view was quite limited compared to the rooftop one.

He shifted its focus from the sky toward town, over the beach.  He spotted the cottage Wilbur Keaton lived in, and thought about what Tara told him.  His house was quiet and dark; Wilbur was either asleep or out.  Was he really a Golden Llama?  Orion didn’t see anything confirming it tonight, but Tara was certainly convinced, and he was curious.

He refocused the telescope on Tara’s house.  He knew the spot and setting exactly, as he’d done it many times before and it always made him smile.  Tonight, though, it was strained by frustration and guilt.  He hated that he couldn’t tell her the truth about himself.  He believed she’d accept him if she knew, but he couldn’t as long as his parents insisted on keeping it secret.  Until tonight, he’d resigned himself to that, but now he wanted to tell her.  As it was, she’d probably be upset and her trust in him shaken, but once the shock wore off, he was sure she’d understand.  The longer he waited, though…

He didn’t need his empathic abilities to sense how that would go.  He had to convince them she could be trusted, and soon.

The next morning, Boyd and Susan discussed the engagement bombshell Patrick dropped the night before.  “Engaged!  Out of the blue, just like that?”  Susan was animated expressing her feelings on the matter.  “Even with how long they’ve been together, how can he think this is a good idea, right in the middle of getting their degrees?  Why not at least wait until they graduate?”

“They are, for the wedding.”  Boyd tapped his fingers on the table, as anxious as Susan was agitated.  “How did we not see it coming?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t like that he didn’t mention it to us that he was planning to propose.  Or even hint that he was thinking about marriage anytime soon!  I know kids don’t share everything with their parents, but it makes me wonder if this was just as impulsive as him deciding to rent a house at Sims U to patch things up with her!  Did he just up and decide he wanted to be engaged, and run out and buy a ring and pop the question the same day?”

“I’d like to think he planned it.  That maybe he wanted it to be a surprise, so by not telling us, we couldn’t inadvertently let on?  But it could just as easily be like you said.”

“We need to talk to him.  No matter how much he loves her, it hasn’t been that long since that ridiculous blow-up where they didn’t speak for days.  Are they really mature enough for marriage?  Will they be by the time they graduate?  I’m not saying I want him to break it off, but I do want him to be happy.”

“I agree, but good luck convincing them.  He’ll just point out how Blair was around his age when she and Cycl0n3 got married, and that we got married even younger, and we’re all still together.”

“When Cycl0n3 proposed to Blair, it didn’t seem like it was something he just decided to do after rolling out of bed that morning.  They were also at a different place in their lives.”  Susan sighed.  “I just hate seeing him rush in if he’s not ready.  Do you think they’ve thought about where they’re going to work or live?  Are they getting their own place?  Is she moving in with him here?”

“That he’s absolutely got to discuss with us.  Things like the lab downstairs, Orion, the Galaxa… there’s no way Maria can live here and not know about that.  Even if they don’t, she still has to be told.  We can’t ask Patrick to keep secrets from his wife or any kids they have.”

It was then that Patrick came into the kitchen for a snack, but Susan stopped him before he got to the fridge.  “Patrick, come here a minute.  We’d like to talk to you.”

“All right.”  He sat down.  “What’s up?”

“It’s about your engagement,” said Boyd.

“Okay.  What about it?”

“We’re happy for you, but we were surprised.”

“Very surprised,” Boyd interjected, before Susan continued.

“And we’re wondering what your plans are, beyond getting married after graduation.”

“Sure.  Right now, we’re thinking we’ll have the wedding and honeymoon before I take any steady work, so we don’t have to worry about scheduling time off for it.  She’s going to do some freelance writing for cash and experience while she works on her novels, and I’m going to take Stiles up on what he said about checking with him after university, and see what he’s got to offer.  I’ve made some money selling art at school, and I can keep doing that if I need more, though we could live off my trust fund a while without any of that.  Even if we got a house.”

“You’re planning on moving out, then?” asked Boyd.

“Well, I’m not going to lie.  I like the cushy comforts here, but I can’t afford a place like this!  But since you said that me and Orion and Iris could live here as long as we wanted, I thought Maria could just move in here with me once we’re hitched, if it was cool with you.  We’ll pitch in with the bills and taking care of stuff around here, because we wouldn’t want to be mooches or anything.  It’d also give you guys a break from worrying about upkeep and let you do more fun things in retirement.  I could even help you manage the investments and stuff, since at least one of us will need to know how to do it… eventually.  Blair’s already got her own house and family on her plate, and I’m the oldest of us here.”

“And you two sure aren’t getting any younger.  Now you’re even older than you act!” Buddy remarked as he joined them.

While Boyd and Susan couldn’t hear Buddy, they appreciated Patrick’s sense of responsibility even if it was hard to hear a reminder that the day would come when their kids would have to manage the legacy they left behind.  “That’s fine.  We’ll be glad to have you stay, and have your wife and eventual family here.”

“And that is eventual, right?”  Susan gave her son a meaningful look that Boyd mirrored, and Patrick laughed.

“Yes, Mom.  Maria’s not pregnant.  We’re not Penny and Wilbur.”

“Or you two,” snarked Buddy.

“We’re getting married because we love each other and want to make it official.  I wanted to ask her after university for a while, but I thought why wait?  Living with her at school made me realize how much I love her.”

“We’re glad, and we hope you’ll be happy, but there are some more things you need to consider now,” Boyd said as Orion came into the room.

“You mean like rooms?  Maria and I will stay in mine.  We’ve got our own bathroom across the hall, and we’re not planning on kids right away.  But we could build an additional room like you did for Orion if we need one.  Remember where you were thinking of adding a wall by Iris’ room before you decided to make the room upstairs?  We could do that if they’re both still living here when the time comes.”

“You’re talking about wedding stuff?”  Orion approached the table.

“Kind of.  Future plans and all that.  I was telling them how I wanted Maria and I to live here after we get married.”

“That’s cool.”

“Which brings me to another point.”  Boyd glanced at Orion.  “You might want to join us for this.  Iris, too.  Is she still here?”  Earlier, Iris told them she had plans to go out with Kristal to the new indoor pool that had been built in town.

“No,” Susan said.  “She left a little while ago.”

“Ah.  Okay.  Well, her being a plantsim isn’t the secret Orion being half alien is, anyway.  I assume Maria still has no idea about that, and thinks he’s your adopted brother with a genetic condition?”  His arched eyebrow indicated that had better be the case.

“Of course!  You think I don’t remember how freaked out you two were back when you told me and Blair and Cycl0n3?  I’ve never told anyone.”  Patrick looked at Orion.  “You were too little to remember, but it was your birthday.  Eni Jish Xip showed up and was weird and, well, herself, and it all just came out.  Man, Blair was mad.  I think it was the only time I saw her lecture you two like she used to me and Chris as kids.”

“You didn’t tell them from the start?”  Orion was genuinely surprised by that.

“It was complicated,” Susan explained.  “Patrick was very little when you were born, and we didn’t want to confuse him.  Your birth certificate and adoption papers were, well, fudged, and we didn’t want to put Blair in any legal conflict of interest.”

“And we wanted to protect you.  We were terrified if anyone found out where you really came from, you’d be taken from us, because you know how the government is, especially since aliens supposedly don’t exist.  Which could still happen!  We thought the fewer who knew, the better.  It wasn’t that we didn’t trust them.  We thought it was safer if they just didn’t know.”

“But then Eni Jish Xip came and totally blew that genetic condition cover to bits, so they told us all then,” Patrick finished.  “With a big fat keep your mouth shut or else, no matter what, to anyone not in the family.  They told Chris and Travis when they were old enough to understand like Mom and Dad told you and Iris.”

“Which was fine until now, but once you marry Maria and she moves in, she’ll have to be told.  She’ll be part of the family,” said Susan.

“Great!  It’ll be nice to not have to make up cover stories anymore.  She believed me about Buddy before you guys did, so she’ll be all right with it.  It won’t matter to her.”

“She can’t tell her own family.  Not Tad, even though he’s with Chris.  Not her baby brother, either, and not her parents or Stiles.  They may be fine people, but we don’t know them that well,” Boyd insisted.  “The more people that know, the more risk there is.”

“I’ll make sure she understands,” Patrick assured them.

That was the opening Orion was waiting for.  “So, if Patrick can tell Maria, I can tell Tara, then, right?”

“What?”  Both Boyd and Susan stared back at him in shock.

“Absolutely not!” exclaimed Boyd, while Susan shook her head vehemently.

“Why not?”

“For one, Patrick is marrying Maria, and he’s not telling her until they’re done with school and the marriage and move-in is imminent.  Two, you and Tara are dating teenagers, and that is absolutely not the appropriate time to tell anyone!”

“Come on, Dad!  That’s not fair!”

“That’s how it is!”

“That’s bull!  If he can tell his girlfriend, why can’t I tell mine?  Especially since it’s about me, anyway!”

“Patrick couldn’t tell Maria when they were your age and dating, either, and Chris hasn’t told Tad,” Susan pointed out.  “I know you love her, but you’re both young, and—”

“It’s my life!” Orion shot back angrily.  “Why don’t I get a say in who knows what the plum I am?!”

Boyd let out a frustrated sigh.  “Because you have no idea what could happen!  How do you know you can trust—?”

“Trust?!  You want to talk about trust?  You’re trusting drama queen Maria, who threw a hissy fit over a frat invite and blasted their dirty laundry all over social media while they weren’t talking!  You’ll tell her, but not someone I love and trust?”

That lit Patrick’s fuse.  “Oh, like No-Filter Tara has never let something stupid slip?  I’d worry about her opening her big mouth before Maria, who you should really give more freaking credit!  What has she ever done to you?”

“All right, all right!  Cool it, both of you,” Susan cut in.  “Throwing around insults isn’t helping.”

“And neither is making me lie to her about who I am!”

“Orion, please.”  Boyd took a calming breath, while Susan turned to Patrick.

“He did have a point.  Are you certain, I mean absolutely sure, that Maria would never betray a family secret, even if she got angry with you?  If things turned out not-so-rosy in the future?”

“I can’t believe you’d think that!  It was one fight, one stupid fight!  Her making a couple of petty jabs is nothing like… Ugh!”  Patrick slammed his fist on the table.  “You think our family is the only one with deep dark dirty little secrets?  Believe me, there’s plenty she could have thrown out about her dad, Tad, whatever, when she was mad at them, if she really wanted to hurt them!  She never has.  Never!  I can’t believe you think she would!”

Boyd groaned.  “We’re not saying we do!  We’re asking to be sure, because you know her better than we do!”

“Then don’t worry any more about it!  She’ll be fine!”

“I know Tara better than all of you, but I guess that counts for jack and plum!” Orion snapped bitterly.  The worst part was that as upset as he was, he didn’t have the clarity to filter out everyone else’s emotions, and flashes of theirs muddled with his own.  Patrick’s outrage and hurt.  His mother’s worry, concern, and frustration, and his father’s anxious panic that something horrible would happen if anything went wrong.  Orion didn’t want to be mad at them for caring, but it made him even more frustrated, because he couldn’t help being furious.  It was his life, and he was getting no say in it!  “This is such crap!  Fine.  Make me keep lying to her.  But I swear, if I lose her because of this, I’ll never forgive you!  Never!”  He turned and thrust his arm to the side, and the decorative fruit bowl over on the counter flew off seemingly of its own volition as he stormed out.

Over at the pool in town, Iris was lucky to miss the blowup back home.  She and her friend Kristal Steel just finished changing into their swimsuits and gave their appearance a final check before heading poolside.  “I hope this makeup really is waterproof.  I’m going to look like a painted tulip if it runs all over my face.”

“And the guys would still all say you’re gorgeous,” Kristal said with a hint of friendly jealousy.  While she didn’t consider herself bad-looking, next to a striking plantsim like Iris, she felt rather plain.  But Iris never did anything to make her feel that way on purpose, so she tried not to let her insecurities get to her.  “But it should be fine.  It stayed on that time I forgot to take it off before I showered.”  She touched her face.  “It better stay.  I had to put on so much concealer under my eyes to hide the dark circles today.”

“You really need to cut back on the soda at night so you can actually sleep.  How much did you get last night?”

“It wasn’t soda, actually.  Coffee.  Which, I know, still bad, but I like my caffeine and my mind will race when I lie down anyway.  If I’m not freaking out about something, I just get flooded with ideas for drawing and think about that instead of falling asleep.”

“Well, for what it’s worth, I can’t tell,” Iris assured her.  “Your makeup looks good.  Come on.  Let’s go show off our stuff to the cute guys out there.”

Kristal’s eyes lit up a bit.  “Yeah, I think Lester’s here.  I saw his brother dropping him off in the parking lot when we came in.”

“Oh, cool.”

“I like him,” Kristal added, smoothing her hand down her suit.  “I hope I look good.”

“You look great!  Come on.  Let’s go swimming!”

When they got out to the pool, they saw that Lester Sekemoto was indeed there, as were a couple of others she knew, like Arlo Bunch and his girlfriend Bella.  Lester was the only one their age, though.  “Oh, there’s Lester.”  Kristal shifted anxiously.  She’d had a crush on him for a while, and as far as they knew, he didn’t have a girlfriend.  “And he looks really good in a bathing suit.”

Iris gave him an appreciative look as he headed toward the diving board.  “Yeah, not bad at all.”

“I wonder if… oh, do you think we should talk to him?  Or play it cool?”

“Well, it’d be rude not to say hi,” Iris said with a coy smile.  “But we can get in the water first.  Maybe swim over or whatever.  We can show off our diving moves!”

Kristal dove in first, and then Iris went after.  They swam for a few minutes, goofing and splashing around.  When Iris got out to take another dive, Lester noticed them and swam over.  “Hi!” Kristal greeted him enthusiastically.  “How’s it going?”

“Pretty good.”  He looked over as Iris dove in gracefully.  She was a good swimmer; in the summer she spent a lot of time in the pool.  The chemicals didn’t bother her as long as she didn’t let herself absorb much of the treated water.  “Nice to see someone my own age.  I guess now that it’s the holiday season, no one’s thinking pool time.”

“What made you decide to come?” Kristal asked as Iris joined them.

“My parents think Tom and I need more exercise,” Lester replied with a roll of his eyes.  “So they said we both have to do an activity for a couple hours twice a week, because they’re sports nuts.  He’s taking some Sim Fu class at the gym, but I said I’d just do swimming.  I can bum around the pool for a few hours to shut them up.”

Iris laughed.  “At least they’re not here making sure you do laps.”

“Nah.  Dad doesn’t leave the house much except for work, because reporters keep hassling him over the trial, and Mom’s busy with other stuff.”

Iris bit her lip, not sure what to say to that.  She knew he didn’t hold Blair’s role in his father’s trial against her, but the subject made her a little uncomfortable regardless.  Kristal moved the conversation past it, though.  “I think she’s out shopping with my mom today.  I asked her to get me some more art markers.  I need a couple colors for the club project.”  She and Lester were both in art club.

“Oh, yeah?  How’s yours going?”

“Pretty good.”  He talked about a couple of his ideas, and Kristal shared hers in turn.  Iris splashed around while they talked about art, and climbed out to do another dive.

“Hey, wait up.  Don’t leave us.  Sorry we bored you talking art club stuff!  I can get a little art snob sometimes without realizing it,” Lester said as he got out of the water, while Kristal followed.

“Oh, it’s nothing personal!  It’s just, my artistic talent amounts to floral arrangements where I have an unnatural advantage, and the only brushes I use are for makeup, so there wasn’t much I could add, anyway.”

“So, what brought you guys here today, anyway?  I’m guessing your mom didn’t force you like mine did?”  He looked at Kristal.

“Nah.  We just like the pool.  It’s pretty much my favorite exercise, too,” Kristal said.

“You want to go first?” Iris offered to her.

“Sure.”  Kristal dove in, followed by Iris, and then Lester.  They swam around a little while longer, chatting and talking about school and some recent movies that came out while floating and goofing off in the water.  After a bit, Kristal excused herself to use the bathroom.  Iris and Lester got out with her, but went over to the diving board instead.

Lester stepped to the side and gestured to the board.  “Ladies first.”

“Thanks.”  She smiled, and he smiled back at her.

“No problem.  It’s not entirely selfless, though.  You have nice form to uh, take notes on.”

There was a decidedly flirtatious undertone to his voice, and Iris was flattered.  She couldn’t help but return a coy look.  “Really?  Thank you.  It’s just from swimming in my pool all summer.”

“Practice makes perfect.  But I’m not as good as you.  I’m just barely past belly flop.”

“Oh, I’ve had my share of those, too,” she assured him.  “I like to think I’m more the graceful willow dipping into the water, but sometimes it’s definitely more the falling tree making a huge splash.”

“Nah.  Water lily skimming the surface, all the way.”  His dark eyes were intent on her in a way that made her feel a bit like a leaf on rippling water herself.

“Lester… did you just use a plant-themed line on me?” she teased, flirting back herself.

“You’re right.  That was… oh, I almost said ‘corny,’” he admitted with a self-deprecating chuckle.  “I’m sorry.  There’s no excuse for a pun that bad.”

Iris giggled.  “You should be, but it was still funny, so, points for that.”  She leaned a little closer.  She really did like his smile, and the way he looked at her.

“Thanks.  Glad I made you laugh, at least.”  He moved closer, too.  “I promise, no more bad lines.”

She raised an eyebrow playfully.  “What about good ones?”

Lester was about to respond when Kristal returned.  She caught onto the flirtatious vibe between them immediately, and Iris could tell she was not happy.  She felt a little bad about that—Kristal did like Lester, and she knew it—but it wasn’t like they were dating or anything.  It was Lester who started flirting, not her, and she couldn’t help it if he just happened to like her more, right?   Still, she didn’t want to hurt her friend’s feelings, so she resumed a casual and friendly stance.

“Hey, guys.”

“Oh, hey.  Welcome back.”  Lester also gave her a friendly smile and straightened.

“Didn’t make it back in the pool, huh?”

“Nah, we, uh, just got to talking,” Iris said.  “One of you two want to go first?”

“Sure.  I will,” Lester volunteered.  “See you in the deep end!”  He was about to step on the diving board beside them, but someone else beat him to it, so he went down to the next one.

When he was out of earshot, Kristal turned to Iris.  “Really?”

“Kristal, I—”

“No, whatever.  It’s cool.”  It was clear from Kristal’s tone that it absolutely was not, but she was desperately trying not to show how much their flirtation had stung.  While Kristal’s affection for Lester might have been one-sided, Iris didn’t realize until then just how much she liked him.  She hadn’t meant to hurt her, and she felt bad about that.

“No, really…”

Kristal didn’t let her finish.  “It’s just… Iris, you could seriously have any guy in school.  Any one.  Really.  They all love you.  You’re a gorgeous plantsim.  And I—Lester is like… I’ve known him all my life, our moms are best friends, we both like art, and…”  She tried to keep her voice steady, but it wavered despite that.  “I know I’ll never be as pretty as you, but I wish you could’ve just…”

“Hey, I get it.  I’m sorry,” Iris said sincerely.  Although she didn’t feel like she’d done anything wrong, exactly, it wasn’t worth upsetting her friend over, even if she did feel some mutual attraction with Lester.  “I didn’t realize you were that into him.  He was just flirting, and…”  She realized that probably wasn’t the best thing to say, either, and amended her words.  “It was nothing.  We’re just friends.  That’s all.  I’ll totally back off so you two can hang out alone, okay?”  She gave her a reassuring smile.  “And don’t put yourself down.  You are pretty.”

Kristal let out a lighthearted scoff.  “I may not be ugly, but I’m not in your league.  Like I said, every guy in school thinks you’re hot.”

“A lot of them just want to get into my leaves, or brag about being with the plantsim girl.  Not that I think Lester is like that, but I’m just saying.  Besides, you and him really do have more in common.  The art stuff, and like you said, you’ve known him even before school and because your parents are friends.”

“Yeah.”  Kristal looked over at where Lester was swimming.  “I like to think we’re friends, but I wish it was more.”

“Then let him know how much you like him.  Maybe he’s just never thought you were interested or something.  Go for it.”

“I guess.”  Kristal stood straighter, her confidence boosted a bit by their talk.  “Thanks for understanding.”

“No problem.  Good luck.  Oh, and by the way, your makeup is still flawless.  When they said ‘waterproof,’ they meant it.”

“That’s true, I guess.  You’re not looking like a painted tulip, either, after all,” she joked back.

“Now get back in the water and win him over with your mermaid impression.”

“I’m glad I’m a good swimmer, and that his mom and dad are making him come to the pool to exercise.  I’ll have to find out when he normally goes so I can come, too!”

“That’s the spirit!  Make a date of it!”  Iris gave her a thumbs-up, and headed to the locker room.  On her way, she glanced over at Lester in the pool.  He was floating nonchalantly on his back, looking relaxed and, in her opinion, quite good in the water.  She waved goodbye, and brushed aside the thought that it was too bad Kristal was so hung up on him.  She definitely would’ve gone for him, otherwise…

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 80
« Reply #274 on: October 19, 2018, 01:32:37 AM »
Chapter 80

Dressed to celebrate, the Wainwright family gathered at the rustic bistro uptown for Chris’ birthday.  “He’s grown up.  I can’t believe it!  Our grandson is officially a young adult as of today.  My Watcher, Boyd, where did the time go?  And when did we get old enough to have a grandchild that can vote and go off to university?”

“I’d like to claim it was time travel shenanigans, but we both know that had nothing to do with it,” he joked back.

“I’m so proud of him.  He’s such a bright boy, and witty and kind-hearted… even if he did have to be talked out of bringing his cat along to celebrate.”

“He loves that lazy old fluffball,” Boyd said affectionately.  “And every other cat he sees.  Blair said he still puts out food on the back porch for the strays every night.  They’ve got six regulars, including some of the neighbors’ cats.”

“Like I said, kind-hearted.  He gets that from her.”

“True.  But there are worse things he could’ve gotten.”

“Like Cycl0n3’s sense of humor?” Susan said dryly.  “I dare say he did, but luckily, Blair’s influence provided a filter.”

“Yes.  Though you’ve got to admit Cycl0n3 does keep things interesting.”

“That’s not what you said on Iris’ birthday, if I recall.”

“I never called his trolling boring, honey.  Maybe a few other choice words.”  Boyd smirked.  “But soon we’ll get our turn, on his birthday.  I still say we should give him a llama head cane.”

“It’s tempting.  Very tempting.”

After all the guests arrived, Chris stood in the place of honor by the cake.  “Happy Birthday!”  Tad blew his party horn at him enthusiastically.

“Right back at you.”  Chris and Tad were exactly the same age, so it was Tad’s birthday, too, but he was having his own party later that night.  Chris smiled back at him, made his birthday wish, and blew out the candles to the cheers all around.

As he took his slice of birthday cake, Chris reflected on his future and what lay ahead.  He’d received his acceptance letter from Sims University that morning, so it was now official: he would start their science and medicine program next term.  His placement scores were high, and he’d earned some credit from his advanced classes in high school, much like Patrick had in the art program.  Blair and Cycl0n3 were very proud of Chris, and his ambition to become a doctor, even if it was for animals like his beloved cats rather than people.

His easygoing personality and lovable sense of humor shone through even more brightly as a young man.  He had a knack for coming up with just the right quip at just the right time, and unlike his father, he’d learned how to do it without offending everyone in the room half the time.  He reminded both Cycl0n3 and Blair of their friend Emma that way.

“So, it’s official.  We’re ‘responsible adults’ now.  How do you feel?” Tad asked.

“Slightly older than a responsible teenager,” Chris joked back.  “Pretty cool, though.  It’ll be nice to be able to pull the grown-up card on my parents if I need to.”

“Ha!  Maria’s already pulled that one several times, like whenever Mom tried giving her advice she didn’t want to hear.  She didn’t like it when I said ‘grown up’ doesn’t mean ‘mature.’”

“Yeah, I bet that flew like a brick.”

“More like she wanted to throw one at me, but whatever.  The truth hurts sometimes.”

“I don’t think we’ve got much to worry about.  We’ve both got nice responsible plans.  And it’ll be nice to have no more curfews and,” he gave him a flirtatious look, “staying over and stuff.”

“Yeah.”  Tad’s smile faded as he became serious and melancholy.  “Though you’re doing better than me on the responsible plans thing.  Big ol’ rejection from Sims U.  So much for shoving it in Dad’s face.”

Chris took his hand in sympathy.  He already knew because Tad told him as soon as he got the letter.  It sucked that he wouldn’t be with him at Sims U, but it didn’t change anything between them as far as he was concerned.  Time apart and doing their relationship long distance wouldn’t be fun, but it was only temporary.  Tad took it harder, though, especially when he had to tell his parents.  Morgana was supportive and encouraging, and Thornton was, too, in his way.  He offered Tad a full-time job at Doo Peas, where he was a high-ranking executive and board member.  The position was entry level, but the pay was at the higher end of the scale for it, and it had benefits.  Thornton told him it would look good on a resume, and there was potential to move up if he made the effort.  Tad accepted, but despite the job and the party his father was throwing for him later, he still felt a strong unspoken vibe of disappointment from him, and he resented it.  There wasn’t much Chris could do about it, though, other than be there for Tad.  He handed him a slice of cake.  “Hey, look at it this way.  You’ll be making the big bucks while I’m spending mine on overpriced textbooks.”

Tad scoffed, but took the cake.  “More like your grandparents’ bucks, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Chris admitted.  Boyd and Susan insisted on paying for Chris’ university education as their gift to him.  “Though I don’t have Patrick’s bottomless wallet.  No impulse houses for me!”

“I’d offer to buy one, but the mail room doesn’t pay that well.  Dad’s not that generous.”  Tad did an exaggerated imitation of his father.  “‘This is an opportunity, not a handout.  Don’t think you can slack off or coast by just because you’re my son.  You’ll have to work and do your job.  But if you apply yourself, you won’t be in the mail room for long.’”

Over at the cake, Boyd handed Cycl0n3 a slice before taking one for himself.  “Soon we’ll be getting one of these for you, except I don’t think we’ll be able to fit your name on it past all the candles.”

“Oh, ho, who’s trolling tonight?  I thought that was inappropriate behavior for a birthday party, Grandpa,” he replied, amused.

“I’m old.  I have a blanket excuse for forgetting things,” Boyd said with a smirk.

“Ha, and with surprising convenience!  I’d embrace it myself, but my memory’s been crap since about age ten, so no one will notice a difference.”

“So, what are your plans as you approach the golden milestone?  Are you and Blair thinking retirement yet?”

“I might hang up my P.I. shingle in the near future, since there are things I’d like to do, like conquer the chess circuit, but Blair?  Heck no.  I wish I could talk her into a lazy retirement with me, since I worry about her like you and Susan do, but she’s really gung-ho after that promotion.”  He glanced over at the table where Blair was having cake with her mother and Orion.  “That Sekemoto conviction really impressed the top brass.”

“We heard.”  Blair had called her parents with the details immediately after telling Cycl0n3 and her kids the good news.  Leighton Sekemoto’s trial ended with a guilty verdict on several charges, although he was acquitted on some that were more of a reach from the DA.  His sentence was surprisingly lenient compared to what the prosecution pushed for, however, thanks to his high-priced lawyer.  He emphasized Leighton’s reputation as a kind family man with no criminal history who deeply cared about his community, and backed it up with testimony from psychologists who stressed that Leighton was unlikely to offend again or be a danger to society, since he now fully understood the importance of working within the law to right wrongs.  Leighton received a generous sentence allowing him to serve his prison time in home confinement with a hefty amount of community service on the side, but the judge did make a political statement afterward that Leighton’s case was the only one the court would be so lenient on.  The remaining Golden Llamas should consider themselves warned: anyone else taking the law into their own hands would go to prison for a long time.

That lit a fire under the SVPD administration, and they formed a Golden Llama task force to deal with the remainder of the gang, which was still as active as ever.  At first, Blair thought they’d appoint her to lead it, but instead they promoted her out of it, to a position working with federal agents on even higher profile cases.  She was ecstatic—it was the kind of job she’d always wanted.  Boyd and Susan were happy for her, but worried about the risk involved.  Blair assured them she’d be fine, and that she wasn’t going to take any unnecessary risks, but they still hoped she’d retire sooner rather than later.  “Well, maybe she’ll see the fun you’re having and want to join you.”

Cycl0n3 chuckled as he finished his cake.  “Generally, when Blair sees me having fun, she asks what kind of trouble I’m getting into.  But we’ll see.”  He looked over at Chris.  “We’ll miss having him around once he goes to Sims U, that’s for sure.  Though with Travis almost a teenager, maybe it will be nice to only have one in the house at a time.  My hair’s already pretty gray.  I don’t want to lose it, too.”

“They’re good kids,” Boyd said with a fond look at his grandsons.  “You and Blair have a lot to be proud of.”

“Yeah.  They are.  Blair probably deserves more credit for that than me, though.  She’s a good mom.”

“She is, but don’t sell yourself short.  Those boys have plenty they can credit you for.”

“Is that good or bad?” laughed Cycl0n3.

“Eh, I’d say about eighty-five percent Column A, fifteen Column B.”

“Aw, Space.  I’m touched.”  Cycl0n3 patted Boyd on the shoulder.  “You love your pain in the plumbob son-in-law after all.”

“Of course.  Do you think I’d put up with you if I didn’t?”

While they had cake, Blair chatted with Orion.  “How’s it going, Chief Engineer?  Tara couldn’t make it?”

“No.  She’s got a bad cold and didn’t want to make anyone sick.”  As his mother sat down beside him, he had the uncharitable thought that maybe if he’d been allowed to tell Tara about his alien powers, he could’ve tried bio-boosting it away, but he wasn’t going to bring that up at the party.

“Oh, I’m sorry.  Those always go around this time of year.  I hope she feels better soon!”

“Thanks.  Me too.”

“I think you two make a cute couple,” Blair continued cheerfully.  “Don’t you, Mom?”

“They do,” Susan agreed.

“Well, maybe one day you’ll be making your own special announcement like Patrick and Maria did on Feast Day.  I still can’t believe he waited until after we left to propose!  I wish I could’ve been there like you guys.  She showed me the ring earlier, and it’s so pretty!  Oh, I bet it was all so romantic.”

“It was something, that’s for sure,” Susan said with a diplomatic smile.  “I’m glad he’s happy.  That’s what matters.”

“Yeah.  Happiness matters a lot,” Orion said with an undertone that only his mother caught.  Susan let it slide; she knew he was still upset, and sympathized, but that didn’t mean she and Boyd were going to change their minds.

Blair turned to Iris.  “Speaking of happy, what about you, Miss?  Are we going to meet any boyfriends of yours at a family gathering soon?”

Iris couldn’t help but think about the way Lane Mae looked at her while they chatted on the school bus the day before Feast Day break, or how Lester Sekemoto flirted with her at the pool.  She smiled, while Travis just made a face.  “Aw, come on, Mom.  Stop playing matchmaker already.”

Cycl0n3 couldn’t help but laugh.  “Good luck with that one, kid.  Your mom has the Heartfelt Greeting Card Channel spirit burned into her bones.  She’ll be doing it forever.  And to you, before long, too.  If she hasn’t already.”

“Oh?  Do you have a crush on a special someone, hmm?” Blair teased, while Travis made a face.

“Just stop!”

Iris decided to rescue him, and pulled out her sprite.  “Speaking of special, have you unlocked this one yet?  I can share it if you still need it.”

“Cool!  No, I don’t have that one.”  He pulled out his disc from his pocket.  “Thanks!  I like the fire tail.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty cool.  It’s one of my favorites.”

He collected it into his game, and gave her a curious look.  “Oh, have you seen the unicorn again?  That’s so cool you got to see it.  I wish I could’ve!”  Aside from Patches, Travis was the most enthusiastic about her unicorn encounter.  Everyone else was impressed when she told them, but he was absolutely fascinated.  He even did some internet research on them afterward, and called her later with more questions.

“Not yet.  I’ve been watching, though.”

“I hope I get to see it sometime.  Maybe I could even get a picture!”

After cake, Blair caught up with Patrick.  “Captain!  Congratulations on the engagement!  Maria showed me the ring, very nice!  I hear you really swept her off her feet.”

Patrick couldn’t help but smile.  “I did my best.”

“I’m so happy for you!  I know how much you love her.  I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful life together!  And I can’t wait to go all big sister and help with the wedding, and make it super romantic for you two!”

“Thanks.  But don’t pull up the bridal sites yet.  We’re waiting until after graduation, so there’s plenty of time.”

“Now, you’re not going to leave all the decisions for her like Cycl0n3 did for me, are you?  You’re going to help when she asks about the venue or the flowers or the dresses, right?”

“I’m sure whatever she wants will be fine, but yeah.”  He chuckled.  “Though I’m surprised you wanted Cycl0n3’s input.  I figured he’d have tried for some geeky Jedi wedding or something.”

Blair smirked.  “It was TarzWar, but I’m sure he was joking.”

“TarzWar?  Isn’t that the game he and Dad used to play online when I was little?  Man, that was ages ago.”

“Tell me about it,” Blair laughed.  “We were about your age back then.  Did Dad ever tell you he and Cycl0n3 knew each other on that game and didn’t realize who they were for a while?  And when Dad figured it out, he didn’t ‘fess up until Cycl0n3 figured it out, too?  Wow.  That was so long ago.  And one of the guys they played with came to my wedding.  He ended up meeting and marrying a girl who lived with Emma’s friends next door in the lofts back in the day.  I don’t think they met in the game, though.  Anyway, I’m pretty sure now they’ve got a son about Orion’s age.  Small world, and how time flies.  You were just a baby then, and now you’ll be getting married.”

“Yeah.  I’m going to ask Chris to be a groomsman, by the way.”

“That’s wonderful!  Tad, too, right?  I mean, I can’t imagine Maria wouldn’t want her brother in the wedding party?”

Patrick nodded.  “We planned on asking him, too, and of course Orion.  We’d also like Iris to be a bridesmaid, and you if you want.  I know you’re busy, though, so if you can’t, that’s—”

“I’d never be too busy for the romantic once-in-a-lifetime wedding of my baby brother!”  Blair hugged him.  “I’d be honored.”

After Chris’ birthday party was over, it was time for Tad’s.  Tad left early to make sure he was there on time, because his father was a stickler for things like that, and it was at his house.  Chris stayed until his own party was over and thanked his guests, then rode over to Thornton’s house with Patrick and Maria, while the rest of the Wainwrights and Sw0rds headed home.

Chris had never been there before, which he realized was rather telling about his boyfriend’s relationship with his father, considering how long he’d known Tad.  It was a nice home, open, modern, and private, with a gorgeous view over the ocean, but it also had that same impeccable but standoffish vibe his father gave off.  Chris hugged Tad when he arrived.  “Your dad’s got a nice house.”

“Yeah.  My parents both lived here back when they were married and Maria and I were babies.  I don’t remember that much, though.  I was pretty little when they split and Mom moved with us to our house.”

“How’s it been going?”

“The party?  Good.  Dad’s been nice.  He gave me a chunk of cash to get something I wanted since he didn’t know what I’d like.  He also said since I wasn’t going to university, he invested the same amount of money he gave Maria for her tuition into a retirement fund for me.  A pretty good amount, but I can’t touch it until I’m about as ancient as he is, unfortunately.  Well, unless I want to pay out the plumbob on taxes.  Then Mom and Stiles and Caleb got here.  I think Dad twitched a little that Mom didn’t get a babysitter for him, but he didn’t complain or anything.”

“Speaking of kids, who’s the little girl over there?”

“Oh, yeah.  Esmeralda.  I wondered, too!  All Dad said was she’s one of our distant cousins from Moonlight Falls, and another one of them dropped her off here last night or something?  I didn’t get to ask more because people started showing up.”  He glanced over, and saw his father approaching the girl, likely because she and Caleb were in close proximity to one of his expensive knickknacks.  Tad frowned, an instinctive reaction from remembering him scolding him about touching things that might break back when he was a young child.  “Actually, I think I’ll go find out.”

Tad went over, and Chris followed, but on the way, Chris bumped into Sommer Wan and she started up a conversation when he apologized.  Meanwhile, Tad called over to his father just as it seemed like he was about to say something to the girl.  “Hey, Dad.  Esmeralda.”

“Happy birthday, Tad!” she said brightly.  “You can call me Esme.  Everyone does.”

“Thank you, and okay, Esme.  Dad says you’re from Moonlight Falls?”  He gave his father a curious look.  “So, you invited one cousin I’ve never met to my party?”

“Not exactly.  Esme here was a… surprise from Gator.  One of our second cousins over there.  She’s had a tough time.  Actually, she’s from the outskirts of the area, about an hour away, and not from Gator’s branch of the family, either.  She’s the daughter of distant cousins we all share on the Wolff side.  She’s an only child, and there was a house fire, and her parents… well, only she made it out.”

Tad was horrified.  As rough as his relationship with his father had been at times, he couldn’t imagine what it must be like to lose his parents, especially at that age.  “Oh, I’m so sorry.”  He put a hand on her shoulder.

“Thank you.”

“Her family was all that was left of that branch, and Gator went out to get her.  But he and the rest of them decided she was best left with me.”  Thornton scoffed.  “Without calling, without discussion, without warning.  They kept her for a couple days, then sent Gator here to drop her off.”

That struck Tad as very odd.  “Wait.  She’s got family just a couple hours away, but he came all the way from Moonlight Falls to leave her with you?  What about Willie and Waylon and all them?  None of them would take her in?”

“Cousin Gator said I’d be better off with Cousin Thornton than any of them,” Esmeralda said.

Thornton let out a subtle sigh.  “To paraphrase what Gator told me, they decided it ‘wasn’t in her best interests’ for her to stay with any of that branch of the family for long.  That she was best placed with our side.”

“Why?”  Tad looked at her, then back at his father.  “I mean, this is the first Maria and I have even met her, and I just graduated high school.  Have you even met her before?  Why wouldn’t she want to be with family she knew better?  That makes no sense!”

Thornton held up a hand.  “There’s a reason my father distanced himself from that side of the family.  And this clannish nonsense has a lot to do with it.”

“What, is there some stupid feud or something?  She’s only a little girl who just lost her freaking parents!”

“I know,” Thornton said with an edge to his voice that hinted at the frustration he was trying not to express.  “Believe me, I told Gator all that.  And that while I feel for her situation and certainly don’t want to see her left with no one, I’m not an ideal home for her, either.  He disagreed, and said if I couldn’t handle it, he knew I’d do right by her.  Which is why she’s here.  For now, anyway.”

“What do you mean, for now?” asked Tad, while Maria, overhearing the conversation, paused to listen.  Her mother had told her who Esmeralda was while Tad and her father talked.

“Helping family for a short-term emergency is one thing.  Permanently is something else.  Social services can find her a more appropriate home, if none of my cousins want to step up to the plate.”

Esmeralda remained silent, but the anxious and sad look in her eyes spoke volumes to Tad, whose heart broke for her.  He stared back at his father in disbelief.  “Are you for real?”

“What?”  Thornton looked back at him, and Tad got angry.

“Are you seriously saying you’re passing her off to some social worker, just like that?”

“I cannot raise a child at this point in my life.  They’ll find her a good home.”

“No.  No!  That’s just… That’s not happening!”  He turned to Esmeralda, and gave her the most encouraging smile he could muster through his disgust at his father.  “You can stay with me.”

Her eyes lit up with hope, while Thornton stared back in shock and Maria blinked with surprise.

Tad ignored them both.  “You don’t want to go with a social worker, do you?  With strangers?  You don’t have to if you don’t want.  You can stay at my house as long as you need to.”

“You mean it?  Really?”  Esmeralda’s face lit up with hope.

“Absolutely.  You can come home with us tonight if you want.”  The others around them started listening after hearing Tad’s raised voice.  “There’s a bed in Caleb’s room he’s not big enough for yet.  You can stay in that for now.”

Maria’s eyes went wide; that was the bed she’d been using on break, but she supposed she could figure something else out until she went back to Sims U.  She didn’t want to see Esmeralda pawned off on a social worker, either.

“Yes!  Thank you!”  Esmeralda beamed, while Thornton raised his eyebrow at Tad.

“That’s very generous of you, offering your mother’s house as a home.”

“It’s fine, Thornton,” Morgana said, and turned to Esmeralda.  “You’re welcome in our home, dear.  You’re family.”

“Yeah.  I’m going back to Sims U soon, so you can sleep in that bed.  I’m really too tall for it anyway, but it’ll fit you just fine,” Maria told her, while Patrick put an arm around her shoulders.

“Why don’t you just stay with me until we go back?  Nobody at home will mind.”

“Sure!  That’d be great.  Thanks, baby.”  Maria smooched Patrick.

“See?  No problem,” Tad said.

“Well, I guess that’s settled, then,” Thornton said.  “Looks like you’ll be staying here in Sunset Valley, Esme.  I’m sure they’ll take good care of you.”

“I’m glad!  You’re all nice.”

“Children are a big responsibility, and an expensive one,” Thornton said to Tad with a tone that implied he needed reminding of that.  “Gator didn’t leave her with much.  The fire destroyed most of her things, and she’s only got a few clothes and toys.  You should take her shopping soon, certainly before you enroll her in school.  But once you start working, that ought to cover the basics.”

“I’ll be there Monday morning.  First thing.”

After that, Tad hugged Esmeralda and headed toward the kitchen to pour himself a juice.  He was of age now, so nobody could say anything about that, at least.  He planned to pick the most expensive bottle his father had.  If he was going to act like a cold-hearted llama and drive him to drink, he could foot a bill for it.  Chris stopped him halfway there.  “Hey, are you okay?”

“I can’t believe he was just going to ship her off like some inconvenience,” Tad seethed.  “Who does that to a kid who’s just lost her whole family?  Oh, never mind.  I answered my own question.  The dad who barely wanted to deal with his own kids!  Why would he give a llama’s tail about someone else’s?”

“It was cold,” Chris agreed.  “I mean, he could’ve at least offered to let her stay a while, while he tried to work something out with one of your cousins or something.”

“I don’t know what the plum their problem is, either.  I’m not sure I want to.  ‘Clannish’ stuff, what does that even mean?”  He scoffed.  “When Dad is the most sympathetic one, though, that’s a pretty freaking sad state.”

“Guess that’s why he said your grandfather didn’t like them.”

“Maybe.  I don’t know.  Never met him.  He died before I was born.  All I know is he was a doctor and my dad said he got a lot of his values from him or something.”  Tad rubbed his forehead as the implications of what he’d just impulsively offered set in.  “And now I guess I’ve got a kid to take care of.  Good thing Dad gave me that responsible adult job, huh?  It won’t be that much harder than when I’m babysitting Caleb, right?”

“You’ll be fine!  You’re great with kids.  Caleb worships the ground you walk on.  You’re his cool big brother.  For Esme, you’ll be cool Cousin Tad.  Or Tad the Stand-In Dad.”

“Tad the Dad, that even sounds like some cutesy kid’s rhyme.”  He and Chris shared a chuckle, and then his smile faded.  “Guess it’s a good thing I didn’t get into Sims U after all.  I wouldn’t be able to go now.  And you’re going to go and get a degree and have fun at frat parties and bars, while I take care of Esme and help with my brother, and sift mail for executives.”

“You left out the studying and sleeping through classes.  It won’t be all parties, I promise.”

“More than I’ll get to, I’m sure,” Tad said with a half-smile.  “I’m really going to miss you.”

“I’ll miss you, too.”  Chris pulled him into an embrace, and they lingered for a long moment.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried you’d meet someone else there and decide you can do better than a messed-up loser like me.”

“What?  No!  First off, you’re not a loser, and second, I don’t want anyone else.  There or here.”

“You might change your mind when you meet other people who weren’t too stupid to get in.”

“Tad, stop!  I love you.  And you’re not stupid or a loser.  A loser is more like someone who wouldn’t take in his orphaned cousin.”

Tad chortled.  “Did you just call my dad a loser?”

“I’m just saying.”

“Well, thanks for saying it.”  Tad kissed him.  “And thanks for being here.”

While Chris and Tad talked, Maria chatted with her father.  At first, the conversation went well.  He praised her grades at university and congratulated her on her progress on her novel, as well as two freelance articles she’d written at Sims U that he read.  It was when they got to the subject of her wedding that things turned sour.

“I’m glad you’re happy.”  He looked at her engagement ring as she showed it off.  “But you’re awfully young to be tying yourself down.  You’re not even out of university yet.  What’s the rush?”

“Because I love him, Dad.  We’ve been together for a long time!  We’re meant to be!”

“And you need to rush into marriage to prove that?”  He looked over at Patrick for a moment before turning back to his daughter.  “If it’s meant to be, why do you have to commit now, before you’ve got your degree and established your career?”

“I told you, we’re not having the wedding until we graduate,” she said with a heavy sigh.  “We got engaged because we love each other and want the world to know!  Why is that so hard for everyone to understand?”


“Yes, everyone!  Mom, Patrick’s parents, and now you!  Everyone old keeps going on about how we’re so young and don’t need to rush.  Well, Gretchen’s only a year ahead of me and has a baby already!  Penny got engaged and is pregnant.  Patrick and I are engaged.  Period.  And everyone over thirty except Patrick’s sister acts like it’s this huge crazy impulsive thing.  Why?  Lots of people marry their high school sweethearts!  Lots of—”

“And lots of those marriages end in divorce,” Thornton said bluntly.  “Because they’re young and don’t understand what they’re getting into.  Which is why us old people advise caution.  Even your mother, ever the optimist and romantic, you say.  Don’t you think that’s rather telling?  Besides, didn’t your friend Penny get engaged because she got pregnant unexpectedly?  Not the best example of a responsible life choice.”

Maria put her hands on her hips.  “Well, thank you for that lovely vote of confidence, Dad!  But guess what?  We’re going to prove all of you wrong!  Patrick and I love each other, and we’ll get married, and we’ll be happy no matter what you or anyone else says!”

“I’m happy for you, Maria,” Esmeralda piped up from beside her.  She’d been playing peek-a-boo with Caleb, but overheard.

“Thank you!  That’s very sweet of you, and even though we just met, you’re definitely invited.  I hope you’ll be there.”

“I will!”

Patrick came over when he heard Maria’s raised voice.  “Hey.  Everything okay?”

“Oh, yeah.  Fine.  Dad and I were just talking, and I invited Esme to our wedding.”  She took Patrick’s hand as Esmeralda sat back down to play with Caleb.  “But I’m getting a little tired.  Think you could take me home so I can pack an overnight bag before heading over to your place?”

“Sure thing.”  He waved to Esmeralda.  “Nice meeting you, Esme.  Good night.”  He gave Caleb a little wave, too, and then nodded a good night to Thornton while Maria said goodbye to the kids.

“Good night, Dad,” she then said to her father, and went with Patrick to wish both Tad and Chris each a final happy birthday before leaving.

Author’s Note: If you were surprised by little Esmeralda, you’re not the only one!  When Tad aged up to young adult, he got the family-oriented trait. Barely a couple game hours later, there was a popup from my story progression mod saying he’d adopted Esmeralda, right after getting his job at Doo Peas. I decided to write her in this way, so it doesn’t look quite so random and impulsive.

Offline Magpie2012

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #275 on: October 19, 2018, 11:03:17 AM »
Wow, RL causes chaos and makes me AWOL, only to come back and find so much has happened since I've been gone! Where to start??? You know what, I've caught up about 5 chapters so most everything would be "old news" so I'm just going to say that I love this family and I hope you keep playing them for many many MANY more chapters to come

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Offline oshizu

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #276 on: October 19, 2018, 03:32:05 PM »
I'm sorry for Iris about Lester. I have a sneaky feeling that if her friend Kristal hasn't caught Lester's eye by now, she never will.
Iris is gorgeous--I wish her good luck in romance. :D

It almost feels like Orion's anger and frustration came out of nowhere.
Did he get a new trait I don't remember? Or did Patrick's engagement trigger Orion's envy?

Awww, the banter between Boyd and Cycl0n3 was heartwarming. How great that they were friends before they realized they were family!
I'm really excited about the family-oriented Tad adopting a little girl.
Now I wonder if Chris will consider Tad, Esme, and himself as somewhat of a family unit before he leaves for uni.

And ugh, that darn Thornton! He's living in a plush beach house, agrees to pass of an unwanted relative to his son who's just a mail-clerk, but doesn't offer to help AT ALL with support?
I love Chris and Tad together and hope their relationship survives the strain of separation.

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Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 81
« Reply #277 on: October 26, 2018, 10:48:58 PM »
Wow, RL causes chaos and makes me AWOL, only to come back and find so much has happened since I've been gone! Where to start??? You know what, I've caught up about 5 chapters so most everything would be "old news" so I'm just going to say that I love this family and I hope you keep playing them for many many MANY more chapters to come

Thank you! I'm glad you're enjoying the story, and I am indeed still playing them, so there's plenty more coming!  :)

I'm sorry for Iris about Lester. I have a sneaky feeling that if her friend Kristal hasn't caught Lester's eye by now, she never will.
Iris is gorgeous--I wish her good luck in romance. :D

Between her good looks and her flirty trait, Iris won't have much trouble finding suitors! Hopefully she won't be tempted to juggle too many at once and break hearts or lose friendships. Those flirty sims can get themselves into romantic hot water pretty quickly...  ;D

It almost feels like Orion's anger and frustration came out of nowhere.
Did he get a new trait I don't remember? Or did Patrick's engagement trigger Orion's envy?

Orion still has the same traits (Brave, Genius, Rebellious, Good). He's angry because he really wants to tell Tara the truth about being an alien, especially after she made such a big deal about trusting him and believing he'd never keep anything important from her.  He's afraid if he doesn't tell her soon, she'll feel betrayed and that he can't be trusted after all, and leave him.  And it's not an entirely unfounded fear because Tara is neurotic and has trust issues. So, from Orion's point of view, he's sure she'd understand and accept him and keep the confidence, so he feels it's very unfair of his parents to say he still can't tell her, when it might cost him the girl he loves.

The lashing out at Patrick was just a symptom of that. He doesn't have a problem with him or even Maria, really, other than he thinks it's even more unfair that Patrick can tell Maria when he can't tell Tara. He doesn't feel his parents' distinction (that Maria will be marrying into the family, and that's the only reason she can be told) is fair. The cheap shot about Maria blabbing if she got mad was said in anger. Orion doesn't truly think she would, but he did want it said that if someone like Maria can be trusted, so should Tara.

Boyd and Susan don't like putting Orion in that position, but they feel he's not mature enough yet to truly comprehend what could go wrong if his relationship does, and Tara leaked his secret. After all, Orion's never been betrayed in such a way, so it's natural he'd feel like nothing bad would happen with someone he trusts.  Being older, wiser, and more jaded (and in Boyd's case, paranoid) they just want to stay cautious.

Awww, the banter between Boyd and Cycl0n3 was heartwarming. How great that they were friends before they realized they were family!
I'm really excited about the family-oriented Tad adopting a little girl.
Now I wonder if Chris will consider Tad, Esme, and himself as somewhat of a family unit before he leaves for uni.

Chris is definitely committed to Tad. I touch on that situation a bit in this chapter, so that's all I'll say for now.  :)

And ugh, that darn Thornton! He's living in a plush beach house, agrees to pass of an unwanted relative to his son who's just a mail-clerk, but doesn't offer to help AT ALL with support?
I love Chris and Tad together and hope their relationship survives the strain of separation.

Thornton did come off like a hard-llama, but it's not out of heartlessness. (Although his dislikes children, frugal, and commitment issues traits all factor in to why he wanted no part of raising Esme in the middle of his elder years, even if he did genuinely feel sorry for her!) The problem is a clash of Thornton's personality and Tad's mooch trait. Because he's so driven (he also has the ambitious and perfectionist traits), Thornton has no respect for mooching and laziness, and even though it was kind of Tad to take in Esme, he is prone to that. Thornton wants Tad to understand what a big responsibility a child is, and hopefully step up and become more responsible. It's not that Thornton doesn't care what happens to Esme, it's that he doesn't want Tad mooching the funding for her care off of him or Morgana while he sits around doing the bare minimum. In the case of a real emergency, like a hospital bill or something necessary that Tad couldn't possibly afford, Thornton would help him out.

Chapter 81

When it was time to celebrate Cycl0n3’s birthday and officially usher him into his golden years, he insisted on no party.  Blair obliged, but convinced him to at least let her parents and siblings come and enjoy cake with them on his big day.  “All right.  They can come.  But no cheating to get around the party thing, like you did when I hit the old middle age milestone by having our friends just ‘happen’ to show up at the restaurant.  Nobody better randomly drop by for a surprise visit!”

“I know!  Though I think it’s because someone doesn’t want to reap the karma for all his old lady jokes at Tam and Emma,” Blair teased.

“Darn right I don’t!” Cycl0n3 said with a laugh.  “I’m going to hide out like a grumpy old man and just take my lumps on social media.  Which Emma started in on at midnight!  Midnight!  She’s even older than me.  What’s she even doing up at that hour?  She’s going to need like ten naps to make up for it.”

“She’s also still got a kid not even in school yet, and a pre-teen.  That’s enough to leave anyone sleepless.”

“Yeah, and Jared, the least mature of all of them, and he’s older than all of us.  Bet she’s changing his diapers, too!”

“My, you’re sure feisty with the insults for someone hiding behind his rocker.”

“I’m not hiding.  I’m strategically retreating.”  Cycl0n3 straightened, only to feel a tug in his back.  He rubbed it.  “Ow.  Ugh!  Getting old sucks.”

“You could still do some exercises and get in—”

“Not a word of that on my birthday, dear.”

“Okay, Grumpy Old Man Pants.  I won’t nag you about exercise on your special day.”  She smooched him on the cheek.  “But don’t worry.  Tonight, it’ll be just us and the family for cake, like I promised.  I’m not sneaking in Tam or Emma or anyone else.  Sim Scout’s honor.”  She did the salute.  “Though Maria might come with Patrick.  Mom said she was staying with them until they go back to University.”

“Yeah, she is,” Chris interjected from over on the couch where he was reading while Travis watched TV.  He’d spent most of the morning packing for his move to Sims U, but now he was taking some time to relax.

“What about Tad?  Is he tagging along, too, or the latest addition to the Wolff pack?”  Chris had told them about Tad taking in Esmeralda after Tad’s party.  They both thought well of Tad for it, but they wondered if he fully comprehended the responsibility of potential parenthood.  Although he was used to babysitting Caleb, being responsible for a child as a foster parent as someone fresh out of high school was a big step beyond that.

Chris set his book aside.  “Nope.  Just Maria.  Tad took Esme to get registered at school and out shopping, and he’s had Caleb with him all day, too, because his Mom got stuck at work.  So he’s beat.  He’s doing a pizza and Plumflix night at home.  Said to tell you happy birthday, though.”  A smirk tugged at the corner of his mouth.  “And that I should buy you a nice golden cane.”

“Oh, did he?  You cheeky kids!  Wait until I start shaking it at all of you.  Especially that grump next to you.  I’ve got to teach him how to do it right.  He’s already halfway to grumpy old man status before his teenage birthday.”

“Oh, shut up,” Travis retorted.  “Don’t take it out on me that you’re mad you’re old.”

Cycl0n3 made a face and waved his arm in the air.  “No respect!  No respect!  Kids these days!”

Chris took his book to his room, and Diddy got off of the bed to greet him.  He picked him up, and he started purring.  “Aw, you could’ve come out there if you wanted.”  He petted him as he rested against his shoulder.  “Oh, too warm and comfy in here, huh?  That’s okay.”  His smile turned wistful as he thought about leaving Diddy behind to go to Sims University.  “It won’t be the same at school without you.  I’m going to miss you.  But I can’t have pets in a dorm.”

He scratched Diddy behind the ears and tried not to feel bad about leaving him for so long.  “Mom and Dad and Travis will take good care of you.  I promise they won’t let you go hungry.  They’ll give you treats once in a while, and Mom will play chase-the-dot with you.  She likes that.  You can also chase Travis’ tail in that dinosaur costume he has, like I know you like to.  You can sit with Dad on the couch when he watches his favorite shows.  Travis, too.  Maybe you’ll barely notice I’m gone.”  He snuggled him, then set him gently back on the bed.  “I’ll still miss you, though.  But I’ll be back.  I’d never leave you forever.”

Chris heard a car pull up and went back out to the living room with Diddy.  He said hello to everyone as they came in and sat on the couch with Diddy while Boyd and Susan went to Cycl0n3.  Boyd pulled a shiny new cane out from behind his back and did an exaggerated old man walk toward him while Susan smirked smugly.  “Happy birthday, senior son-in-law!”

Boyd handed him the cane, which had a polished llama head on top of it.  “We saw this, and immediately thought of you.  Happy birthday, you old troll,” he teased.

“Haha!  Takes one to know one!  A llama cane, huh?  Well, never let it be said you old farts don’t welcome the newbies to your retirement club in style!  Thanks!  I’ll put it to good use harassing all the whippersnappers.”  He looked over at Travis, watching TV.  “Starting with that one.”

“Uh-oh.  He hasn’t even gotten to the cake yet, and he’s already going full geezer on us, Travis!  We’d better stop him now, before he keels over from exertion,” joked Chris.

“Never fear.  We can stop him with a musical interlude,” Patrick said with a devilish grin as he turned to Cycl0n3.  “I think it’s time for a birthday song.”

Cycl0n3 raised an eyebrow.  “Oh, a musical, Captain?  I don’t see your guitar.”

“Nah.  This one’s from the heart.  I’ll sing it.”  He cleared his throat and began to sing.  “Happy birthday to you!”

Chris, Travis, Orion, and Iris joined in on the second verse.  “Happy birthday to you!  Happy birthday, dear—”

That was when each of them chimed in with their own ad-lib.

“Cycl0n3 the Geezer,” Patrick sang.

“Poor old Cycl0n3,” sang Orion.

“Cycl0n3 the old nerd,” Iris sang on a high note.

“Ancient Father Time,” Chris sang from the couch.

“My really freakin’ old Dad,” Travis sang the loudest, drowning out the jibes of the others.

“Happy birthday to you!” they all finished in harmony, complete with a dramatic bowing flourish from Patrick, while Blair, Boyd, Susan, and Maria all laughed and clapped.

Cycl0n3 shook his head, amused.  “You little llamas!  Did you rehearse that, or was it a spur of the moment musical mockery?”

Chris stood and patted his father on the back.  “Just a little idea we came up with before the party, to show you how much you’ve inspired us over the years.  We thought you deserved a special song.”

“Uh-huh.  I love you, too, son.  And I certainly won’t encourage Diddy to leave your bed full of hairballs while you’re away at Sims U now.  No way.”  He motioned toward the kitchen.  “Well, I’m sure you all worked up an appetite, and my senses could use something sweet after that, ahem, lovely tune.  So, how about we go do this cake thing, huh?”

“Hope we’ll be able to find it past all the smoke from the candles,” Travis quipped, while Blair dashed over to light them.

When the cake was ready, everyone gathered around.  “Happy birthday!”  Blair cheered the loudest, but everyone was clapping or blowing their horns and noise makers.  Despite the ribbing, which even Cycl0n3 himself couldn’t deny he’d earned, they were all happy for him and wished him only the best in his golden years.

Taking a deep breath, Cycl0n3 blew out his candles and embraced his age.  He was an old man now, at least in body if not in spirit.  Although he made cracks about being a grumpy old man, the truth was, Cycl0n3 was happy with his life.  He had a long and happy marriage with Blair, who he loved with all his heart and who loved him just as much, quirks and all.  He had two wonderful sons he couldn’t be more proud of.  While he didn’t have any other blood relatives of his own, Blair’s family had always treated him like one of them, and he was glad to have them, too.  He was also happy with his friends, even if he was hiding from their inevitable teasing on his big day.  Beyond his relationships, he was proud of his career success as a P.I., and the achievements and accomplishments he’d made in his skills and hobbies over the years.

Now, he could think about retirement, and how to make best of the years he had left.  Cycl0n3 had always advocated not taking things too seriously, and now that he was approaching the end of his road, he wanted to embrace that philosophy more than ever, and live his twilight years to the fullest.

Cycl0n3 sat with Chris, Patrick, and Orion for cake.  “So, Captain, you’re going to look out for Number One here at Sims U when you go back, right? You won’t lead him astray with your wild juiced-up frat boy keg stand partying lifestyle?”

“I can lead myself astray without his help, thanks,” Chris remarked between bites of cake.  “What, are you worried you haven’t raised me to be a good, upstanding, responsible young man?”

“Yeah, surely you don’t doubt that you and Blair have instilled all of your moral values and good judgment in my dear nephew?”

“Heh.  I know there’s a two-generation tradition of Wainwrights hitting kegs like moths to a flame, and even though his last name is Sw0rd, that same dorky blood flows through his veins,” Cycl0n3 replied.

“If you want to talk dorky, Dad, I could always take after you and have wild all-nighters gaming at the comic shop.”

“If they had kegs, they’d probably just have Mountain Runoff in them,” remarked Orion.

“And just how do you know about what goes in kegs, young man?  You’re not old enough for that sort of thing.  Is it the Captain’s wild party stories, or has he corrupted you, too?”

Patrick laughed.  “Hey!  Why am I always the bad influence?  I made the honor roll, you know.  Maria and I both did.”

“I never said you were stupid or a bad student.  But I also know you’re a frat boy with an off-campus house that has its own well-stocked bar.  By the way, you might want to check what’s in the background of the pictures Maria tags you in there, if you don’t want us old folks knowing things like that.”  He was referring to a shot from the previous term where Maria took a picture of him playing guitar in their house’s kitchen, with the bar in the background.

“It’s no big deal.  I keep some juice around for my friends when we hang out.  You know, for entertaining.”

“And I’m sure Chris will be very entertained when he visits, too,” Cycl0n3 said knowingly.  “Just keep an eye on lightweight there.  He’s built like the rest of us.  Meaning he’s not.”

“Speak for yourself, Dad.  Unlike you, I work out.  Tad and I go to the gym together, and I’m a green belt in martial arts now.”

Orion perked up.  “We should spar a round or two before you leave.”

“Sure.  That’d be cool.”

Over on the couch, Travis, Boyd, and Blair chatted while she enjoyed a snow cone from Chris’ machine.  “So, you got Cycl0n3 a cane, huh?  You walked pretty well with it.  I hope that’s not from practice because you’ve been needing one yourself, though?”  She sounded a bit concerned.

“No.  On these cold mornings I might be a little slow on the stairs, and my back gets sore, but I’m not that decrepit yet.  I’m fighting it.”

“I was afraid all those years of being so sedentary hunching over a computer or lab bench would catch up with you.”

“Yeah, I know.  I do try to at least not sit around all the time.  I get out in the greenhouse with the plants or stay on my feet part of the day, so I’m not totally inactive.  I know how biology works.  I just really hate exercise, and even if I tell myself I should do it for my health, I never end up sticking with it anyway.  So, while I fully admit I should, if you’re about to make the old yoga pitch again…”

“Not this time.  I love you, but I know how you and Mom are.  It’s like trying to get Cycl0n3 or this guy here to exercise.”  She gave Travis a meaningful look.  “His grades are great, except in gym, where he gets mediocre passing grades and a note from his teacher saying he’s the least enthusiastic participant in his entire class.”

“That’s because it sucks.”

“You still have to try.”

“Only because the teachers make me and I don’t want to fail it,” he grumbled.  “But I don’t have to like it.”

“I never liked it, either,” Boyd sympathized with his grandson.

“We’re doing a stupid soccer unit now.  And they made me the goalie, and the other kids yell at me when I miss the ball, or it hurts when I get hit with them.  One hit me in the head and knocked my glasses off.  But they make me goalie because I don’t run fast.  I hate running, too.  I’m only going to run if zombies are chasing me or something.”

“Well, how are you going to go fast enough to outrun them if you don’t practice?” asked Blair.

“To be fair, most zombies kind of shuffle.”  Boyd did an imitation of a zombie that made Travis laugh.

“Yeah!  See, like Grandpa says, I don’t have to run fast to outrun a zombie.  I’ve only got to be faster than someone else whose brains they’ll eat first.  And I can definitely run faster than Dad.  Probably you, too, Grandpa.  Sorry.”

Boyd chortled.  “That’s all right.  That’s why your Grandma and I are building a robot with a death laser defense system.”

Blair looked over at him, amused.  “It disturbs me that I’m not entirely sure you’re joking.”

Susan brought her cake outside, where Iris and Maria sat on the patio.  “How are you two not freezing out here?  Is that rain, too?”

“That just started, but yeah, it’s a little cold.”

“I wanted to come out here and we were talking about wedding stuff.  Maria was telling me about her ideas for bridesmaid dresses.”

“Since it’ll be a winter wedding, I was thinking of a romantic cozy snowflake kind of theme,” she said happily.  “We’re still trying to figure out where to have it.”

“Well, I don’t recommend outdoors, but there are some nice places in town,” Susan said.  “Lots of them do private parties.  How large a wedding are you two planning?”

“We’re not totally sure yet, but I’d like something amazing and memorable.  Where all our friends and family can be there, and there’ll be romantic pictures with Patrick and I showing how we’re totally in love…”  She sighed happily.  “I just want it all to be perfect, you know?”

“Totally,” Iris agreed.  “Maria said the bridesmaids would have sky blue dresses.  She showed me on her phone, they’re pretty, the ones she’s thinking.”

“That sounds nice.  Fitting for winter.  You’re thinking of having the wedding pretty soon after you graduate from University, then?”

“Oh, yeah!  We can’t wait to start our lives together.  It’s going to be amazing.  Patrick and me, me and Patrick!  Married and official.  We just need to find the best place for it!”  Maria admired her ring in the glow of the porch light with a beaming smile on her face.

Susan also smiled, although a bit uneasily.  She was glad they were so enthusiastic and hadn’t had any more arguments, but she couldn’t shake an anxious feeling about their upcoming marriage.  It was hard not to think about the yet-unwritten novel from Oasis Landing, or how their descendants all had Maria’s name and not Patrick’s.  Perhaps that was nothing deeper than Patrick taking her name, or them keeping their own names, with their children bearing hers.  She hoped it was nothing, but the doubts still nagged at her.

But it has been a long time since we were there, Susan reminded herself.  When she and Boyd were last in Oasis Landing, Patrick and Maria were only teenagers, Orion was just a boy, and Iris was still in diapers.  It was possible that everything they saw then had changed since, like it did between their first two visits.  The last time they saw him, Emit only said he’d “be in touch” and hopefully before they were too old.  That could mean that nothing significant had changed, but it might also mean that whatever changes happened just weren’t significant to Emit and his timeline projects.  It was impossible to know without talking to him, and he hadn’t been in touch for a long time.

“What do you think, Mom?”  Iris’ voice cut in to Susan’s thoughts.  While her mind wandered, Maria and Iris continued to talk wedding venues.  “I think any one of those places would be great.”

“Absolutely,” Susan said.  “Just keep us all in the loop, especially once you set a date.”

Back inside, one of Cycl0n3’s favorite songs came on, and he cut loose with a birthday dance.  “Nice moves, Dad,” Travis snickered as he went past.  “Don’t break a hip.”

“Don’t you break a chair, eating a third piece of cake,” Cycl0n3 retorted.  “Maybe you should listen to your mom and shake off some of that frosting to the beat.”

“Nah, unlike you, I don’t want to look stupid.”

“And that round goes to Travis!” Chris announced with a grin from the table.

“This from the guy whose dance moves have been known to destroy everything in a four-foot radius,” scoffed Cycl0n3.

“Okay, that’s enough picking on the birthday boy for now,” Blair chided her sons as she twirled into Cycl0n3’s arms.  “I’ll dance with you, handsome.”

“Handsome?  Uh-oh, maybe I’m not the only one getting old here.  Your eyes are obviously going.”  He playfully grabbed her waist, and she smooched him.

“Oh, stop.  You’ll always be my handsome love.”

“And I’m eternally grateful for your questionable taste,” he quipped back, and pulled her close.

Orion, Iris, and Boyd were over on the couch and Travis was on a nearby chair, eating his bonus cake slice, when the TV went out.  “Ugh, again?  That’s the third time this week!”  He got up and restarted the box to see if that would fix it, but it was to no avail.

“Uh-oh.  Not a good sign,” Boyd said with a frown.

“Aw, that was a good movie,” Travis whined.

Orion went over to take a closer look.  “Let me try something.”  He concentrated, and used his alien telekinetic abilities to sense the issue.  It was an electrical malfunction, but one that he could manipulate.  He channeled his energy and focused, and the TV started to glow.  A minute or two later, it came back on just like normal, and Travis cheered.

“Sweet!  Now that’s a super-power I wish I had!  You’re so lucky to be an alien.”

Boyd sat up with a start and his eyes darted in a panic toward the window, where he saw to his relief that Maria was still outside with Susan and Diddy.  She was playing with the cat with the laser pointer, while Susan cleaned up empty plates.

Iris approached Orion.  “Be careful!  Did you forget Maria’s here?  What if she saw you do that?”  She looked at Travis.  “And you need to watch what you say.”

Orion gave a dismissive wave.  “Don’t worry about it.  She’s outside.”

“Did you realize that before you did it?”  Boyd was glad that Iris brought it up, because he’d been about to.

“Yes,” Orion replied, a bit testily.  “Though even if I didn’t, she’s been talking about the wedding all night and staying with us, so it’s not like it’s going to be a secret that much longer.  Assuming she stays too lazy to wander up to the observatory where the Galaxa is, and we don’t have to explain what it is with some llama load lie.”  Boyd opened his mouth to interject, but Orion didn’t give him the chance.  “But I know!  It’s a big important secret that she can’t know until they’re actually married, and my girlfriend never can.”

Boyd sighed.  “You know that’s not what we said.  Just not until you’re older and things are more serious with her, or whoever you—”

“‘Officially make part of the family.’  Yeah.  I got that loud and clear.”  He started toward the kitchen, not wanting to get into it again.

Travis gave him a sympathetic look as he passed.  “Thanks for fixing the TV, though.”

“No problem.”

As things wound down, everyone pitched in to clean up before calling it a night.  Susan chatted with Chris in the kitchen.  “It’s not long before you’re off to Sims U.  You must be so excited.  Are you all packed and ready?”

“For the most part.  Thanks again for paying my tuition and books and housing and all that.  That was really nice of you and Grandpa.”

“We were happy to.  We’re proud of you and how hard you’ve worked.”

“I’ll keep doing my best.”  He glanced down at Diddy, now lurking by his feet in the hopes that someone would drop some discarded food from a plate.  “I’m going to miss him, though.  And Tad, of course.”

“I’m sure.  I’m sorry he wasn’t able to go with you.  That must be difficult.”

“We’ll manage, but yeah.  He’s got his new job and Esme and Caleb to keep him busy, at least.”

“I imagine they will.  He’s on his way to having a family of his own now.  How’s he adjusting?”

“All right.  Esme’s a nice kid.  Kind of nit-picky about some things, but she loves playing outside, even in the cold, and running around on the beach by their house looking for shells.  She also likes cars.  Her dad was into restoring old cars and sports cars and stuff, and she used to hang around with him and watch and help before… you know.  So, Tad got her some toy cars she wanted.”

“That’s nice of him.  And she gets along with his little brother fine?”

“Oh, yeah.  Caleb gets excited about everything, so he’s happy to have someone else to play with when Tad watches him.”

“Well, if things work out and she stays long term, you might just have yourself a step-daughter in the future, then.”

“Aw, Grandma, not you too,” Chris laughed.  “Mom’s already hinted about that a hundred times.  Is Patrick and Maria’s engagement fever contagious?”

“Don’t worry.  Much as I’d love any child of yours, step or otherwise, I’m in no rush to be a great-grandmother, I promise.  I’m not nearly old enough for that,” Susan joked, then hugged him.  “Good luck at Sims U.  Not that you’ll need it.  You’ve got the family smarts.  You’ll ace it.”

After Susan went to say good night to Blair, Diddy weaved around Travis’ feet begging for the crumbs on his plate, getting on his nerves, while Patrick turned to Chris.  “Hey, marriage jokes aside, how are things with Tad, and you leaving?”

He shrugged.  “It is what it is.  He’s not happy about it.  I’m not happy about it myself.”

Patrick nodded sympathetically.  While Tad wasn’t as dramatic as his older sister, he could be moody, and Patrick could easily imagine how touchy and upset Maria would be in a comparable situation.  “Yeah.  I figured.  Is he, uh, prone to jealousy?  I know you two are pretty solid, and I’m not talking about cheating or anything, but… he’s not going to get all mad or upset if you make friends there and think something’s going on when there isn’t, that kind of thing, right?”

“No, I don’t think so.  He trusts me, and I trust him.  He’ll still be here while I’m away, and meeting people I don’t meet.  Like at work.  You know how offices supposedly have all that drama and secret affairs going on all the time, too, right?” Chris joked before resuming a more serious tone.  “I’m not worried about that with him, so he shouldn’t with me.”

“That’s good.”  Patrick paused.  “It’s just, well, I know how Maria can be when someone flirts with me, and I know I get a little… edgy when someone hits on her, especially if they know she’s with me and keep at it anyway.  Not that I don’t trust her, I just don’t like it.  And she’s the same way with me.”

“Maria has a jealous streak?  Oh, color me shocked.  Just as shocked that you’d want to flatten anyone hitting on her,” Chris said wryly.

“Not if they’re just hitting on her, unless they were being creepy and harassing her or upsetting her or something.  Then, yeah, I’d want to plant my boot up their plumbob.  But I’m just saying, if he’s missing you and seeing pictures from Sims U, and let’s get real, with so many people there, odds are someone there will find you attractive at some point… You might want to keep that in mind when you talk to him or post on SimBook, so there’s no unnecessary drama.  Kind of like how I don’t talk about any Tri-Fruhm girls around Maria, even though nothing’s ever happened she should be mad about, you know?”

“I get what you’re saying, but no offense, Tad’s not over the top like Maria is about stuff like that.”

“All right.  You know him better than me.”  Patrick noticed his parents and siblings saying good night and getting their jackets, and Maria heading toward him with his.  “Good night.  Guess I’ll see you when we leave for Sims U, then?”

“Yup.  See you then.”

After everyone left, Cycl0n3 and Blair retired to their room for the night and changed for bed.  “So, any chance you’re going to surprise me with a little naughty birthday something now that it’s just the two of us?” Cycl0n3 asked suggestively.

Blair giggled and snuggled up to him.  “What, you don’t think we’re too old to do the skimpy lingerie thing now?”

“I’m old, not dead!  And that was a diabolical trap, trying to get me to accidentally say you’re old so you can yell at me, or worse, not give me any birthday loving.”

“Oh, I was just playing.  Though I’m glad you’re finally catching on to what not to say after all these years.”  She kissed him.  “Besides, I didn’t have my birthday yet.  Though it’s coming.”  She groaned and leaned against him.

“You’re still just as cute as you ever were, Pigtails.”  He put his hands in her hair to make a rough approximation of the hairstyle she hadn’t worn since her teenage years.  “I still remember how you hated me calling you that after you became miss serious Officer Blondie, back in the day.”

“You should also remember I hated that, too,” she said with a fond smile.  “Kind of.  I guess it was weirdly endearing in a way… which, if I think about it, is how you’ve always been.”

“I’ll take that, especially since it got us together.  Twice.  Once in high school, and then again after I came back to Sunset Valley after Sims U.”

“And now our son’s off to there, leaving his high school sweetheart behind.  I hope it works out for him like it did for us.”

“They’re already a step ahead.  They didn’t break up first like we did.”

Blair closed her eyes and leaned against Cycl0n3 as she remembered that.  “That was so hard.  I missed you so much and I hated splitting up.  But I didn’t want to stand in your way because I was younger and you had to get on with your life.  I still remember crying in my ice cream to Mom, saying I’d never love anyone again like I loved you.  She told me I had my whole life ahead of me and not to worry.  That things would work out for the best and no matter how bad it hurt then, I’d find someone who’d love me and make happier than I’d ever been when the time was right.  I just had to be patient.”  She smiled at him.  “She wasn’t wrong.  It just turned out that I wasn’t, either.”

“You rarely are.”  He kissed her, and slid his hand along her backside.

“And I think you’re trying to butter me up again with your smooth moves.”

“That’s a false accusation, officer.  Anyone could testify to the fact that I have no smooth moves!”

Blair giggled.  “I’d say you’ve got me there, but… oh!”  Her eyes went wide as his hand wandered farther.  “I think you got me there instead.”

He waggled his eyebrows.  “Oooh.  Does that mean I am guilty of smooth moves?”

“Maybe not smooth, but… I’ll give you effective.”  She climbed into his lap and leaned down against the mattress with him.

“Works for me.”

“Happy birthday,” Blair murmured flirtatiously as their lips met, and there was no further conversation.

Offline oshizu

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #278 on: October 26, 2018, 11:18:31 PM »
Now that Cycl0n3 is an elder, I can finally see Chris's resemblance to his father.
Patrick has always acted like he's so much older than Chris, but he's only a year older? Lol

I hope Susan's musings about Oasis Landing mean that she and Boyd will take another trip there soon.
I'm so curious about how the future might have changed since their last visit.
So funny how Chris and Travis have inherited Cycl0n3's snarky humor.
It's been great following the lives of Blair, Cycl0n3, and their kids!

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 82
« Reply #279 on: November 05, 2018, 03:29:56 AM »
Now that Cycl0n3 is an elder, I can finally see Chris's resemblance to his father.
Patrick has always acted like he's so much older than Chris, but he's only a year older? Lol

Chris got Cycl0n3's nose, mouth, and cheekbone/chin structure, Blair's eyes, and Grandma Susan's red hair.

Since sim aging is a bit weird compared to real life, I usually imagine sims within a sim day or two of each other as about the same age/class as far as school goes. Patrick was born week 1, day 7 in game and Chris was born week 2, day 4. In my mind that sets them about 1-2 years apart, but for story purposes it works out as one class year ahead. Though Patrick could've been on the earlier end of his while Chris was mid to later in his.

In case you're curious how I broke it down for this generation of born in game sims it's Wilbur Keaton in the first class with the pre-existing toddlers Sandi French and Sam Sekemoto as his classmates. Then the next class is Gretchen Ursine, Jamaal Hart, and Julius Langerak. Next is Penny Bunch, Patrick, and Maria. Then Tad, Chris, Tom Sekemoto, and Bianca Landgraab. Orion, Tara, and a handful of others are after that, and Iris falls in the next bracket, then Travis is in the one after hers since they're 4 game days apart. Essentially I model it so sims in or close to the active family are classmates with the sims closest in age to them. But you do see overlap in social circles of the ones in adjoining grades, since it's common enough for people to be friends with or date someone who might be only a little older or younger.

I hope Susan's musings about Oasis Landing mean that she and Boyd will take another trip there soon.
I'm so curious about how the future might have changed since their last visit.

Oh, so am I! I haven't had them take that trip yet in the file, as I've only played about 3 game days ahead of where I've posted. But since Orion's age up is the game day after that, and that new trait will change his descendants again, I'm waiting until he turns YA to go back. Boyd and Susan will still be around, just older. They're still just under halfway through the elder span, so they've got plenty of time yet. Though I'm sure they don't see it that way! ;)

So funny how Chris and Travis have inherited Cycl0n3's snarky humor.
It's been great following the lives of Blair, Cycl0n3, and their kids!

I'm glad you enjoy it! :) Travis' grumpy trait makes him a little harsh sometimes, but it does make a fun foil to Chris' more jovial good sense of humor and Cycl0n3's inappropriate themed quips, which are a wild card as to whether they fall on this side of funny or offensive.

Chapter 82

As usual, Iris was up around sunrise, even on the weekend.  She went straight out to the greenhouse and tended to the plants.  When she came in, her mother was making coffee.  “Hey, the plants are watered and weeded, and I harvested everything.  The glow orbs are outstanding this time!  They’re in the basket with the rest.  I thought the latest batch of egg and cheese grafts would be up, too, but someone beat me to them because they were all gone.”

“Your father picked them last night so he could take samples to chef Langerak this morning.”

“Oh, really?”

“The diner wants to draw in the eco-minded crowd with locally sourced stuff.  When we were there for lunch last week, he stayed for coffee and cake while I went back to the lab to tackle some of our administrative paperwork.”  She chuckled.  “He’ll almost always choose cake over paperwork, especially anything not directly related to research.  Not that I blame him, but when that pile gets too high, I get twitchy.”

“Sorry, but I’m with Dad on that.  The diner’s desserts are amazing!  I could eat myself into a wilt there or at the bakery.”

“Did you know a lot of the diner’s recipes were the creations of one of the bakery’s owners, back when she worked there?  Anyway, while your dad procrastinated over sweets, the chef was out at the counter and struck up a conversation with him.  He wanted feedback on their menu changes.  They talked about local sourcing and fresh ingredients, and your dad told him about our egg and cheese plants, and the success I’ve had cooking with them.  He offered some samples to test in recipes, and the chef was thrilled.”

“Wow!  Is that legal?  I know they’re fine, but I thought food ingredients in restaurants had to be inspected and stuff, and aren’t they kind of experimental?”

Susan shrugged.  “As long as he doesn’t sell what he makes with them, there’s no issue.  I think he just wants to see what the taste and quality are like.  But if he does and there is market interest, we can put them through the proper channels to sell them.”

“Cool!  I hope I works out, then.”

“Me too.”  Susan sipped her coffee.

“So, what do you want me to do with the harvest?  Put it in the fridge?  Not the glow orbs, though, right?”

“No, but if you wouldn’t mind running an errand for us, you could take them to Aleister’s Elixirs.  We’ve been selling them to them since we don’t need more than what we’ve got dried and stored.  We won’t have time today, and they’ll start getting funky by tomorrow.  We’re hoping to finish one of our big projects today, if everything goes well.”  She crossed her fingers, her eyes wide with excitement.  “You can keep the sale money as a thank you.”

“Sure!  I’ll do it.  Good luck with your project.  What is it?”

“I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but…” Susan couldn’t help but smile.  “It’ll be pretty cool.”

Chef Dustin Langerak was excited to get his hands on the Wainwrights’ experimental egg and cheese plants, and he enthused to Boyd for twenty minutes about what he wanted to try with them.  He was an old man in his nineties, long past the age most retired, but still spry.  Now that his kids were grown up, and he was a widower, he devoted the same love and care to his cooking and the diner business that he had to his family back in his stay at home dad days.

When Dustin said it was a shame Wainwright Innovations hadn’t come up with a meat plant yet, that immediately got wheels turning in Boyd’s mind.  If they could do that with animal proteins like egg and cheese, why not something like a burger or even better, a steak?  There had to be a way.  As Boyd headed to his car, he was struck with inspiration, and drove to the supermarket.  He’d just need some samples to work with…

When he got there, he recognized Thornton Wolff sitting on a bench outside.  He didn’t know Maria and Tad’s father as well as their mother, Morgana, but they had met a few times.  “Hi!  How are you doing?”

“Hello, Dr. Wainwright,” Thornton greeted him cordially.  “I’m fine.  Just taking a minute to enjoy this last bit of warm-ish weather on the first day of winter.”

“Good idea, but I’m afraid it won’t last long.  They’ve already got snow predicted for tomorrow.  And please, call me Boyd.  We’ll be family soon.”

“All right,” Thornton said as Boyd joined him on the bench.  “Maria and Patrick certainly are eager, aren’t they?”

“Oh, yeah!  You know how kids are when they’re young and in love.  Nothing can stop you, and you’ll throw caution to the wind and move heaven and earth for that special someone.”  Boyd thought of his own youth with Susan, and then his kids.  “But Patrick loves your daughter like crazy, you know.  He’d do anything for her.”

Thornton nodded despite his own misgivings about marriage.  “From what I’ve seen, Maria feels the same about him.  Though I worry about how young they are…”

“Me too.  At least they’ve already tested the waters for living together, though, right?  That’s one thing that can do a young couple in, that they’re past.”

“Speaking of which, I appreciate you and your wife allowing her to stay at your home before they go back to university.”

“It’s no problem.  They’re planning to live there after they’re married anyway, and it’s not like Patrick never had her over before.”  That was true.  Despite Boyd’s fears about keeping Orion’s alien identity a secret, he’d never been overly concerned when Maria spent the night, since she didn’t seem inclined to snooping.  He would’ve been more anxious if they hadn’t already discussed telling her with Patrick, but they were engaged now, and Patrick was sure there’d be no problem.  It didn’t stop Boyd’s worrying, but it eased it, and he empathized with the situation with Tad’s foster daughter.  “I’m glad we could help make some room for Esme.  I know their house is pretty full already, and there’s plenty of space in ours.  That was real kind of Tad to take her in, by the way.  Chris told us about it.  Poor girl.  I can’t even imagine.  It was hard losing my parents after I was grown and had my own family.  And Susan, she lost her family young… not as young as Esme, but as a teenager.  Some of that hurt’s still with her to this day.  I’m glad Esme’s got all of you looking out for her.  A good support network’s really important.”  Boyd smiled.  “I’ve always liked Tad.  He’s a good kid, and Chris really loves him.  I’m sure you already are, but you’ve got a lot to be proud of with both him and Maria.  I already told Chris if he needs help with anything to just let us know.”

Thornton was surprised, but in a good way.  “I’m glad they made such a good impression, and that’s very generous of you.  But Tad’s got a handle on it.  She’s enrolled in school, and they got her the things she needs.  He’s really stepped up.”  It was evident from his tone that Thornton was pleasantly surprised by that as well.  “Your grandson’s been a good influence on him.  He’s quite the hard worker, and an A student, I hear.  Placed with honors in the Science and Medicine program?”

“He did,” Boyd said proudly.  “Chris wants to be a vet.  He loves his cats.  I don’t know if you’ve ever met him, but he’s got this old fluffball named Diddy.  He adopted him out of a shelter.  Back then, he was a middle-aged stray that had been neglected for a long time, but you’d never know it to see him now.  He’s a fat old housecat, happy as can be, pampered like a little lion king.”  He laughed.  “Who knows?  Before long Chris and Tad might be next under the arch, with a trail of adopted cats and kids behind them.”

“Perhaps, though I’d rather they not rush things, either.  They’ve both got a lot going on, without the challenges of marriage and settling down in the mix.  Like I told Maria, if something’s meant to be, there’s no harm in waiting for the right time.”  He scoffed, but smiled.  “She didn’t take that advice in the spirit it was meant, however.”

“Ha, they never do at that age.  She’s your first, right?  I went through this once already before Patrick.  Back when she was right out of high school, my oldest decided to move in with her ex-boyfriend and a bunch of roommates, because she and her ex were ‘just friends’ and of course that was ‘no big deal.’  Susan and I were like ‘what the plum are you thinking?’  She didn’t listen, of course, and we were old sticks in the mud who worried too much, you know how it goes.  Thank the Watcher it turned out fine in the end.  But wow, did I worry at the time!  At least Patrick and Maria are waiting until they’re out of university, and they’ve given some thought to their plans for married life, their careers, and beyond.  Though I’m sure my and Susan’s hearts weren’t the only ones that skipped a beat when they just up and rented a house at Sims U together.”

“I was… we’ll say I had serious concerns,” Thornton admitted.  “I’m glad she’s happy, but Maria is her mother’s daughter in a lot of ways.”  He paused.  “Don’t get me wrong.  Even though we’re divorced, I have nothing but respect for Morgana as a person.  We’re just not compatible.  But Maria does share her rose-colored glasses view of the world in a way that concerns me.”

“I understand.  There are plenty out there I could be friends with, but never date, even if I wasn’t happily married.”  Boyd stood.  “It’s been nice talking with you, Thornton, but I’ve got to finish my shopping and get back home.  I’ve got a project waiting that won’t finish itself without me… I hope.”

Thornton didn’t understand what he meant by that last part, but gave his hand a friendly shake regardless.  “Likewise, Boyd.  Give my regards to your wife and family.”

“Will do.  Take care!”

After Iris sold the glow orbs to the shopkeeper at Aleister’s, she looked around.  She’d been there a few times, but there were always new oddities and things to check out.  She wandered over to the gem cutting machine.  They had one at home in their upstairs lab, but the model at the elixir shop was a little more antiquated.  She was looking at the controls when she heard a familiar voice behind her.

It was Lane Mae, visiting the shop with his mother.  “Lane!  Hi!  How’s it going?”

“Hey, Iris.”

He smiled as she approached, and Iris couldn’t help but return it.  Lane had a sweet smile and the lightest, most enticing blue eyes she’d ever seen.  “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“Didn’t think I’d see anyone I knew here, either.  This place is kind of weird, but neat.  My mom grows wolfsbane and red valerian root and sells it here sometimes.  I just tagged along today.”

“Oh, cool.  My parents grow glow orbs they had me come sell.  Do you have a greenhouse, too?”

“More like my living room.  Mom keeps tons of plants and planters in the house.  She can keep them going all winter.  Guess that’s probably not too impressive to you, though.”  He looked at her in the same way he had more than once when they talked at school, and Iris was flattered.  She was pretty sure Lane liked her, and she hoped it was in the way she wanted him to.  Some guys just looked at her that way because she was a plantsim, but others seemed more genuine.  “You can just keep plants alive by just, well, being you, right?”

“It’s not that simple, but it helps.”

Lane met her eyes.  “Well, um… I guess I know who to ask for help if they start turning brown, then.”

“You know, if you want to hang out sometime, you don’t need to ask me as a plant whisperer,” she said on a coy note.

Lane’s blue eyes seemed to shine a bit brighter.  “Oh.  Because I thought… never mind.  Sure.  I’d love to hang out!  Like, maybe later even?  We could go to the movies or get something to eat or, oh, wait, you don’t eat, do you?  That was dumb.”

“No!  It’s fine.  I don’t usually eat, but I can a little, and I make exceptions for things like cake or ice cream.”

“In that case, how about the bakery?  Because they have the best cakes, and I’m a connoisseur when it comes to sweet things.”  He gave her a flirtatious look, but refrained from turning it into a cheesy pick up line, which she appreciated.

“Sounds great!”

“All right!”  Lane almost bounced with enthusiasm.  “What time?”

“Anytime this afternoon, I guess.  I could meet you there.”  She glanced over.  “I’m guessing you rode here with your mom?”

“Yeah.  I can’t drive yet.”

“Me neither.  I feel your pain.  I took a cab here.”

“My mom insists on teaching me herself.”  He groaned.  “She drives like an old lady.  Probably because she is an old lady.”

Iris giggled.  “Tell me about it!  My parents are old as the hills and they drive like it, too.  My dad grabs the handle of the door when he takes me out and acts like every time I go over twenty I’m going to speed off a cliff, and my mom’s not much better.”  She did an exaggerated imitation of Susan nagging.  “‘Watch that stop sign!  You know they’ll give a kid your age a ticket for even one mile over the limit!  Don’t forget the roads are icy this time of year.  I only told you forty times but I better make it forty-one just in case you missed it!’”

“Been there!”  A silence fell between them and their eyes met.  “So, it’s a… date, then?”

“Yeah.  Yeah, it is.”

“Wow.  A date with Iris Wainwright.  Never thought that would happen today.”  He blushed a little.  “Or ever.”

“Really?  Why?  I mean… you’re cute.”  She batted her eyelashes.  “I’ve always kind of thought so.”

“I thought you were, I don’t know.  There’s a rumor going around that you and Lester Sekemoto…”

Iris bit her lip.  She’d heard that rumor, too, and despite her attempts to quell it for Kristal’s sake, it persisted.  Although their flirting at the pool had stayed between them, there was always a vibe of something when she and Lester talked, even casually.  She tried to ignore it, especially because Kristal liked him so much, but Lester didn’t seem to notice and dropped hints showing his interest every so often.  Iris played it cool, but she did find Lester attractive, and sometimes it was hard not to flirt back.  Lester and Kristal were now closer friends, and had bonded over their common background and appreciation of art.  They hung out outside of school together sometimes, but to Kristal’s dismay it hadn’t progressed beyond that.  She was still too shy to confess her feelings to him, but that was because he hadn’t responded to her flirting in a way that was anything but friendly.

“There’s nothing going on there.”  Iris was confident as she said it.  Even if there was an attraction, she wasn’t acting on it.  Besides, she was also attracted to Lane, who as far as she knew, had no other romantic inclinations.  “We’re just friends.”

“I’m glad.  Because I like you, Iris.  I have for a while,” he admitted.

“I like you, too.”

“Then I hope we’ll have fun later.”  He glanced over as his mother called to him from the door.  “Looks like I’ve got to go now.  Did you want to meet at the bakery?  What time?  Is four or five good?”

“Four would be great.  I’ll see you then.”  She watched him leave feeling as fluttery inside as a leaf on the breeze.

After Lane left, Iris decided to just hang around town rather than go home only to have to come back.  She checked out the elixir shop’s dormant garden, then took a cab ride to the bookstore.  When the time to meet Lane drew near, she touched up her makeup in the shop’s bathroom, then got a cab to the bakery.  He was already there.  “Hi!  You look pretty.”

“Not the same as I did before?” she teased.  “It’s the same outfit.”

“You looked pretty then, too, but I thought saying so now was a good way to start a date.”

Iris smiled at him.  “You thought right.  You look pretty good yourself.”

“Thanks.  So, what can I get you?  I’m treating.”

“That’s very sweet of you.  You don’t have to do that.”

“I want to.  I asked, after all.”

“Okay, thank you.”  She looked at the case.  “It all looks so good!  It’s hard to decide.”

“I know.  I think I’m going for the banana cream pie, though.  I haven’t tried that yet.”

“I had it once.  It’s pretty good!  I think I’ll get a cupcake.  That frosting is the best!”

They got their sweets and sat down.  At first, they just chatted casually.  First about school and classes, and then about other stuff.  Lane asked her what her favorite TV shows were.  He was a big fan of many, it seemed, including a couple that she watched, so they talked about that for a little while.  She enjoyed how he enthused and discussed even the most minor details in them, and while she wasn’t as invested as he was in it, it was a fun conversation regardless.  “So of course, they had to kill him.  That’s just how things go in that universe, you know?  What did they think would happen?”

“Yeah, I thought he was pretty stupid, too,” Iris agreed.  “I still liked him, though.  Felt sorry for him that he was that naïve.”

“Me too.  Shame he had to die all because he wanted to dance with his wife one last time.  They’d have let him live if he did what he was told, but no.”

“Maybe she was a really good dancer,” Iris joked.

“Maybe.”  Lane saw an opening for something he wanted to ask.  “Speaking of which, I don’t suppose you have a date for the winter dance?”

“I don’t,” Iris admitted.  “Do you?”

“I will if you say yes.”

She found his roundabout way of asking cute, and giggled.  “Then yes.  I’d love to go with you.”

“All right!  Awesome.”  He straightened, trying to play it just a bit more cool.  “It’ll be fun.”

“It will.”

They shared a happy moment together, and then Lester Sekemoto walked in.  He spotted them right away and came over to say hello.  “Hi.  How’s it going, guys?”  His eyes lingered on Iris in a way that made her feel shaky, and not exactly in a bad way.

“Hi, Lester.”

“Hey.”  Lane remained pleasant, but Iris caught the subtle shift in his demeanor.  Was he jealous, even though she’d assured him that she and Lester were just friends?  A part of her couldn’t help but be flattered.  “Pretty good.  Iris and I just got dessert together.”

“Oh.  Cool.  The stuff here’s great.  Mom sent me over to pick up some bread.  She’s a snob about those artisan loaves.”

“Can’t blame her.  They are the best.  The store stuff could never compare,” Lane agreed.

“Not as good as those cupcakes, though, right, Iris?”  He sat down for a moment, apparently not realizing they were on a date.  Iris could almost see Lane bristle, but she didn’t want to be rude.

“Oh, yeah.  I love them!  Lane was nice enough to treat me.  Which he didn’t have to do before asking me to the winter dance, but it was really nice of him.”

“I was happy to.  I’d never want to be a cheap date, and I’m glad you’re going with me.”

Lester’s eyes lingered on Iris a moment.  “So, you’re going together, huh?”

“We are.”

“And you’re on a date.  Oops.  Sorry I butted in.”  He seemed genuinely contrite as he stood up.  “I didn’t realize.  I’ll go get my bread and head on out.  You two have fun.”

“Sure.  No problem,” said Lane.

“See you later!”

“Later.”  Lester smiled and waved, and headed to the counter.

Iris felt a little awkward watching him go.  She could tell he was disappointed she was going with Lane, and a part of her felt weird about how flattering she found it.  But she was excited to go to the dance and be out with Lane, and now maybe Lester would consider asking Kristal.  Everyone would be happy.

Lane brightened noticeably after Lester left, and he and Iris enjoyed another nice conversation over coffee.  Soon, though, they each got texts from their parents asking when they’d be home, and they had to call their date to an end.

He took her hand.  “I’m really glad you came out with me, and I’m even more glad we’re going to the dance together.  I promise to brush up on my dance moves so I don’t embarrass you.”

“I’m not too worried about that,” she laughed.  “You may not believe this, but my brothers both have better dance moves than I do.  One took ballet as a kid and the other was in drama club and parties.”

“Still bet you’re a lot prettier,” Lane said flirtatiously, and leaned closer.

“You’re sweet to say so.”

“I mean it.”  He met her eyes.  “Iris, I know it’s our first date, but… I’d really like to kiss you.”

She batted her eyelashes at him, and her heart pounded with anticipation.  “I wouldn’t object.”

“I’m glad,” he murmured, and touched his lips to hers.

Back at the mansion, Boyd and Susan were in their secret basement lab beside themselves with excitement.  The project they’d been working on for years, that they’d anticipated for so long and done so much building and planning for, had finally come to fruition.

“This is it.  This is really it!”  Boyd was breathless as he keyed in the sequence.  “We’ve double-checked the calculations, put all the pieces in place.”

“Let’s do it!  Let’s meet our plumbot.”

“A plumbot!  A plumbot, a futuristic Oasis Landing style plumbot, and we built it in the here and now!”  He finished all but the last touch to initiate the awakening process.  “And you’re sure you’re fine with the name?”

Susan chuckled.  “Yes.  It’s cute.  I was just glad you didn’t want something predictable like Mr. Roboto.”

“Nah.  I wouldn’t want to be that cliché.  All right, then.  Let’s welcome him to the world…”  Boyd and Susan exchanged excited smiles as they pushed the button together.  “…Plumboptimus Prime!”

The machine whirred and hummed, and for what felt like an eternal moment, the Wainwrights watched in rapt anticipation as the bot building machine did its work and brought their creation to life.

“There he is!  There he is!”  Boyd was hopping, he was so excited, and Susan let out a giddy squeal.

“Oh, he’s so cool!”

The plumbot stepped out of his chamber and looked around, flexing his joints and taking notice of his surroundings.  He looked at Boyd and Susan, then at his fingers, and made a beeping noise.

“Welcome to the world, Plumboptimus!”  Boyd almost shouted in his excitement, while Susan watched, fascinated and proud.

“Can you hear us?  How do you feel?”

“I… function well.”  His electronic voice was stilted at first, but became smooth as he fully booted up.  He looked at the Wainwrights.  “You are my creators?”

“We are,” Boyd said.  “I’m glad you recognize us.”  He and Susan exchanged a look.  He was functioning in the way the manuals said he should.

Plumboptimus fixed his gaze on Boyd and scanned.  “Boyd Wainwright.”  He did the same with Susan.  “Susan Wainwright.  Creators identified.”

“That’s correct!  Looks like your basic A.I. circuitry is all working just like it’s supposed to,” Susan said, while Boyd picked up the advanced adjustment tool from Oasis Landing.

“Come here.  Let’s switch on your trait chips.”  He and Susan had built several, but they installed the ones they were most confident about.  Plumboptimus lowered his head, and Boyd carefully activated the trait chips that would distinguish Plumboptimus’ skills and personality.  “There we go.  You should be all set now.”  He secured the access port, and Plumboptimus reactivated.

“Welcome back,” Susan told him.  “Can you list your functions?”

Plumboptimus beeped.  “Beep.  Susan, my primary functions are as follows:  Competent Cleaner, Friendly Functions, A.I. Angler, RoBotany Gardener.  I am standing by and awaiting your instructions…”

The Wainwrights exchanged another enthusiastic look.  The chips worked just like they should!  The friendly functions chip expanded his basic socialization traits, and the cleaning and gardening programming would help a great deal around their home.  Although they utilized a maid service, now Plumboptimus could free them from the hassle of mundane tasks like folding laundry or loading the dishwasher.  Having him available to do simple garden maintenance like weeding or fertilizing would also save them time.  The fishing chip would enable him to collect useful specimens that they’d otherwise have to gather themselves.  Neither of them relished the idea of having to fish for hours in a graveyard on some cold night if they needed a wild death fish.

“You’re working great!” said Boyd.  “How about a final tune-up before we introduce you to the family?”

“Very well.”  Plumboptimus powered down, and Boyd handed Susan the adjustment tool.

“Would you like to do the honors?”

“You know it!”  Since he was newly constructed, there wasn’t much maintenance needed, but there were a few things that could be improved with a bit of fine tuning.  She gave him a careful inspection and adjustment.

When she finished, Plumboptimus powered back on.  “Thank you!”  He made a happy gesture that she returned with equal enthusiasm.

“You’re very welcome.  Is there anything else that needs adjusting or attention?”

“No.  I am performing at optimal levels.”

“Great!  All that’s left to do now is introduce you to the rest of the family,” Boyd told him.  “Are you ready for that?”

“I look forward to meeting your family.”

Susan smiled.  “I’m sure they’ll be excited to meet you, too.  Very excited!”

She turned to Boyd.  “Ready to head up?”

“Yeah.”  Their eyes met, and they embraced in excitement.  “We did it, Susan!  Brought the future to life.”

“Never doubted we would, even if it did take longer than we hoped.”

“It’s still worth it.  If only Emit could see us now.”

They glanced over at the portal, still inactive.  “I’d like to think he knows, or knew we’d be doing it.  Though I hoped he might consider this historical moment worth popping in to see.”

“And maybe invite us for a trip back sometime soon.  He said he’d see us again.  Guess there’s still more we’ve got to do that he’s waiting on.”

“I think we could drive ourselves crazy trying to predict what he might do or when he might come.  But I hope it’s not too long.”

“Me too.”

The Wainwrights gathered the household in the living room.  Since Maria was staying with them, she joined them, too.  Plumboptimus was a proud achievement, not a secret, so they were happy to show him off to her as well.

“Whoa!  That is so cool!”  They were all amazed and visibly excited but Orion reacted most enthusiastically.

“Wow!  Is he the project you told me about this morning?” Iris asked, while Patrick stared in amazement.

“Holy plum, did you build that?  It’s awesome!”

“That’s amazing!” exclaimed Maria.

“We did,” Susan said proudly.  “His name is Plumboptimus Prime.  He’s a prototype of a next-level robot with a very advanced A.I.”

“We’ve been working on his design for years,” Boyd continued.  “Now he’s fully functional, and we think you’ll love him as much as we do.”  He and Susan explained the basics about him, what he could and couldn’t do, and how to interact with him.  They were all impressed and excited, and Plumboptimus scanned and greeted each of them in turn.

“I am pleased to meet all of you.  Thank you for making me a part of your family.  I am happy to be here!”  A digital expression akin to a smile flashed across his facial display, and Plumboptimus embraced his place in the Wainwright household, and his new organic family members.

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 83
« Reply #280 on: December 02, 2018, 01:54:53 AM »
(Author's Note: Sorry it's been a while since my last update! I had surgery back in November and it had me out of it for a while, but I'm feeling better now and back on a roll with this again.)

Chapter 83

Soon it was time to start the next term at Sims University.  Chris got up early to pack, and Tad and Esmeralda were there to help and see them off.  Blair was very emotional when it came time to say goodbye.  “I’m so proud of you, but I’m going to miss you so much!”  She hugged him.  “You be careful on that long drive, all by yourself!  I wish Patrick or Maria would ride with you in the van at least part of the way so you’d have company.  Remember it handles a lot clunkier than a regular car.”  She paused.  “Oh, no.  I sound like Dad, don’t I?”

“You said it, not me,” Cycl0n3 said with a smirk.

“I’ll be fine.”

“Riding solo is better than riding in a car with my sister for a zillion miles and hours anyway, trust me,” Tad remarked.  Although they were going as a group, Patrick was driving his car there, and naturally, Maria chose to ride with him.  The plan was for them to lead and Chris to follow in the van with all their stuff. His things were packed, but he’d be going over to his grandparents’ house to meet up and help load their luggage.

“We’re gonna miss you.”  Esmeralda hugged Chris, too.

“I’ll miss you, too. Don’t you and Caleb pick on him too much while I’m gone, even though we both know he’ll earn it,” he teased with a glance at Tad.  Chris had become quite fond of Esmeralda and enjoyed joking around with her.

“Not too much.”  She grinned back at him.

“I’ll only miss you a little, since you still have the bigger room and Mom and Dad won’t let me steal it,” Travis informed him.

“It’s not that much bigger, it’s just that your hoard of monster models fills all the empty space you’ve got.”  Chris ruffled his little brother’s hair in a way that both showed affection and tweaked him at once.  “Remember, without me here, it’s up to you to remind Dad of how uncool he is every five minutes.”

“No problem.  Though I don’t know how he could forget.”  Travis snickered.

Cycl0n3 hugged Chris next. “Yeah, I’ll miss you, too, you wise llama.  One day, you’ll remember this when your kid’s pointing out just how uncool they think you are in your old age.”

“Like you were cool when you were young.”  Chris grinned back at him.

“Or ever,” added Travis.

“Have fun at University. But not too much fun.  Someone needs to stay sober at least part of the time, and I suspect the Captain will be in shore leave mode more often than not.”

“When he’s not glued to my sister’s side, anyway.”  Tad tried to sound upbeat, but now that it was imminent, Chris leaving was really getting to him.

“Well, that’s why I’m studying to be a doctor.  To take care of those in need.  Well, animals, but maybe that can apply to party animals, too.”

“I promised myself I wasn’t going to cry, but…”  Blair sniffled.  “Good luck, sweetie.  Be careful.”

“I will.  And I won’t even tell you that that time, you sounded like Grandma.”

“Oh, you stinker.”

Diddy meowed at his feet, and Chris picked him up.  He started purring and nuzzled against him while Chris bid him goodbye.  “I know you won’t understand, but I’m sorry I’ve got to leave you behind, too.  Mom and Dad and everyone else will take good care of you, though.  They promised.”

“Of course we will!” said Blair.

Chris cuddled and smooched him, and held him for a long moment before setting him gently on the floor. “Goodbye for now.  I love you.”  He petted him on the head.  “Remember, no attacking Travis’ toes at night if you sleep in his room.  Well, not too much, anyway.”

“I’ll kick his fat fluffy butt out and back to your room if he does.”

After saying goodbye, Tad went out to the van with him so they could have a moment alone.  “So, I guess this is it.”  Tad struggled to keep his composure, and Chris hugged him, feeling much the same.

“Yeah.  I’m sorry.  I wish—”

“I know.  But it’s not forever.”  He held on tight.  “Just promise that when you come back we’ll still be…”

“Of course we will!  I promise.  You know that.”

“It’s just… there’s so many other people there.  Stuff you’ll be doing without me.”

“And you’ll be here, too.  We’ll make it.  We will.”

“I think you have less to worry about from the water cooler crowd I work with or the parents of Esme’s friends than I will with a campus full of attractive people looking to party,” Tad said with a cynical smile.  “I trust you, but that’s just the truth.”

“I don’t know.  You told me about how that lady in accounting keeps making eyes at you.”

“Yeah, suffice it to say she wouldn’t be my type even if I wasn’t into guys and with you.  She’s like thirty-five and has all the charm of a disgruntled DMV worker.  Besides, wouldn’t surprise me if she was just buttering me up because I’m a high-ranking exec’s son.  You know how it is with the office plumbob kissing.”

“Yeah, but you’re good at that.”  Chris teased.  “Bet you’ll be promoted before I even get back.”

“Speaking of which… how about one for the road?”  Chris raised his eyebrow playfully, despite how much it hurt to leave him.

Tad pulled him close and kissed him with all the emotion he’d been holding back.  “Call me when you get there,” he said when they broke apart. “And I don’t care whose parents I sound like.”

“You can’t help it. You kind of are one now.”  He met his eyes.  “Bye.  I love you.”

“I love you, too.  Now go on.  Get all educated, college boy.”  Tad’s voice choked up, and he squeezed Chris’ hand.  They embraced and smooched one last time, and then Chris got in the van.   He waved as he drove off, and Tad waved back, as did his parents, Travis, and Esmeralda from the window inside.

It was hard to go, but Chris was as excited about what lay ahead of him as he was regretful to leave his loved ones behind.

Over at the Wainwright mansion, Patrick and Maria also prepared to leave.  They’d already gotten their luggage ready to load so they could hit the road as soon as possible once Chris arrived.  Patrick just finished a final check that he hadn’t forgotten anything when Buddy stopped him in the hall.

“Well, I guess this is it. Off you go for another term of fun, while I get to be bored out of my stuffing here.”  Buddy let out a dramatic sigh.  “You get parties, I get… Alien Boy breaking boards and mooning over his neurotic girlfriend, Flower Girl squeeing to Patchy-kins and the plants over whatever poor sap she’s in love with this week, and the geezers doing old boring nerd things.”  He pouted.  “I can’t even mess with the robot.”  Buddy had tried interacting with Plumboptimus, but he didn’t register on his sensors, and none of Buddy’s attempts at pranking or trolling him elicited any sort of entertaining reaction.

“You’ll figure something out.  Or you can just hibernate like last time.”

“Easy for you to say. You get to go away and party.  You can’t even call me or whatever.  But I guess that’s just how it is.  Who cares if I’m bored?”

Patrick sighed.  It wasn’t the first time Buddy complained about him leaving again.  While Patrick understood, and would even miss him, Buddy also had to get over it.  He wasn’t a kid anymore, and he had to live his life.  “Look, it’s not like I’m disappearing forever, you know?  You made it through last time, you’ll live this time.  It’s not like I’m not coming back.”

“Unless you die there in some kind of grisly accident.  A bad car wreck on the icy road.  Crushed in that wall bed, or maybe under a vending machine like you almost got that one time.”

“The wall bed was in the dorm and it only flipped on us once, and if that machine hadn’t ripped off my simoleon, I wouldn’t have had to kick the plum out of it.  Not my fault some moron didn’t secure it!  I got out of the way.”  He frowned.  “And thanks for happy thoughts on send-off.  Most friends would wish me luck, hope I have a good time…”

“Oh, you know I don’t want you to have a bad time or die, for plum’s sake!  I’m just not looking forward to the soul-crushing boredom while you’re away.  So, go!  Have fun.  Don’t worry about your poor lonely best friend…”

Patrick tried not to roll his eyes at Buddy’s theatrics.  “You’ll be fine.  I’ll be back before you know it, with plenty of new wild party stories to tell.”

“And hopefully none where Maria acts like a crazy llama from hell this time.”

Patrick looked over his shoulder out of habit, even though he knew Maria couldn’t hear him.  “Don’t start with that again.”

“Oh, I know,” Buddy intoned sarcastically.  “Don’t pick on the future wifey.  She’s your beloved and convenient source of woohoo.”


“Fine.”  His doll face formed a hint of a fond smile.  “Have a good term, okay?  I’ll see you when you get back.”

“See you when I get back.”  He patted him on the shoulder, and headed out.

When Chris arrived, he honked the horn loudly and waved from the window.  “Come on, slackers.  We’ve got to hit the road!”

“Yeah, yeah.  I get it.  Enthused freshman can’t wait,” Patrick joked back as he picked up some luggage.  Everyone pitched in to load and the van was packed before long.

“You kids drive carefully,” Boyd said when they were ready to head off.

“My mom just texted to say the same thing,” Maria remarked as she checked her phone, while Chris smirked.

“Tad would’ve done the same for me, too, if he hadn’t back at my house.”

“Well, we all love you, and want you to get there safe.”  Susan hugged Patrick and Chris, then Boyd did the same.

“And remember, the roads really can get bad up there.”

“I know, Dad.  I drove there last term, remember?”

“Chris didn’t.”  Boyd turned to his grandson.  “If Patrick speeds, don’t you speed in that thing to catch up to him.  That van isn’t nearly as stable, especially if it’s windy…”

“I’m not going to speed,” Patrick said.  “Don’t worry.”

“Uh-huh.  I’ve seen you drive.”

“He’s kind of got you there,” quipped Orion.

“Thanks for the help, little brother.”

“So that’s where Travis learned it from,” Chris joked.

“Have fun, guys,” said Iris.  “Enjoy all your wild parties.”

Orion grinned.  “Yeah, and if you wear togas and act like drunken idiots, send pictures!”

“I’ll leave that to Patrick.  I, for one, don’t plan on getting on any walls of fame,” Chris informed them.

“Good thing one of you will stay sensible, then,” Susan teased as they got into their vehicles.  “Drive safe, and have fun.”

“Let us know when you get there safe and sound,” added Boyd.

Plumboptimus beeped and waved.  “Enjoy your voyage to the place of higher learning!”

Iris and Orion also waved.  “Bye!”

Patrick looked up as he got in the car, where Buddy waved from the window.  He waved first to his family, then him, and started the car as Maria buckled in.  “Ready?”

“You bet!”

And with that, Patrick and Maria were off to Sims University once again, and Chris started his first term.

The ride to Sims University was long, but uneventful.  When they arrived, first they went to Henry Hall, the dorm Chris was assigned to, and helped him take his stuff to his room.  Afterward, Patrick and Maria left him to settle in and returned to their rented house.  Once they unpacked, they got in touch with Cid and Liz, and met up with them at the theater to catch up and see a new release.

“Wow, man!  I can’t believe you got engaged over break!  Congratulations, but whoa.  What inspired that?”

“I love her.  Why not?”

“I know, but wow.  I can’t even imagine taking that plunge right now.  I really like Shannon—stuck with her longer than any other girl at this point, that’s for sure—but marriage?  I don’t know.  Don’t think it’s for me.  Maybe someday, but who knows.  Not anytime soon, that’s for sure!”  He shrugged, but smiled.  “Good luck, though.  I hope you’ll be happy.”

“I’m sure we will.  You want to come to Sunset Valley for the wedding?  You’re invited.  Shannon, too, if you want to bring her as a date.”

Cid laughed.  “And risk her catching the bouquet and getting ideas?  You trying to get me roped in, too?”

“Hah.  I wouldn’t do that to you.  I know you’re a free spirit.”  Patrick glanced over at Maria, talking to Liz.  “Besides, she might toss it her way.  Stack the deck for a friend.  Or she might chuck it at our friend Penny, who’s already engaged, but hasn’t made it to the arch yet, despite having a baby with her fiancé already.”

“As long as it doesn’t come near any ladies who might try to use its power on me.”  He looked over at Liz and Maria.  “Liz might be cool with it, though.  She and Alfred are pretty serious.”

“So, he proposed on Feast Day, huh?”

“Yup!  It was so romantic!” Maria gushed.  “He did the whole getting down on one knee thing, all traditional, and told me how much he loved me, how he wanted to spend our lives together, it was perfect!  Oh, and the ring, it’s so pretty!  Let me show you.”

Liz admired the ring as Maria showed it off.  “Very nice. Wow!  Big diamond, too!  But I guess when you’re as rich as he is, anything less would be cheaping out.”

“Yeah, but I’m sure he’d have bought a nice one regardless.  Patrick’s always been sweet like that.  One of the things I adore about him.  He spoils me.”

“You two are always together, that’s for sure.  Well, except for that time after the frat rush.”

Maria frowned at the reminder, but moved past it.  “He knows I didn’t appreciate that, but whatever.  He made it up to me and I’m over it.  I don’t even hate all the sorority girls anymore.  Just that troll Hannah and her little clique of petty witches that hang around with her.”

“They were pretty rude,” Liz agreed.

“So, I hope you’ll come to the wedding?”

“I’d like to.  If I can make it, I will.  Sunset Valley’s a trip for me, and my student loans… well, let’s just say that I don’t think I’ll have much cash for air fare unless I get a sweet job when I graduate.”

That hadn’t occurred to Maria.  “Oh. Well, I hope you can, but I don’t want to put you out.  Having you there would mean a lot, but I don’t want to see you not able to pay your electric bill or anything.”

“Hopefully it won’t be an issue.  They say Sims U graduates are pretty sought after, so let’s hope that’s true, for all our sakes!  Since most of us aren’t as loaded as your fiancé over there.”  She chuckled.

Maria had the thought that she wouldn’t have to work if she didn’t want to or worry about that, but then wondered if Liz or anyone else thought she only loved Patrick because of his family’s wealth.  “You know his money doesn’t matter to me, right?”

Liz blinked, surprised.  “Yeah.  Of course.  I was just saying.”

“Okay.  Because I’m not like that.”  While it was true that Maria was used to a certain standard of living and would be unhappy with any downgrade, and Patrick being the son of millionaire scientists was certainly nice, she was insulted to think that anyone might believe that was why she was with him.

“No.  I didn’t think you were.”

“Okay.  Good.  Just wanted to clear that up.”  She straightened.  “Looks like the show will be starting soon.  We should probably head in.”

While Patrick and Maria caught up with their friends, Chris spent his first day on campus settling in and getting to know his roommates and dorm-mates.  His roommate, Leonard, was nice enough, and given how often they bumped into each other and knocked things over in the shared space, it was clear they had a lack of coordination in common.  Luckily, they could each laugh about it, although Chris noticed that Leonard was a bit anxious about some of his possessions.  He treated them with an almost obsessive level of care, most likely because of his clumsiness.  He found out the hard way that Leonard was a light sleeper, too, so Chris got used to being extra quiet so as not to disturb him when he was awake and Leonard wasn’t.

Despite the adjustment of having a roommate with different habits than his, he and Leonard got along well, and became friends.  He was a science and medicine major like Chris, and they studied together often and had some classes together.  In addition to having some shared geeky interests, Leonard was also a great cook.  That was nice because Leonard often puttered around in the dorm’s community kitchen and shared what he made, which saved Chris some cash on pizza and burger joint runs.

Chris became friends with several of his dorm mates.  Unlike Maria and Patrick, he enjoyed the dorm lifestyle and the various personalities that lived there.  They liked his easygoing manner and sense of humor, and during downtime he often played video games or pool with them.  He wasn’t exactly a natural at pool, but it was fun anyway, and he learned a few trick shots before the end of the term.

While Patrick and Maria primarily hung out with their artsy friends on campus, Chris’ friends tended to be either nerdier or sportier types.  The science and medicine major attracted nerdy types with similar interests to him, and unlike his couch potato uncle and girlfriend, Chris checked out the campus gym right away.  He wasn’t vain, exactly, but he wished he was stronger and more muscular.  His regular practice of martial arts had him in good shape, but next to some of the jocks he still felt like a complete beanpole despite that.  Back home, he and Tad had worked out together and encouraged each other.  Chris didn’t want to give up his routine just because he was away at Sims U.  Maybe Tad would even be pleasantly surprised and appreciative of his gains while he was away.  That was motivating, especially because he missed him so much.

His gym time wasn’t all grueling workouts, though.  He made friends with a regular, Skip, who became a workout buddy.  They would go through their routines, and then cool down with a game of table tennis at the end.  Chris was about as good at that as he was at pool, but he got better with practice.

Skip had joked that Chris was probably the most uncoordinated person he’d ever played against, and Chris couldn’t really argue, but he kept at it anyway.  “One day, I will defeat you,” he vowed jokingly, just as the ball hit him squarely in the eye.  He rubbed it.  “But not today.”

“Hey, at least you’re only pretty far behind me this time instead of way behind.”

“Do I get points for the black eye?”

“Ah, what the plum.”  He laughed.  “I’ll give you a bonus for that.”

University wasn’t all fun and games for Chris, though.  He took his academics seriously and applied himself just as hard as he had in high school, if not harder.  Although the lectures could get tedious, he liked the science labs and using the high-tech equipment.  He had a natural aptitude for science and math, and aced those classes easily.

Chris wasn’t the only one working hard.  Patrick and Maria put forth the same effort in their second term as they did their first, and did their best in their higher-level classes.  As a communications major, Maria had a broadcasting class that required her to do advanced work in the field, rain or shine.  Unfortunately, it was miserable cold and wet weather more often than not.  She persevered through the class, but it left her determined to never work in any kind of news or weather reporting job that would require her to do that sort of thing on the regular.

One of Patrick’s classes was an evening voice class held at the Grotto.  Although his preferred style of music was to just play his guitar, professional training in singing would round out his resume and help him stand out more in auditions.  It was harder than he first imagined it would be, but he came to enjoy it.  He liked being on stage and performing, and singing reminded him of when he and Maria used to do drama club and karaoke back in high school.

His teacher complimented him as he finished his exercise.  “Very nice.  You’ve improved since last time, and you’re much better than when you started.  Keep practicing.  I expect you to impress me again with more progress next class.”

“Will do,” he promised with a smile.

Sometimes Patrick just practiced singing in the shower, or he serenaded Maria with love tunes when they were alone and being romantic.  She loved being wooed with a spur-of-the-moment French or Chinese love song, or when he’d get out his guitar and sing along to a popular ballad as he played it.

Other times, Patrick picked something that informally mimicked the stage feel.  B’s Bowlarama put in a new karaoke area over break, and even though that hangout was frequented by a sportier crowd than the Grotto, it still made for a fun evening out.  One night, Patrick got on the karaoke machine while their friend Millie, who shared a major with Patrick and Maria’s love of reading and romance, talked her into a game of bowling with her.   Maria lamented that she was “embarrassingly horrible” at bowling, but played anyway.

She sighed as her ball veered toward the side and only knocked down three pins at the end.

“Hey, at least it wasn’t another gutter ball.”

“Easy for you to say. You’re beating me by 60 points.”  Maria sulked.  Although she wasn’t a bad sport, exactly, she never enjoyed losing any game so badly.

“Maybe you should try a lighter ball.  I don’t think that one’s right for you.”

“But it’s the third one I’ve tried,” she whined.  “Maybe I just suck at this.  I think once this game is up, I’m going to sit it out.”

Millie was disappointed, but nodded.  “If that’s what you want.”

“Yeah.”  The song changed, and Maria heard Patrick’s voice over the crowd and the music, followed by a new voice, a female one.  She looked over and frowned.  Some girl was on the karaoke stage with Patrick, singing with him.

When Millie finished her turn, she noticed the dark look on Maria’s face as she stared at Patrick and his companion singing a popular duet together.  “Tiffany’s not too bad,” Millie remarked.

Maria’s frown deepened.  “You know her?”

“She lives on my floor.  She’s pretty nice.  Phys ed major.”

“Then what’s she doing singing with my boyfriend?”

“Just having fun, probably.  I wouldn’t worry about it.”

“Hmph.”  Maria took her turn and chucked her ball toward the pins, that time with more force, but it went straight to the gutter.  She fared no better with her second, and as soon as her turn was over, she straightened.  “Well, I’m going to find out.”

The song ended as Maria made her way over.  “Nice.  You hit that high note well.  Do you take voice classes, too?” Maria heard Patrick ask his impromptu companion.

“No.  I just do it for fun.  I like to sing along when I’m driving, too.  I take it you’re a fine arts major?”

Patrick nodded.  “Yeah.  Focus on music, though guitar is my specialty, not singing.  The karaoke just makes good practice for voice class.  I love painting, too, but it’s more a hobby thing for me.”

“Well, you’ve got a nice voice.  You should keep at it.  It was fun singing with you.  If you ever want to duet again, let me know.”

“Sure,” he replied, just as Maria approached.  Patrick noticed that she seemed upset, and wondered what was wrong.

“Did you have fun?”  Maria’s tone was polite, but had a distinctly frosty edge that Patrick picked up on immediately.

“Yeah.  After I finished the song before it, Tiffany offered to come up and do a duet with me.  We went with that one since it’s got a catchy beat.”

“I think we pulled it off pretty well,” Tiffany remarked.

“You were good,” Maria agreed, although her tone remained cool.

“Tiffany, this is my girlfriend, Maria.”

“Nice to meet you,” said Tiffany.  “Your boyfriend’s a blast to sing with.”

“Yes, he is,” Maria said with a possessive emphasis.  “He and I used to sing together a lot.”  She shot him a look, which Patrick didn’t appreciate.  He knew Maria could get jealous, but it wasn’t like he was flirting with Tiffany, or she’d been anything but friendly.

“Maria’s a communications major,” he volunteered, hoping to smooth it over.  “Her homework generally has her buried in books or on the computer instead of serenading the bowling leagues.”

“Ah, gotcha.  Anyway, I see my bowling partner finally got here, so I’m going to go get my game started.”  She waved to someone who’d just come in.  “It was nice meeting you guys.  See you later!”

 “So, what was with that?” Patrick asked once Tiffany was out of earshot.

“What was with that?  Nothing.  I’m just glad you had such a good time singing with her.  What a lovely harmonious duet you make.”

“Aw, seriously?”  Patrick groaned.  “You’re bent out of shape because some girl did karaoke with me?”

When he put it that way, Maria had to agree it sounded petty, but it didn’t change the fact that it did bother her.  “Well…no.  Not exactly.”

“What, then?  It wasn’t like she was flirting or anything.  She was just friendly.”

“Yes, very friendly,” Maria said sulkily.

“She wasn’t hitting on me, Maria.  And you know I wasn’t flirting with her.”

“Maybe not, but…”

“But what?” Patrick argued.

“I don’t like you singing romantic duets with other girls, okay?” she snapped.  Her voice took on a teary note as she continued.  “Remember back when we used to do it together?”

“Yeah, of course I do.”

“Remember when we imagined being on stage together, and even though I was going to do my writing and you were going to do music, you said if you ever needed a female vocalist, I’d be the first you’d call?”

Patrick took a deep and frustrated breath.  “Oh, come on. I meant like in a band, on stage, doing gigs.  Not freaking karaoke for plum and giggles at the bowling alley.  When you were busy playing a game with Millie anyway, I might add.”

“Even still!  You could’ve waited and asked me if you wanted to do a duet.”

She asked me!  Is it really that big a deal I said yes?”  His tone grew heated in his frustration, and it only upset Maria more.

“It is when you sing a freaking love song!  Maybe it’s not a big deal to you now that you’re singing all the time for class, but that dream of being on stage with you someday still means something to me.”

“Oh, my Watcher!  I never said it didn’t mean anything to me, Maria!  You know it does!  What do you want?  Me to not sing with anyone else, ever?”  Their raised voices were beginning to draw stares, but Patrick didn’t notice or care.

Maria did, and she dialed back her tone to polite but icy.  “Of course not.  Just… just please don’t sing love songs with other girls like that, even on karaoke, okay?  Maybe Tiffany wasn’t flirting, but there are girls that definitely would read into it.  I wouldn’t go singing ‘My Plumbob Spins For You’ with some random guy without seeing if you minded first, you know.”

Patrick sighed.  “All right.  Fine.”  He glanced at the door, no longer in any mood to sing or bowl.  “Are you done with your game?  Because I’d like to get out of here.”

Maria’s tone softened now that they’d come to an agreement.  “Yeah.  Me too.  Let’s go home.”

The mood seemed to improve in the car, and they had a pleasant conversation unrelated to the argument in the bowling alley.  However, when they got home and Patrick rubbed Maria’s shoulders suggestively and leaned in for a smooch, her response was lackluster.  “Not tonight.  I’ve got to work on that paper due before the weekend.”

“All right.”  Patrick could tell that it wasn’t out of academic duty, but because she was still a bit miffed.  “I’ll let you be, then.  Guess you’ll want quiet to write?”

“Whatever’s fine.  If you want to practice your music, I’ll just put headphones on.”

“Nah, don’t worry about it.  I’ll paint.”

While Maria headed off to the computer, though, Patrick didn’t go straight to the easel.  Instead he went to their bar, and poured himself a strong juice.  It was a blend that in a better mood he called liquid inspiration, but that night, it felt more like something to cool a low burning fire deep inside.

Maria was still working on her paper when Patrick finished painting, and her mood improved after getting her mind off of things for a few hours.  When Patrick told her he was going to bed, she gave him a warm hug and kiss goodnight.  He went to bed happier, too, and Maria returned to her paper.  She decided to get as much as she could done since she was on a roll, and could sleep in the next day since she didn’t have any early classes.

Around two in the morning, Maria was suddenly distracted, and noticed strange lights in the sky outside.  “What the plum?”  She wondered what it could be.  Sims University was farther north than Sunset Valley, but not far enough north to get northern lights.  Curious, she put on her coat and went outside to get a better look.

It was cold, and as she went off the porch, she had the thought that her outdoor broadcasting class must’ve rubbed off on her if she was impulsively going outside in the middle of the night in the freezing cold to look at some weather phenomenon.

When she got clear of the porch, she looked up.  The lights were bright, and very close to the house.  What was that?  That wasn’t any kind of weather she’d ever heard of.  Then she thought she heard an engine, but what airplane had lights like that?  Was it a helicopter?  Sometimes the police looked for people growing illegal herbs that way, but that didn’t look like a spotlight…

She was still trying to puzzle out the mystery when the craft dipped low, and a bright beam burst forth from the strange lights and engulfed her.  Maria shrieked, startled, and then screamed louder when she tried to step back and realized she could barely move.  Then, to her horror, she was involuntarily lifted up off the ground.  She screamed again, terrified.  “Help!  Patrick!  PATRICK!  HELP!”

Unfortunately, Patrick was fast asleep, and with the windows and doors all closed, he never heard her.

“Patrick!  Oh, my Watcher!  HELP ME!”  Maria screamed again as she was pulled up into the air, toward what she could see was definitely no helicopter, but some otherworldly looking craft.  It was like something out of some sci-fi horror movie, only it was real, and it was happening to her!

Maria screamed and cried, but it was to no avail.  The beam pulled her in, flailing and screaming in futile protest.  Once it had her, the ship whirred off into the night sky while Patrick slept alone inside, blissfully unaware that aliens had just abducted his fiancée.

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 84
« Reply #281 on: December 18, 2018, 09:26:19 PM »
Chapter 84

The next thing Maria remembered was standing dizzy and disoriented on the sidewalk in front of her and Patrick’s off-campus house.  For a second, she thought she saw someone beside her, a man, but there was a flash of light and he was gone.  Groggy, she blinked, and realized that no one was there.  She was alone after all.

She shivered and tried to remember what she was doing out there.  The lights.  She’d gone out to look at weird lights in the sky.  She glanced up, but they were gone.  Then she remembered the beam pulling her up to that weird ship, and… nothing.  Nothing else.

Oh, my Watcher!  Was I abducted by aliens?!

Immediately, she dismissed her panicked thought as crazy.  That kind of thing was the subject of cheesy TV shows like the guy with the big hair who talked about aliens, or tabloid fodder.  Entertaining sometimes, but certainly not real.  Right?

Maria shivered again.

Of course she was right!  She hadn’t been abducted by aliens.  That was ridiculous!  She was a rational, intelligent woman who didn’t buy into that kind of fringe weirdo nonsense.  There had to be a reasonable explanation.

“Sleepwalking.  I must’ve… sleepwalked out here.  Fell asleep writing my paper, had a weird dream, and because I was so stressed and out of it earlier, I just… acted it out while I was asleep.”

It would explain why she didn’t remember much in the way of details, and why she felt so groggy, after all.  Dreams rarely made much sense when considered while awake, no matter how real or intense they felt while dreaming.  It was a little odd that she’d put on her coat while sleepwalking, but it was certainly more plausible than an alien abduction, for plum’s sake!

She comforted herself with that relatively reasonable explanation, and took one last anxious look around before heading inside.  Aliens!  How silly that she thought that.  She and Patrick had really been watching too much late-night TV lately, hadn’t they?  Maria wondered if maybe her time staying at his family’s house had influenced her subconscious or something.  His parents were quirky scientists, after all, and they had their futuristic robots and the weird satellite thing out in the yard that picked up signals from all around the world and even searched for them in space.  Boyd had explained all that to her, in somewhat long-winded detail one night over dinner, when she’d asked out of curiosity what it was.

Still, she was unsettled, and the sleepwalking explanation felt hollow and uncertain.  “I’m just tired,” she mumbled as she came back in.  “Got to get some sleep.”  Maria took off her coat and changed for bed, and noticed it was almost five in the morning.  Weird.  She could’ve sworn it was only like two when she got up from working on her paper.  She supposed she’d conked out good at the computer before her chilly sleepwalk.

Once she was warm under the covers with Patrick, she relaxed.  He was out like a light, and barely stirred when she got in bed beside him.  He rolled over when she laid her arm across his torso, and everything felt right again.  Maria drifted off to sleep, but she couldn’t dismiss her odd sleepwalking dream entirely.  It had felt so real…

They woke up a little after 10, since neither had class until the afternoon.  Maria probably could’ve slept longer, but despite how tired she was, she only slept lightly after her experience the night before.  When Patrick woke up, so did she, and she got up with him.

“Oh, I was trying to be quiet.  I figured you’d be down for the count,” he remarked as they got out of bed.  “I rolled over a couple times last night and you weren’t there yet.  I think the last time was like 4:30ish.  You practically pulled an all-nighter on that paper, huh?”

“Not really.”  Maria’s disjointed memories came back to her in full force, and even in the light of morning, they left her with an unsettled feeling.  “Something weird happened last night.  I had a… a really crazy dream.”

“Not the good kind of crazy, I take it?  Was it a nightmare?”

“No.  I mean, yes, kind of.  It wasn’t monsters chasing me or a serial killer after me or anything like that, but… it was very weird.  And creepy.  I can’t remember it too well, but I sleepwalked during it!  That kind of freaked me out.”

Patrick was also concerned.  “Sleepwalked?  That’d freak me out, too.  You’ve never done that before, have you?  Are you okay?  What happened?”

“I feel all right, other than being weirded out from it.  I was working on my paper, and I guess I fell asleep.  I woke up outside, and all I remember from the dream was being at my computer, which was strange, because it was like I was still awake when I wasn’t?  Anyway, I saw these weird lights in the sky through the window.  They looked like the northern lights, which is why I’m sure at that point I was actually asleep and dreaming because that doesn’t even happen around here, and I put on my coat and went outside to check them out.”

Patrick’s eyes widened as she recounted the details of her “sleepwalking” dream, but he remained silent until Maria finished.

“So, when I got outside, the lights were really close.  Right above our house!”  She let out a nervous chuckle.  “I think I remember now even wondering if maybe I should wake you up to see them.  But I didn’t get a chance, because I was staring at them trying to figure out what they were.  Then I heard this engine and I realized it was some kind of aircraft.  I thought maybe a helicopter, with a spotlight, but it was so weird!  Not like a spotlight at all.”  She shook her head.  “It sounds so ridiculous talking about it now.  Especially because right after that, the lights got really bright and turned into this kind of tractor beam!  Crazy, I know, but I was so scared because it yanked me up off the ground, and I couldn’t even move!”

She shuddered as she recalled the details so vividly.  “I was pulled up into a spaceship or something.  Like those stories you see in sci-fi shows!  That’s where the dream gets all hazy, and I don’t remember the rest.  Then, the next thing I know, I wake up on the freaking sidewalk, standing there.  At first, I thought someone was with me, but I was so out of it, I was waking up and it was just part of the dream, too, because no one was there.  Once I was totally awake, there were no lights or anyone else, or anything weird at all.  Just me in my coat, my freaking coat!  I sleepwalked and put on my coat, Patrick!  I know I was focused pretty hard on my paper and kind of stressed, but what the hell?”  She felt shaky as she finished.  Telling the story made it feel real, even though she believed it was just a dream.

Patrick knew better, and he pulled her into a comforting embrace.

“That’s never happened to me before,” she sniffled into his shoulder.

“Hey, you’re okay now.  You’re here with me.”  He whispered gently to her, but inside, he was enraged.  Maria thought it was just a dream, but her “sleepwalking” experience sounded almost exactly like what his father told him happened on the night he’d been abducted and impregnated with Orion.  It was hard for him to stay calm while he reassured her.  It was bad enough that they did it to his father all those years ago, but now they’d done it to Maria, too.  Obviously, she’d have to be told the truth about Sixam, the aliens, and Orion now, rather than waiting until after the wedding.  He decided he’d call his parents first, though.  They knew more about Sixam than he did, and he wanted his facts straight before telling Maria anything.  “Just try to get your mind off of it for now.”  He rubbed Maria’s shoulders while trying to keep a lid on his temper.  “Take a long shower, relax, take it easy.”

“What if I sleepwalk again, though?”

“I’ll stick close to you at bedtime.  Try not to worry about it.  We’ve got this.  You’ll be fine.  I promise.”  He pulled her close and smooched her.  “Go unwind in the shower, and I’ll make coffee and breakfast.  Pumpkin pancakes, extra buttery, just the way you like it.  I’ve just got to, uh, make a call first.”

“Okay.”  She nuzzled against him for a moment, grateful for the comfort, and then let go.  “I’m glad you were here.  I love you so much.”

“I love you, too, and I’ll always be there for you.”

“Thanks.”  She headed off to the bathroom.

Boyd and Susan were working on research at the lab when Boyd got a call from Patrick.  It surprised him, because normally, he didn’t call during working hours just to chat.  He hoped everything was all right.  “Hi, Patrick?”

“Dad.”  It was clear from his tone that it was not, and immediately, Boyd worried.  “I need to talk to you and Mom, now.”

Boyd called over to Susan, who set aside her project and came over.  “Okay.  Are you all right?”

“No!  I’m furious!  The aliens abducted Maria last night!”

Boyd’s heart skipped a beat, and he hoped he heard him wrong.  “What?”

“What’s going on?” Susan asked, while Patrick started ranting and raving on the other end.

“Wait, wait!  Calm down,” Boyd interrupted, trying not to panic.  “Hold on.  Let me put you on speaker so your mom can hear.”  They were alone in the top secret area of the facility, so privacy was not a concern.

“Patrick, what happened?”

“Like I was telling Dad, one of Orion’s bio mom’s alien pals grabbed Maria last night, right out of our house!  She was up late working on a paper, and they suckered her out there and grabbed her off the sidewalk with a tractor beam!”

“Oh, my Watcher.”  Susan drew a sharp breath, while Boyd broke into full on crisis mode, almost hyperventilating as he fired questions at Patrick.

“Are you sure?  They took her?  What happened?  Is she all right?  What did she say?  What did you tell her?  Tell me, exactly!”

“I was asleep.  She was up late working on a paper and saw the lights, just like you said you did back when they grabbed and probed you.  She went outside and thought she saw a ship, and then it hit her with a tractor beam and pulled her up, and she couldn’t move.  The same deal like you told me!  And just like you, she didn’t remember plum afterward.  She said she was just standing on the sidewalk, out of it and wondering what the hell happened!”

“Oh, no.  No, no, no, no!  They can’t do this.  They can’t do this!  She promised!  She promised!”

“You’re freaking right they can’t!  I’m going to—”

Susan forced herself to stay calm while Boyd freaked out and Patrick raged.  “Patrick, please calm down.  How is Maria?  Is she okay?”

“She’s upset and confused.  She thinks she went sleepwalking and it was a dream.  But it really messed with her, and you know it was no freaking dream!  If those alien llamas think they’re going to get away with screwing with my fiancée, they’ve got another thing coming!  This stops now, one way or another!  I’m going to tell Maria everything.  I’m not waiting for the wedding.  And I suggest you guys get on your intergalactic satellite whatever to Eni Jish Xip, and tell her to tell her buddies to knock it the plum off and keep their creepy probes off of the woman I love, or I’m going to hop right in my car, drive back to Sunset Valley, and take the Galaxa to Sixam myself and give them a laser probe!”

“NO!”  Both Boyd and Susan shouted.

“Patrick, just… don’t even joke about that!” Boyd added, agitated.

“I’m not joking, and so help me, if they put some alien baby in her against her will—”

“Unlikely,” Boyd cut in, doing his best to calm himself.  “Eni Jish Xip said they don’t do that with female subjects because of hormonal interference, or the possibility of a natural pregnancy complication.  You shouldn’t have to worry about that, at least.”

“But if she does feel sick, or anything feels off, let us know.  We’ll do whatever we can to help,” Susan offered.

“We’ll contact Eni Jish Xip and find out what’s going on.  She promised years ago that there’d be no more abductions, that they’d leave us alone aside from keeping in touch with Orion, but even that she’s supposed to clear with us until he’s an adult.  That should apply to your fiancée, too.”

“And we’ll make sure she understands that.  For now, just take care of Maria and let us handle this.”

“We’ll let you know as soon as we hear back,” Boyd finished.

“All right.  Then I guess I’ll go make breakfast and tell Maria that her dream was an alien llama load over pancakes.  Let me know when you hear anything.  Bye.”

After Patrick hung up, Boyd fell apart.  “I don’t believe they did this to us again!  Again!”

“Maybe they didn’t consider Maria a member of the family yet,” Susan mused.  “Though that’s a shady technicality.”

“I thought better of her.  I thought she understood!  She said she was sorry for traumatizing me, for the stuff they’d done.  I thought she meant it!”

“I thought so, too.  Maybe she didn’t know, and whoever abducted Maria never told her.”

“But still!  How could they think taking our son’s fiancée wouldn’t upset us?  They know how I feel about what they did to me!  Why would Maria be any different?  Did they decide because Patrick’s off limits, they’d just take her instead?  Why?”

Susan had no idea, either.  “Not to implant her at least, presumably.”

“Implant.  Heh.  Yeah, maybe not an embryo, but what if they’re chipping us now?  Like lab animals?  Putting trackers in us?”

“They shouldn’t be doing that, either.”

“I know!  Come on.  We’ve got to get to the bottom of this, and find out what the hell they’re up to!  Before Patrick does something rash and sparks some interplanetary incident!”  He shuddered at the thought of him actually attempting to get in the Galaxa and fly to Sixam on some suicidal revenge mission.

Fortunately, they were already at the lab, which was where they had the best equipment for communication with Sixam.  They went straight to the high security room where it was kept and entered the sequence to signal Eni Jish Xip directly.  After what felt like an eternal minute and a half, she answered and her face appeared on the screen.  “Boyd Wainwright and Susan Wainwright.  This is an unexpected contact.  Has something happened to Orion Wainwright?”

“No.  Orion’s fine,” said Boyd.

“This isn’t about him.”

She regarded them with a puzzled look.  “What is the reason for your contact, then?”

“You really don’t know?”  Susan raised an eyebrow, while Boyd started ranting.

“We just got a call from our son at Sims University saying your people abducted Maria Wolff right out of his house last night!  You terrified the poor girl, and to say Patrick’s upset would be a gross understatement!”

Eni Jish Xip seemed genuinely taken aback by the Wainwrights’ anger.  “Terrified?  But I was informed that her post-abduction suggestion that her experience was a dream triggered properly.  You are saying she has been traumatized?”

“You’re saying you knew?”  Susan gaped back at her, and Boyd lost it.

“Of course she was traumatized!  That’s the kind of thing that happens when you abduct someone and probe them and mind-wipe them!  I told you that!  I—” 

“I understand, Boyd Wainwright, and I apologize again for how upsetting your experience was for you.  Unfortunately, your post-abduction suggestion did not trigger the way it was supposed to due to your psychological makeup.  We have refined our protocols since then to take such things into account.  But Maria Wolff’s profile indicated that she does not have the anxiety levels nor the inclination to question phenomena that you do, which we now know can cause a subject’s mind to override and reject the standard subliminal triggers.  She should not have needed the advanced protocol.”

“She shouldn’t need any protocol, because you shouldn’t have abducted her!” Boyd snapped back.  “I can’t believe you did this, after you promised you wouldn’t!”

“You said you’d leave our family alone,” Susan asserted.

Eni Jish Xip frowned.  “I am confused.  Has your son Patrick Wainwright married Maria Wolff?  I was under the impression that they were still only cohabitating prior to officiating their pair-bond?  I thought that meant she was not yet a part of your family as per your Earth customs?”

Boyd was almost beyond words as she confirmed that it was indeed the loophole Susan wondered about.  “You’re using that technicality to justify abducting my son’s fiancée?  Really?!”

“Unbelievable,” Susan muttered, chortling darkly to herself that she hated being right.

“Just—I can’t even comprehend—why can’t you just leave us alone like you said you would?  You said you wanted to make things right!  We tried to move on, get over it, and then you do go and do this?”

“I am so sorry, Boyd Wainwright.”  Eni Jish Xip was truly contrite and confused.  “I had no idea.  This was intended as a gift to your family, not an act of aggression or a slight.”

“A gift?!”

Susan stared back in disbelief.  “How on Earth, if you’ll pardon the expression, could something like this be a gift?”

“Tell me you didn’t break your own rules and impregnate her with a hybrid,” Boyd ranted as he imagined Patrick’s reaction to that, and the potential catastrophic fallout.  “Oh, my Watcher.”

“No, of course she has not been implanted.  That is strictly against all abduction protocols on female subjects.  Now, to answer your question, Susan Wainwright, we took Maria Wolff for a physical examination and screening because she will soon be a member of your family.  Since you and Boyd Wainwright have taken such exceptional care of Orion Wainwright and assisted me personally in understanding Earth customs, I wanted to express gratitude by ensuring that your son’s mate is in optimal health and fertility prior to joining your family.  Our medical technology can identify and repair numerous issues before your Earth medicine would even detect them.  I would have done the same for Cycl0n3 Sw0rd had he not already been a member of your family and married to your eldest offspring when we made our agreement.  Fortunately, it seems there were no issues, and your second-generation offspring through him and your daughter appear to be thriving.”  She paused, contrite.  “If I have overstepped my bounds, I sincerely apologize.”

Boyd and Susan exchanged a dumbfounded look.  Not only did Eni Jish Xip know about the abduction, she’d planned it as some odd sort of wedding gift.  “Wow,” Boyd said after a moment.

Susan tried to be diplomatic.  “Okay.  We… appreciate your intentions.”

“But let’s get one thing clear,” Boyd emphasized.  “No more.  Don’t do this again to any of us, or to any of our kids’ significant others, or their kids and significant others, please.  That means not Maria, and not her brother Tad, either.  Chris loves him as much as Patrick does Maria.  So please don’t take them, or their little half-brother, or Tad’s foster daughter, or their parents.  Treat them like our family.”

“All right.  If you feel that strongly about it, I will oblige.”

“Thank you,” said Susan, while Boyd continued.

“And while we’re at it, let’s add Tara Keaton to that list, too, and the boy Iris has been going out with.  Lane Mae.”

Eni Jish Xip raised an eyebrow.  “Lane Mae can be removed as an acceptable subject easily enough, but given Orion Wainwright’s emotional connection to Tara Keaton, the probability is strong that he could procreate with her at some point, if they remain romantically bonded as they are now.  Especially considering they do not abstain from non-reproductive mating.  Screening a hybrid’s potential mate is standard procedure.  Incidentally, it was Maria Wolff’s abduction that was outside our protocols.  I pushed for it as a favor.”  She frowned.  “Although, I will say Tara Keaton’s psychological profile will require an advanced and specialized post-abduction procedure to ensure a proper memory wipe and avoid trauma.  I had hoped to ask you how to best avoid those complications with her when the time came.”

“Yeah, like I said, we’d really appreciate it if you didn’t abduct Tara,” Boyd asserted.  “Orion won’t take anyone hurting her any better than Patrick did Maria.”

“Possibly worse,” added Susan.  While Orion didn’t have Patrick’s temper, he could summon meteors with his powers, and had immediate access to the Galaxa.  Neither of the Wainwrights wanted to imagine what he might be capable of if his kind nature was pushed to real rage and anger.

“I cannot promise that.  I can assure you that our agreement with your family will be honored as it was made, and I can make earnest suggestions to my colleagues, but what you are asking is, as you say on your world, above my pay grade to promise.  Should the decision be made to take Tara Keaton prior to any official joining of your family, I can only ensure she gets treated with the utmost of care and respect.  Like you, I have no wish to see the girl traumatized, just as I did not Maria Wolff.”  She redirected to that subject.  “So, Maria Wolff recalls the abduction?  She does not believe her experience was merely a strange dream?”

“From what Patrick said, she does for now.  But it upset her so much that she told him about it, and he knew it wasn’t a dream.  That’s why he called us right away.  He’s telling her what really happened to her right now,” Susan informed her.

“And, for the record, it’s only because we talked him out of doing something stupid that he’s not on his way here now to hash it out with you guys personally via the Galaxa’s lasers.”

“Oh, that would be an extraordinarily ill-advised thing for him to do!  I cannot stress enough that the probability of him surviving such an attempt is all but nonexistent.  Even if the full space travel abilities of that Galaxa were activated, the odds of him navigating safely to Sixam or one of our satellite colonies or ships without perishing are dangerously low for an inexperienced pilot, and that is without factoring in our standard defense protocols toward aggressive spacecrafts.  Please do whatever it takes to stop him from doing anything so foolish!”

“Yeah, we figured as much,” Boyd said.  “We got him calmed down this time, but that’s a great example of why we don’t want our family members or the people they love abducted anymore.”

“I understand, Boyd Wainwright, and as I said, I will honor your wishes to the best of my ability.  I apologize that Maria Wolff’s experience upset her and your son Patrick Wainwright.”

“Thank you.  Glad we got that straightened out.”

“But since you did take Maria, we need to do some damage control now,” Susan said.  “I’m sure she’ll have questions, and so will Patrick.  You said you didn’t impregnate her, but did you do anything else beyond the medical exam?  Anything that might make her feel sick or pain or that might have side effects?”

“You didn’t implant her with any kind of chip or tracker, right?”

“No.  I explicitly instructed them not to do that.  I remember how you feel about such devices, useful as they are to us.”

“So, Maria’s all right, then?  We can tell Patrick there’s nothing to worry about?  It was just an exam, she’s healthy and fine, and you’re going to leave her alone from here on out?”

Eni Jish Xip nodded.  “Yes.  That would be an accurate statement.  Let me double-check the report to be certain.”  She turned away from the screen and returned a moment later with a device.  “I have the details here.  Maria Wolff is in good health, although her metabolic readings trend lower than average for a subject her age, and she would benefit from regular physical exertion.  It would also increase her low levels of muscle mass.”

Susan chortled.  “Well, I think I’ll pass on telling my future daughter-in-law that the aliens said she was out of shape and should hit the gym.  I know how I’d have taken that if my mother-in-law said it.”

“About like you did when she said you’d lose Blair’s baby weight faster if you didn’t crash on the couch after work every night, I imagine,” Boyd remarked before turning back to the screen.  “Anything else?”

“Other than a minor genetic anomaly we rectified where there was a protein suppressing an otherwise beneficial gene, no.  Maria Wolff should feel fine and experience no ill effects from our examination.  If she and Patrick Wainwright choose to procreate, they should have no trouble conceiving or having healthy and vital offspring together.”

“Good to know.  We’re all for more healthy grandchildren, in due time anyway,” Susan replied, while Boyd nodded in agreement.  While they’d adore any children Patrick had, they hoped he and Maria would wait until they were out of university and married before jumping into parenthood and all of its responsibilities and stresses.

“That is all, then.  Was there anything else you needed to discuss with me?  You said Orion Wainwright is fine?  He is doing well?”

Although they had mixed feelings about Eni Jish Xip and her people, they were glad that she asked.  They had never forgotten her saying she had “no emotional attachment” to Orion back when he was born.  While her occasional contact on birthdays over the years made it clear that she did care on some level, it was nice to see evidence that it extended beyond scientific curiosity.

“Yes,” Boyd said.  “He’s doing great.  He’ll be graduating school next year.”

“Adulthood and independence.  You must be so proud of him.  He has grown and matured into a strong and intelligent young man.”  Eni Jish Xip smiled.  “Please pass on my regards and well wishes to him.  I hope you will permit me to visit on his aging milestone?”

Susan looked at Boyd, who nodded in agreement.

“Sure.  I think he’d like that.”

“Wonderful.  I will be in touch as the time gets closer, then.  Take care of yourselves, Boyd Wainwright and Susan Wainwright.  I am glad we were able to work past this unfortunate misunderstanding.  Oh, and please pass along my apologies to Patrick Wainwright and Maria Wolff for the unanticipated emotional trauma, and my well wishes for their future when they bond officially and unite into your family.”

“We will,” said Susan.  “Thank you for your time.”

Afterward, the Wainwrights breathed a sigh of relief.  “That’s one interplanetary crisis averted.  Guess we should get back to Patrick and let him know they only gave her a courtesy medical probe as a wedding present.”  Boyd shook his head.  “Unbelievable.”

“The sad thing is, I believe she really did mean well with it.”

“I do, too, but… ugh, they’ve still got some work to do when it comes to getting Earth customs.”

“No argument there.  I’m sure they’ll both be relieved there’s nothing to worry about, and that it won’t happen again, though.  Come on, let’s call them back, and call it a day.  I know I could stand to get out of here and do something relaxing after all that, so I imagine you must be beyond done.”

“Heh.  My nerves were pretty much done after we got off the phone with Patrick, but yes.  Let’s go home and just chill on the couch and binge watch something.”

“Boyd, did you just suggest we ‘Plumflix and chill?’” Susan asked on a lighthearted flirtatious note, and he smiled despite himself.

“Not as such, but maybe after I unwind a bit, I might be open to alternative suggestions.”

“Mmm-hmm.  Well, on that note, let’s get back to Patrick, clean up, and get out of here.”

“Sounds good to me.”

Back at Sims University, Patrick had the long conversation with Maria about Sixam and the truth of her “sleepwalking” experience.  When she came out of the shower, he served her breakfast.  He told her everything while they ate, but he barely got a chance to eat anything himself because there was so much to tell and so many questions to answer.

To her credit, Maria took it well.  She didn’t get angry or lash out at Patrick for not telling her sooner.  She did say that she wished he had, and emphasized that he could’ve trusted her all along, but said she understood given the seriousness of Orion’s situation.

Naturally, she was upset about what happened to her, and more than a little freaked out.  She felt rather violated by the experience, but at the same time, finding out that she wasn’t losing her mind or suffering from a medical condition that made her sleepwalk came as somewhat of a relief.

“I’m so sorry they did this to you,” Patrick said with heavy emotion in his voice.  “I swear, if I could, I’d go there and kick their plumbobs into the next galaxy!  And I wish I could’ve told you all this years ago, about Orion and stuff.  I never liked having to lie to you about that.”

“I know.  You were just protecting your little brother.  I get why they didn’t let you tell anyone,” she said with a sniffle.  “I’m glad you finally told me, though.  I want you to trust me.”

“I do.  Believe me, I do.   And whatever my parents say when they call back, I swear to you right now, I won’t let those llamas do this to you again.  I’ll put a motion alarm on the doors to wake me up or lock every door in the house every night if I have to.  Whatever it takes.  I’ll even tie you to the bed if you want!”  He met her eyes.  “And no, that’s not me trying to be funny or kinky.”

Maria chortled despite herself.  “I know.”

“Hell, I could even brush up on the couple of Sim Fu moves I learned in Shang Simla, in case they get up close and personal.  I wouldn’t mind chopping some aliens where it counts right now.”

She hugged him.  “You’re adorable when you get all protective, and it’s really sweet.  But I guess it’ll be okay, if they didn’t… you said you’re sure they don’t make women pregnant with babies like Orion, right?”

“That’s what Dad said.”

“Hopefully it’ll be okay, then.”

“It will.  I mean it.  I won’t let them hurt you again.  And like I said, I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you any of this before now.”  He met her eyes with a half-smile.  “Hope you haven’t decided my crazy family has too many skeletons in the specimen closet and want to call off the wedding or anything.  Because if they cost me you, then I’d definitely have to take Orion’s spaceship and go blast some aliens.”

“No!  Don’t be silly.  I love you, weird crazy scientist family and all.  I mean, I’m not going to lie, it is pretty strange, and I can’t even imagine what Tad will think of it all if Chris ever tells him, but none of that changes how I feel about you.”  She smirked.  “Though this does beat out the embarrassing werewolf rumors about my dad’s side of the family.  Imagine if those stuck-up sorority harpies heard this one.  They’d double ban me or whatever!”

“Meanwhile, the frat guys would probably just ask me to bring Orion and his Galaxa to a party.  Blast off some lasers, go for some joyrides, and get a few juices in him and convince him to drop meteors for plum and giggles.”

“That’s so wild he can do that.  I never would’ve imagined.”  She paused.  “It must be so weird for him.  I always wondered exactly what his condition was, and you were always kind of vague about it, but I thought it was just a really bad rare genetic skin condition or mutation or something.”

“He’s got his issues, but as you’re finding out firsthand, my family is far from normal.”  He smirked.  “Sometimes I feel like I’m the weirdo just for not being one.  Compared to my alien brother, plantsim sister, and mad scientist parents, anyway.”

“But Blair’s pretty normal, too, and so are Chris and Travis.  Then again, Chris does date my brother, so you might have a point there,” she joked.

“Yeah, and Blair married Cycl0n3, so…”

They laughed together, and shared a meaningful look just as Patrick’s phone buzzed.  “That’s Mom.  Here’s hoping they’ve got good news.”  He stepped back and answered.

Maria waited anxiously while Patrick spoke with his parents.  The follow-up conversation didn’t take that long, but to her it felt like forever.  “Well?  What did they say?  Did they talk to Eni Jish Xip?”  She frowned.  “I did remember and pronounce that right, right?”

“Yeah.  And yes, they talked to her.  Get this.  They abducted and probed you as a wedding gift.”


“Seriously.  Apparently, they wanted to do my parents a favor for raising Orion so well, so they nabbed you to make sure you were, according to what they told Mom and Dad, healthy and fertile as my future mate.”

“Wait, you’re saying the aliens abducted me to give me a physical and an interstellar ob-gyn exam?”  She made a face.  “What the plum!  Wouldn’t it be easier to just steal my doctor’s records?  And why are they so obsessed with baby making, anyway?  Aliens, us… is their species endangered on their home planet or something?”

“With people skills like that?  Wouldn’t surprise me if we weren’t the first to want to blast them.  But at least they confirmed they didn’t put anything in you.  No baby or chip or anything.”

“Well, that’s a relief.”  She glanced at the clock.  “Wow.  I have class in half an hour.  Guess I get to go about my day like I didn’t just have my entire world view shaken by finding out aliens exist and abducted me last night when I was trying to finish a paper.  But at least they won’t do it again, right?  Your parents told them not to?”

“That’s what they said, so they shouldn’t.”  Patrick rubbed her shoulders.  “Sorry.  I really wish this crap hadn’t been dumped on you like this.  But I’m glad you’re okay, and even more glad you’re still here.  A lot wouldn’t be.”

“Like I said, I love you.  Aliens and all.  It doesn’t change that.”

“Don’t forget my invisible friend.”

“Yeah, he’s weird, too, but not alien level weird.  And it’s not like my family doesn’t have its own issues.  Maybe not interstellar ones, but you’ve met my dad, and Tad’s no prize himself sometimes, so…”  She leaned in close.  “Kiss before I go to class?”

“Wouldn’t let you leave without it,” he said, and brought his lips to hers.

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 85
« Reply #282 on: January 10, 2019, 04:00:47 PM »
Chapter 85

After Maria’s abduction at Sims University and their conversation with Eni Jish Xip, Boyd and Susan told the rest of the family what happened.  Orion had strong feelings about it.  He was happy that Eni Jish Xip asked about him, wished him well, and wanted to see him on his birthday.  He wanted to like her, and feel good about his people and the alien side of his heritage.

But he absolutely didn’t like how they took Maria for an exam and mind-wiped her without a second thought, even if their intentions were good.  They knew not all humans took that well, his father being a prime example.  Even some aliens didn’t approve of it, such as the one he met in Shang Simla, who said he found the procedure “distasteful.”  Why, then, did they think it was okay to do it to Patrick’s fiancée after his parents made it clear that their family, at least, didn’t want to be subjected to any more abductions?

He hated the thought of Tara getting abducted.  Maria might have gotten over it all right, but Tara wouldn’t.  Orion didn’t want her to go through what his father did, even without the complication of a probe-pregnancy.  Boyd was over his abduction as much as he would ever be, but he still had the occasional nightmare and blast of horrified, paranoid thoughts when something dredged the memories up.

It upset him that Eni Jish Xip wouldn’t promise they’d leave Tara alone.  That because of who and what he was, the matter was out of her hands.  So, Tara, or anyone he fell in love with, could and likely would be abducted at some point.  And there was nothing he could do about it, not even warn her.  Because despite everything, his parents still insisted he keep the truth about his alien lineage a secret.  He had to, they insisted, for his own safety.  Never mind the safety of the girl he loved.  Never mind that it was his life, and he was the reason she was at risk.  It should be up to him, but it wasn’t.  That frustrated Orion most of all, and inspired more than one wintry ride on his new motorcycle to brood in solitude.  Susan and Boyd didn’t like him riding out in the snow and ice, either, but whatever.  He could handle it, and it wasn’t like he could take the Galaxa if he happened to meet up with Tara, right?

He loved being with her, whether they were doing martial arts together, practicing their old ballet moves from back in the day as a workout, or just plain hanging out.  Tara got him in a way that no one else did.  Even though she wasn’t an alien hybrid who had to keep it a secret, and she didn’t have green skin, weird eyes and ears, or an odd voice that garnered shocked looks and stares, her own struggles communicating with and relating to others made her feel almost as out of place in the world sometimes.

The longer they were together, the more he realized how good they were for each other.  Being able to sense her emotions and thoughts clued him in to what she really meant even when she planted her foot in her mouth, so they rarely had the misunderstandings she so often had with others.  She never treated him like he was different or strange, even though she got the stares sometimes, too, for being with him.

Over time, they became more comfortable with each other than anyone else.  They felt like they could tell each other anything and be accepted and understood.  Orion would for her, and he believed with all his heart that Tara would, too, if he could tell her the truth about what he was before they reached the point where she just couldn’t.  The point where she’d feel duped, betrayed, and lied to rather than loved, trusted, and confided in.  He knew that time was dangerously near, and he fervently hoped it hadn’t already passed.

“Something’s bugging you.”  Tara looked up at Orion while they relaxed on her bed together.  Ever since they finished their homework that afternoon, they’d been lounging around, first laughing at some funny SimTube videos and then just talking and cuddling.

“You could tell, huh?”  He half-smiled.  “You always can.”

“Yeah.  You know how it is.  You can’t hide it from the expert of being bugged by stupid things you can’t stop thinking about.  What’s wrong?”

He wanted so badly to tell her.  He almost had, several times, his parents’ orders be **ed.  But he couldn’t bring himself to break his word to them, either.  Corny as it sounded, he’d promised he wouldn’t, and Orion felt like his word was his honor.  If he gave it, he wanted it to mean something.  He didn’t want to be someone that couldn’t be trusted to keep it.  “Family stuff,” he told her with as much honesty as he could.  “Just things going on at home.”

“What?  Is it bad?  Or just annoying?”  Her voice took on a worried note.  “It’s bad, isn’t it?”

“More frustrating than bad, but… sorry.  I didn’t mean to worry you.  It’ll be fine.”

“You can trust me, you know.  If you need to talk,” Tara urged, and Orion squeezed her hand.

“I know, but that’s okay.  My family’s just got some weird crap going on, that’s all.”

Tara grew even more concerned, and Orion sensed her mood shift.  He picked up on an insidious thought that wondered why he was being so secretive, how bad was whatever it was?  “Weirder than Wilbur playing Golden Llama?  Did I tell you he had a real nasty bruise when he came over the other night?  Claimed he had a drumming accident and fell moving his gear.  Yeah, right.  Stupid.  He’s going to get himself killed.”  She shook her head.  “But that’s not important right now, what I mean is you can tell me whatever it is, like I did you with that.”

He wished he’d done better at hiding his mood, since it was clear she wasn’t going to let him drop it.  “I know.  But I can’t.  They don’t want me talking about it.”

That was the wrong thing to say, and immediately Tara assumed the worst.  “Nobody’s hurting you, are they?”

“No.  Nothing like that.  I’m fine, really.  There’s nothing for you to worry about.  I’m just annoyed at my parents.”

Unfortunately, that didn’t put her at ease, and Orion could tell she was still worried.  “You really can trust me.”

“I do.  I promise I do.”  Orion held her close.  “I love you.  I’d just rather work it out on my own for now.”

“Okay.”  There was a long pause, after which she added, “If you’re sure.”  Why won’t he tell me?  What is it?  It has to be about me, or he’d tell me, right?!

He hated that he sensed that thought almost as clearly as if she’d said it aloud.  “I’m sure.”  He kissed her, hoping to calm those doubts.  “Thanks for offering.  It means a lot.”

Maybe his family doesn’t like you.  Maybe they said you weren’t good enough for him, and he’s wondering if they’re right.  Maybe he’ll decide you’re not worth it, and it’ll all be over soon…  “I love you.  I’ll always be there for you,” she said with a tremble in her voice that made him sit up and meet her eyes.

“Hey, it’s okay.  It really is.  Don’t worry.  I can tell you are, but please, don’t.”

She let out a rueful chuckle.  “Yeah, because it’s like my default.”

“Don’t think I’m not telling you because it’s something bad about you.  It’s really not.  Kind of the opposite.  You’re the bright spot.  You’re what makes me happy.  I love you.”

That reassurance helped, and she snuggled in closer, relieved.  “You make me happy, too.  That’s why I don’t ever want to lose you.”

“You won’t,” Orion promised.  He just hoped that when he could tell her the whole truth, she’d be able to say the same.

Although Orion was frustrated with his parents about the Tara situation, he eagerly accepted their offer to work with them part-time at the lab after school.  Boyd and Susan were thrilled, too.  The older they got, the more concerned they became about how the lab would be managed after they were gone.  Although they knew either Patrick or Blair would take care of it financially and legally with the help of an attorney and the board, they hoped to hand the reins over to one of their children or grandchildren that shared their passion and enthusiasm for science.  They had wondered if Orion, Iris, or both might fill that role someday, and now it looked like he very well might.  Perhaps Iris would join him later, being a natural botanist, or maybe Chris would, if he ever decided to apply his science and medicine degree to research rather than veterinary practice.  He would be welcome, as would Travis, if either wanted to someday.

Orion was fascinated by all of the lab’s high-tech equipment there, and when they showed him the top secret area, he was like a kid in a candy store.  Sometimes he assisted in experiments, and other times he volunteered as a subject.  As an alien hybrid, his brain waves and patterns were unique to observe and document.  It was an exhilarating experience for him, too.  They discovered that certain frequencies amplified his telekinetic abilities temporarily, although using them like that exhausted him fast if he wasn’t careful not to overdo it.

At home, they also spent time with him on the bot builder.  Although everyone thought Plumboptimus was cool, Orion was especially fascinated by him.  He wanted to learn more about how he worked beyond the simple maintenance his parents taught everyone in the house.  Boyd and Susan showed him the details of his schematics and taught him the basics of nanite and chip designs.  Before long, Orion was experimenting and trying things out on his own.

One evening, Boyd came down while Orion was tinkering with it.  He looked at the nanite project he had open and noticed a change in some of the specifications.  “Did you modify that?”

“Yeah.  I thought it might run faster.”

“It will, but you should probably adjust this one down, or you risk running into issues with these.  Those circuits are especially delicate.”  He pointed to a different column. 

“Oh.  I see what you mean.”  Orion made the modifications.  “This good?”

“That should work.  You’ll have to let me know how it goes.”  He gave him a proud smile.  “I know I’ve said it before, but you’ve got a real knack for this stuff.”

“Thanks.  I like it.”

“I can tell.  Anyway, I came down since you didn’t see our messages, and it’s almost 9.  You never came up for dinner.”

“Oh, sorry.  I just got busy, and my phone’s over there.”  He gestured to the bench.  “Guess I left it on silent.”

“That’s all right.  I know how it is to get engrossed in a project.  Just don’t forget to eat something before bed.”

“I’m fine.  I had a burger with Tara after school since neither of us had work or clubs today.”

“Oh.  You two have fun?”

“Yeah.  We always do.”  He paused.  “Which is why I really wish you’d just let me tell her the truth.”

Boyd sighed.  “We’ve been over this.”

“I know!  But I trust her, and you can, too!  Really, Dad!  You don’t know her like I do.  She’d never do anything that’d put me at risk or mess things up.”


“She wouldn’t!  I know she says weird things sometimes, but so does Cycl0n3 and you trust him.  And even when he acts like a llama, he’s never said anything about me being alien to anyone.  Neither has Maria, and we both know she can be a drama llama sometimes, too.  Tara and I trust each other with everything.  You don’t even know the kind of serious stuff she’s shared with me!  I can’t tell you, obviously, but believe me, it’s big, and personal.”  He gave his father with an imploring look.  “I’ve never asked to tell anyone before now, but I need to tell her.  She trusts me, and she’s going to feel like I’m lying to her if I don’t.  I don’t want to lie to her!  I hate it!  It’s not right, and she deserves to know.  Especially if they go and abduct her, or she gets pregnant!”

“The aliens don’t do that to women.  Eni Jish Xip was clear on that.”  Boyd frowned and peered at him over his glasses.  “I assume that’s what you meant, and not that you’ve been careless.  Because that would be—”

“A great way to get my own little Blair?” Orion retorted sarcastically.  “No, of course not!  No more than you and Mom were, I’m sure, but that kind of makes my point.”

Boyd tried not to bristle too much having that thrown in his face, but Orion continued before he could say anything.

“She deserves to know.  What if on some off chance that did happen?  I’d have to tell her then.  And we both know it’s just a matter of time before they abduct her.  She said they would.  Otherwise she’d have agreed to leave her alone like Maria and Lane.”

“What she said was it was out of her hands.”

“Which might as well be a ‘yeah, she’s going to be grabbed, get used to the idea.’”

Boyd sighed again.  “Look, if Tara gets abducted, and remembers it and tells you about it, maybe we can make an exception.  Your mother and I discussed that.”

“Without me?”

“Yes.  Should that happen, talk to us first, and we’ll come up with some kind of game plan.  But in the meantime, absolutely not.  I’m sorry.  I know it’s frustrating, and I understand it’s not easy—”

“You don’t understand plum!”

“I understand that you have no concept of the sort of danger you’d be in if the wrong people found out who and what you are!  I don’t want you snatched away and imprisoned and tortured in some secret government or criminal lab for the rest of your life as some kind of experiment!”

Orion sneered.  “But I am some kind of experiment, whether I like it or not!  And I’m not a kid anymore!  You can’t protect me forever!  One day I can just go out there and tell the whole world if I want to, and there’s nothing you can do about it!”

“And that thought terrifies me to the core, believe me!” Boyd shouted back.  “You think I don’t worry about what’ll happen to you, to Iris, to Patrick, to Blair and her kids after your mom and I are gone?  That something might happen to one of you, that you’ll take some foolish risk and end up dead or hurt or miserable that maybe, maybe we might’ve been able to talk you out of if we’d still been around?  But by the Watcher, while I am, I’m going to do whatever it takes to keep you kids safe, no matter how old you are!”

Orion could feel the frustration and fear pouring out of his father, but it didn’t change how he felt.  “But it won’t happen like that with Tara!  I told you a million times!  You can trust her!  She won’t say anything!  Why won’t you just believe me?”  His voice cracked on a high emotional note.  “Why do you have to always be so overprotective and paranoid?!”

“Overprotective and paranoid?  Because I worry about something that could very well happen to you?”

“Because you won’t let me live my own life and make my own decisions!”

“Taking reasonable precautions is not being overprotective!  You think I worry over petty things, oh, if only you’d have met your grandfather.  I used to think he was unreasonable, too, until I became a parent and realized how dangerous this world really is.”  Boyd shook his head.  “And if I’d ever mouthed off to him or your grandmother like this…”

“Well, I never met them, but I’m pretty sure you’re just like them.”

“Maybe.  Maybe I’m a bit like them, and maybe that’s because I look at you and see you’re a lot like me, at your age.  Only a little more altruistic and a lot less cautious.  And I’ll admit, that does scare me.”

Orion picked up on the guilty thought that followed.

Because I would’ve told Susan anyway, no matter what they said.

Orion met his father’s eyes, and Boyd realized he’d sensed it.  “I won’t put myself in danger.”

“You promised you wouldn’t tell her.”

“I know.  I won’t.  Guess me being more altruistic bit me in the plumbob,” he said sarcastically.  “It just better not cost me Tara.”  With that, Orion stormed off and went upstairs to brood alone.

Orion wasn’t the only Wainwright teenager asserting their independence.  While not as adversarial as the ongoing debate about telling Tara his secret, Iris’ driving lessons were not without stress for both her and Susan.  She adored her new car, a cute aqua colored convertible, but she would be glad when she got her license and could drive without supervision.

“You should go slower on the hill.  If it was icy out…”

“Oh, come on, Mom.  It’s nice right now and there’s no ice.  I was like maybe one mile over the limit.”  She slowed down a bit.  “At least let me get off Summer Hill Court before you start critiquing.”

“I’m teaching you to drive.  It’s my job to critique, and just because it’s a clear day doesn’t mean there can’t be ice.  It’s below freezing and there’s always a chance of there being runoff or storm drain overflow or something spilled in the road that could freeze.”

Iris rolled her eyes.  “The road’s bone dry, but okay.”

Susan had her drive over to the lab and then back up the hill before turning around to go to town.  Iris muttered under her breath as the vehicle behind her started tailgating, and although Susan couldn’t quite make it out, it sounded something like how even the old guy behind them couldn’t stand going at such a slow old lady speed.

Susan gave her a stern look.  “The speed limit is not ‘old lady speed.’”

“Well, tell that to this llama riding my plumbob.”  Iris made a face.  “Maybe I should do like Patrick and lay on the horn and flip him off.”

“No, I think you should ignore him and obey the speed limits and let him pass if he’s in such a hurry.”  Susan shook her head.  “As for your brother, I’m sure he didn’t do that back when your father was teaching him to drive.”

“Maybe he learned it at Sims U.  Road Rage 102, right after Juice Pong 203 and Toga Party 304.”

Susan chortled.  “A quality education indeed.”

“I wonder if Chris is going to keggers and toga parties with him.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t be surprised.”

The driving lesson continued as they made their way into town, and Susan instructed her to drive around the park square to make sure she had plenty of opportunity to signal properly and turn cautiously in heavier traffic.  After a brief lesson on parallel parking in one of the lots nearby, they called that session to a close and headed for the salon.  The formal dress Iris was wearing to the dance needed a few alterations to fit her measurements better, and now that they were done, she had to go in for a fitting before taking it home.

A cyclist darted into the road right behind them.  “Oh, look out for that idiot on the bicycle.”

“Relax, Mom.  I saw him.  He’s behind us, anyway.”

“I know, but you were going a little fast.  The speed limit is 25 here in the center of town, remember.”

Like you’d let me forget, Iris thought, but instead she just nodded.  “I know.  I wasn’t over the limit.”

Susan hadn’t been looking at the dashboard, so she took her word for it, but it was clear she was a bit dubious.  “Still, that’s why it’s low here.  People often come out of nowhere.  Lots of crosswalks and intersections and foot traffic.  Blair can tell you, they give out a lot of tickets here.”

Iris raised an eyebrow.  “Blair should talk.  We’ve all heard that story about how she sped right across town to get to the hospital while she was in labor with Travis.”

“She’s a trained police officer,” Susan pointed out.  “Though that doesn’t mean it was a brilliant move on her part.  It just goes to show you, we can all get complacent.  She was lucky.  You should still always be cautious.”

“Okay, Mom.  I will,” Iris replied, and parked the car.

They didn’t have to wait long for the attendant to get Iris’ dress so she could try it on.  “Oh, sweetie, that looks great!  I think they did it just right.”

“I guess so.”  Iris eyed herself more critically in the mirror.  The alterations gave the dress a more flattering fit, and she liked how it looked, but she wondered what she could do to take it from “looking good” to “drop dead gorgeous.”

“You don’t like it?”

“No, I do, but… I don’t know.  You think I should get different shoes?”

“What’s wrong with the ones you already picked out?”

“I don’t know.  They seem kind of… girly girl instead of bombshell.  Maybe I should get some tall spiky heels.”

“Iris, you’re on the taller side already.  You don’t need higher heels.  You’re going to a dance, remember?  You don’t want uncomfortable shoes when you’re going to be on your feet dancing, and let me tell you, those high spiky heels aren’t known for being comfortable.  It’s also easy to trip in them if you’re not used to wearing them.”

“I’m not a klutz.  I won’t fall.”  She struck a pose.  “Higher heels would make me look hotter.  Less cutesy.  More knockout.”

“I dare say Lane will think you’re a knockout whether you have higher heels or not, but it’s up to you.  If you don’t like them, try on some other pairs.”

Iris did try out some other shoes, but in the end, she kept the original pair.  Although the higher heels looked nice, she had to admit that her mother was right in that the ones she tried, at least, weren’t all that comfortable.  The shoes she had didn’t look bad, she supposed, and they did match her dress almost perfectly.

After she changed out of her dress, the attendant told them that several new styles of everyday wear had come in from Bridgeport that week.  She asked if they wanted to see any of the new fashions before they left, and since Iris loved getting new clothes, she was enthusiastic.  “Sure!”

The first outfit, from a “hot new designer on the scene,” was a huge letdown when Iris tried it on.  She said she’d pass when she first saw the pattern, but the attendant insisted she at least try it on, since the colors complemented her natural coloring so well.  Iris was dubious, but she tried it anyway.

Susan heard Iris groan from inside the dressing room.  “No way.”

“That bad?” Susan asked.



“Yes, really.”  Iris stomped out to the mirror to prove her point, and Susan couldn’t help but agree with her daughter.

“That’s… wow.  Very, ah, colorful.”

“It’s a hideous checkered atrocity, and the designer must’ve been smoking something really strong when they came up with it!”

The attendant nodded sympathetically.  “His taste doesn’t suit everyone.  I’ll grab something else.”

Iris couldn’t get back in the dressing room fast enough.  “Yeah, please.”

“Maybe something more… traditional this time?” Susan suggested to the attendant.

“No problem, ma’am.”

To her credit, the attendant did as Susan asked, and brought a much more demurely designed ensemble next.  Iris didn’t find it to her taste, but at least she didn’t feel like a circus sideshow act in it.

“Sweetie!  That looks lovely on you.”

“You think so?”  Iris eyed her reflection with far less enthusiasm.  “Seems kind of…”

“I think it’s quite flattering.”

“Frumpy” was the word Iris would’ve used, but she suspected her mother would take offense to that, so she tried to be more diplomatic.  “I don’t know.  It’s not me.”

Susan didn’t agree.  “Oh, but the lavender really brings out the highlights in your foliage, and the flats are cute.”

“It reminds me of something Blair would wear.”

“I can see that.”

Iris turned to her mother.  “Yeah, not a look I’m going for.  I’m a wildflower, not a wallflower.”

“Oh, it’s not that bad,” Susan scoffed.  “I’m sure girls your age wear stuff like that sometimes.”

“Maybe to the library.”  She shook her head.  “No offense, Mom, but I’ve seen your yearbook and that sweater in your senior picture.  We don’t have the same taste.”

Susan raised an eyebrow.  “To be fair, that was a long time ago and that wasn’t that bad for the decade it was.  Besides, I was the girl who hung out in the library on the computer.  It didn’t faze your father.”

Iris snickered.  “Yeah, I’ve seen Dad’s yearbook picture too.  Those glasses…”

“He was cute,” Susan retorted with playful defensiveness.

“You’re lucky you had each other,” Iris teased back before turning to the attendant.  “Thanks, but no.  I think I’ll just take the dress for today.”

“All right.  What about you, ma’am?  We’ve got a few more items from this designer.  Would you like to try something?”

“Yeah, go for it, Mom.  It’s probably more suited to you.”

Susan chose to take that as a compliment, and nodded politely to the attendant.  “All right.”

When she first saw the outfit, Susan wasn’t sure.  Lavender and yellow weren’t her colors, but they seemed to be that designer’s, and she wanted to give it a fair chance.  She tried it on and came out to look in the styling mirror.

“Wow, and I thought mine was frumpy!”

Her daughter’s blunt reaction cinched her own, especially when Iris added, “Nice socks, Mom.  That really makes the look!”

“I’d wear pantyhose with it if I wore it out,” Susan replied primly.  “But I’ll agree it’s… not my taste.”  No matter how old she was, “frumpy” was not a term she ever wanted applied to her.  She turned to the attendant.  “I think I’ll pass on this.  Thank you.”

“Would you like to see another outfit?”

“No.  I think that’s enough for me.  Just her dress for today, unless you want something else?”

Iris shook her head.  “Nope.  I’m good.”

“All right.  I’ll get it ready for you.”  The attendant left, and Susan took one last cringing look in the mirror while Iris shook her head in disgust.

“She was nice enough, but wow, I sure miss when Chris still worked here.  He wouldn’t have brought us such butt ugly stuff.”

Susan laughed sheepishly.  “She didn’t design it, and I suppose she has to try and sell what they tell her to.  But, that said, I’ll be glad to get back in my clothes.”

“Same here!”

They were about to head back to the dressing rooms when Iris heard a familiar voice.  “Hey, Iris!”

Iris turned around, mildly mortified that a schoolmate, Alfonso Donner, was seeing her in the librarian special look.  At least it wasn’t the first one, she consoled herself as she replied.  “Oh, hi.  How’s it going?”

“Not bad.  Clothes shopping?”

“Oh, I’m not buying this.  I was about to go change,” she pointed out quickly.  “I’m just here to pick up my dress for the dance and tried some stuff on for the heck of it.”

“I’m here for the dance, too.  I just finished my tux fitting upstairs, and now Mom wants me to pick out ‘a nice new shirt or two.’  She’s out in the waiting room.”

“In that case, I hope you have better luck than I did.  I’m going to change back.  See you later!”

Iris was glad to get out of the unwanted outfit and back into her regular clothes.  When she came back out with her coat on, ready to go, her mother was at the counter paying.  She saw Alfonso in a shirt that looked arguably better than anything the attendant showed her.  “Hey, Alfonso!  Looking good.  Looks like you did better after all.”

“Thanks.  It’s all right, I guess.”  He shuffled a little where he stood.  Alfonso was a bit introverted, but he was nice and they had always gotten along fine.

“So, looking forward to the dance?  Rashida told me you two were going together.”

Alfonso nodded.  “Yeah.  I wasn’t sure I was even going to go at first, but she asked me.  Which was cool.”

“Did that surprise you?  You two have been friends for ages.  You couldn’t tell she liked you?”

“We’ve been friends, but I was sure it was… you know.  Especially with that rumor that went around about her and Lane, but I guess you more than anyone know that’s not true.  You’re going with him, right?  That’s what she said.”

Iris hadn’t heard any rumor about Rashida and Lane, but she didn’t like it, especially since she and Rashida were friends.  “Yup, we’re going together.”

“Cool.  I’m glad.  I didn’t really believe it anyway.  Probably just talk like the one about you and Lester Sekemoto.  I didn’t really believe that, either.”

Iris couldn’t help but feel a flush of something, and a touch of guilt, when Lester was mentioned.  Were people still whispering about that?  He did still look at her that way sometimes, and Iris had to admit she kind of liked that more than she should, but she was with Lane and Lester and Kristal were going to the dance together now.  A few days ago, Kristal asked him, and he said yes, so that was that… right?  “Lester and I are just friends,” she assured him.  “He’s going to the dance with Kristal.”

“Cool.  Well, I guess we’ll all see each other there, then.”

“Yup.”  Iris saw her mother waving by the door, all checked out and ready to go.  “That’s my mom.  I’ve got to go.  See you at school.”


“Bye!”  As she left, Iris thought about the dance and Lane, how awesome she’d look and what he would think of it, but definitely not about whatever Lester might think, or what Lane might think of Rashida.  No, she wasn’t going to waste one more second thinking about any of that.

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 86
« Reply #283 on: January 17, 2019, 10:53:38 PM »
Chapter 86

Chris’ first term at Sims University was winding to a close.  Finals week was a big stress, but he studied hard and was confident he did well on his exams.  Grades weren’t in yet, but he wasn’t worried about them.  He anticipated being able to call it a success.

Despite the fun he had and the friends he made at Sims U, he was looking forward to going home.  He missed Tad and Diddy, and the rest of his family and friends in Sunset Valley.  Especially Tad.  It was difficult being away from him, and he was envious of those who could get their love action on more than a computer screen or phone.  He also wanted to be with him again in person so he could be sure that nothing went wrong between them while he was away.

It wasn’t that they fought, or even argued much.  But when they talked on the phone or in a video chat, Tad’s mood was sour more often than not.  While Tad was on par with Travis when it came to being moody and pessimistic, lately it seemed worse than normal, and that concerned Chris.  Unfortunately, classes and life at Sims U kept him busy, so they could only touch base so often.  He talked to Tad every day in messages if nothing else, but sometimes he felt like it wasn’t enough, especially for Tad.  Chris missed him, too, but there was only so much he could say or do from so far away.

It wasn’t that things were going badly for Tad, other than missing Chris.  He and Esmeralda had become very close, and she loved living with him, Morgana, and Caleb.  She wanted to stay with them permanently, and even though caring for her had some unexpected challenges, Tad hated the thought of her leaving someday.  So, he offered to adopt her, and she was thrilled to accept and move in for good.  Morgana and Caleb were just as happy about it.  Grandma Morgana, as Esmeralda now called her, loved children and had always wanted a large family, and Caleb looked up to Esmeralda like a big sister.

Tad’s job at Doo Peas was going well, too.  His boss, Miraj Alvi, gave Thornton favorable reviews of Tad’s performance when he asked.  Although Thornton noted that “he works very hard” was not in said review, he was glad to hear that his son was reliable, did as he was asked without argument and got it done competently, and got along well with his co-workers.

As it turned out, Julius Langerak worked in the same department Tad did.  Unlike Maria and Patrick, Tad got along with Julius just fine back when they’d been in high school together, and he was glad to have a familiar face at work.  He found out that Julius’ mother had worked with his father years ago, too, before she died, and Thornton hired Julius singing her praises.  “Guess it’s a good thing for us that my dad embraces nepotism as part of his corporate image, huh?” Tad joked while they grabbed coffee in the office café during their break.

“It pays the bills.  More than I get moonlighting at the bars and clubs, anyway.  Though if I could do that full time, I would.”

“Paid to party, sort of?  I could get into that.  Though I’m sure that’d get me a huge ‘responsibility’ lecture from dear old Dad, and it’s probably not the best example for Esme.  Or Caleb, though Mom’s never been as bad as him about saying stuff like that.”

“It’s cool, but like I said, you don’t get rich doing it.  Most of it’s tips.  Sometimes you see some wild stuff, though.  Or crazy things you’d rather not.  Like my ex.  Freaking Gretchen was down at the club last night, half juiced, partying hard, and acting like she wanted to rekindle the old flame.  She was looking pretty hot, but…”  He shook his head.  “I keep telling myself, not going there again.  Too much drama.”

“I don’t blame you.  Gretchen’s probably the only one that might rival my sister for that plum.  Oh, that reminds me!  Did I ever tell you that Maria managed to tick off an entire sorority her first term at Sims U?”  Tad smirked.  “And you dated her back in the day, too.  Hate to say it, but maybe drama’s your type.”

“It wasn’t the drama I was looking at when I went for them,” Julius replied with a sly look.  “So, does Maria still have that poor sap Wainwright on her tight leash, or did he finally get tired of it?”

“Oh, yeah, they’re still together.  They’re engaged now.  Happy as can be, by all accounts.  At least whenever Maria’s not whining about something.”

“Couldn’t happen to a nicer llama.”

“Do you mean Patrick or my sister?”

Julius just grinned, and Tad snickered and took a sip of his coffee.  “That’s what I thought.”

Although Tad enjoyed hanging out with Julius at work, having to take care of Esmeralda and sometimes Caleb meant that he could rarely join him on any nights out afterward beyond the occasional drink or two before going home.  He supposed it saved him from staying up too late on work nights and having to work with a juice hangover, like poor Julius seemed to at least once a week, but sometimes it bothered him.  Especially since Chris got to enjoy that same kind of fun at Sims U after classes, without him.  Tad tried not to be too jealous or resentful, but sometimes he couldn’t help it, even though he knew it would be petty to whine about it.

Missing Chris so much made it even worse.  Despite their frequent messages and video chats, it wasn’t the same.  That night, Chris sent him a text asking if they could chat early, since he had plans to go to a party at Patrick’s fraternity later and it was a work night for Tad.  “Hey!” Chris said brightly when he came on screen.  “How’s it going?”

“It’s going.”  Tad forced a smile despite his dour mood.  “The usual.  I miss you.  Counting down the days until you’re back.”

“Yeah, but it’s not long now.  I miss you, too.  What are you up to tonight?”

“No wild party plans for me.  Work beckons at an hour you university types would call obscene.”  Tad leaned back in his chair.  “Mom brought pizza home and we just finished dinner.  Esme’s in her room playing.  Caleb is,” he glanced over his shoulder as he heard a shout from his little brother followed by a response from his mother, “begging Mom for more pizza, by the sounds of it.”

“Pizza?  Sounds a lot better than what I just had.  Cold leftover macaroni and cheese, because some dumb llama broke our microwave.  Leonard’s finals were done yesterday and he left for home this morning, so I’m on my own for food.”

“You could’ve heated it in a pot.”

“Really?  Wouldn’t it stick or get gummy or something?”

“It really didn’t occur to you to try a pot?”

Chris laughed.  “Uh… no?”

Their conversation was interrupted when one of Chris’ dorm mates, Ashley, came by in nothing but her underwear.  “Hey, Chris, have you seen Ann?  She was supposed to bring our laundry back and said she’d be here like ten minutes ago.”

“Sorry, no.”

“Great.  What, am I just supposed to walk around like this the rest of the night?” she groused.  “If you see her, tell her to get her ass up there so I can get dressed.”

Tad caught sight of Ashley on the screen as she walked off, and frowned.  “Was that girl walking around your dorm in her underwear?”


“And that’s, like… just normal?  You don’t even seem surprised?”

“It’s not the first time, no.  She’s not exactly modest.  She’s streaked at a couple of our parties, so, nothing I haven’t seen before.”  Chris shrugged with a laugh.  “Just one of her quirks.”

“Hmph.  Sounds pretty trashy to me.”

Chris raised an eyebrow at Tad’s reaction.  “Wait, you’re not jealous, are you?”  He lowered his voice and leaned in closer to the screen.  “You ought to know someone like that’s not my type.”

“Yeah, I know.  I’m just wondering who else runs around naked or halfway there all the time.”

“You are jealous.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.  Like I said, just wondered what kind of weirdos you live with that think it’s cool to run around in their underwear in public.  When not juiced up, anyway.  Was she?”

“Not yet.  Probably later, knowing her.”

“Oh.  Like you, then, at that party at Patrick’s fraternity you’re going to later.”

“Now he probably is already juiced or on his way there.  The party’s starting soon, and he said his last final was at 10 this morning.”  Chris laughed.  “I still can’t believe I’m going to a toga party.”

Tad tried to ignore the stab of envy that not only was Chris going to a party that sounded like a lot of fun without him, one that both Maria and Patrick would also be at, but he was also going miss the sight of Chris in a toga.  “You’d better get a picture.  Grab one of Maria, too.  I wouldn’t mind having something to hold over her head the next time her ego goes critical mass.”

“Will do!  That’s a moment that has to be documented for posterity.”  Chris grew serious again.  “I wish you could come.”

“Me too, but work and the several hours between us have other plans.”

“At least it won’t be that much longer until I’m back.”

“No.”  That made Tad brighten somewhat, but not enough to erase his glumness entirely.

“I should probably go and get ready now.  I’ll message you a picture of the toga.  Talk to you later, okay?”

“Yeah.  Sure.”  Tad forced himself to smile.  “Have fun.  Love you.”

“Love you too.  I’ll call if it’s not too late.  I don’t want to keep you up with work in the morning.”

“That’s all right.  Call me anyway.  I don’t mind.  Talk to you later.”

Chris was right that Patrick started to party early.  He and Maria were already at the fraternity house, toga-ed up with drinks in hand, celebrating the end of finals, the term, and their upcoming graduation from Sims University.  “Enjoy the house special,” Jeffery told them as he handed them each one from the batch he’d just made.  “These are a step up from the keg.”

“More like a step faster to getting you hammered,” Maria giggled.  “These are strong.”

“Hey, you can take it.  You’ve been knocking them back since you got here, including a few of Red-Headed Step-Brother’s blends, and they’re just as brutal as mine.”  He toasted with Patrick.  “Cheers!  To the last toga party before graduation.  May it be so good it knocks our togas off!  So to speak.  Actual toga removal optional, though encouraged… for the ladies, especially.”

“Ha!  Nice try, but no,” Maria replied, while Patrick laughed.  From almost anyone else, a remark like that with Maria there would have bugged him, but while Jeffery was a known flirt, he was a good friend and had always respected his relationship with Maria, so he knew he was just joking around.

“I can hardly believe this is our last hurrah.  I’m going to miss this place.”  Patrick looked around.  “We’ve had some wild times here.”

“We sure have!” Jeffery agreed.  “We’d better make it count, then, right?”

“You know it!”

Jeffery left to pass out more drinks, leaving Patrick and Maria at the bar.  He put his arm around her waist flirtatiously.  “I wouldn’t mind partying out of our togas at home, but I’m glad you’re keeping yours firmly attached here.  I’d rather not have everyone gawking at my sexy fiancée.”

“This from the guy who painted me nude for his art project last term,” she replied with a smirk.  “You’re saying none of your fraternity brothers saw that?  I’m dubious.”

“Some of them, yeah, but that’s different.  First, that’s art.  Second, they were sober, or at least not plum-faced like this crowd.  Admiring a classic beauty captured on canvas is way different than leering at the hot chick running by naked and juiced.”  As if on cue, there was a chorus of hoots and hollers from the crowd as two giggling girls streaked by on the porch.  “Kind of like them.”

“They’re not even that hot,” Maria scoffed.  She squeezed Patrick’s hand to get his eyes off the spectacle and back on her.  “Besides, I’d rather not be leered at by juiced-up partiers anyway.  And so we’re clear, I don’t want any of the other girls, especially those Tri-Frumps over there, getting a free show from you, either, so keep that cute red toga on yourself.”  She straightened his faux laurel crown playfully.  “I like how it matches your hair, by the way.  You’re making me feel positively plain in my white sheet.”  She let out a dramatic sigh and flipped her hair over her shoulder before sipping her drink.

“Aw, you could never be plain.  Just like a Greek goddess posing as a mortal in one of those old myths.  Her mysterious powers and beauty always give her away.”

Maria giggled and beamed at the compliment.  “Why, you charmer!  You wouldn’t be trying out those smooth lines to loosen my linen for later, would you?”

“Like I said, when we get home.”  He waggled his eyebrows in a way that was exaggerated by his juiced state, and took another drink while Maria spotted a familiar face in the crowd.

“Hey, isn’t that Chris over there?”

“Oh, he finally got here, huh?”  He followed her gaze and saw him by the keg.  “Looks like the brothers already showed him to the refreshments.”

Patrick greeted Chris enthusiastically, while Maria got sidetracked talking to someone else.  “Hey!  You made it!  Ready to party?  I see you’re rocking the toga.  Saint Blair would be so proud!”

“Oh, shut up.  I doubt Grandma and Grandpa would be any more impressed with you.  And yes, I’m ready to party.  Finals week kicked my plumbob, so I’m ready to cut loose.”

“I hear you.  When I finished my last one, I went straight to party mode.”

“I can tell.  You’re wobblier than I am.”

“Juiced or sober?”

“Hmm, tough call.  Let’s get one or two in me and find out.”

“Hah.  Some science and med major you are.  Can’t diagnose worth plum yet.”

“Hey, it was only my first term.  Cut me some slack.  Besides, it doesn’t take a degree to tell you’re three sheets to the wind.”  He gestured to his toga.  “Or one, as the case may be.  So, frat boy, going to do a keg stand with me?”

“Continuing the fine family tradition another generation after all, huh?”

“Not the wall of fame.  Just the stand.”  Chris smirked.  “I think you should go first, though.”

“Because I’m not already hammered enough, right?”

“Nah, it’s just that you don’t work out and need to build those juice muscles so you don’t drop me.”

“Please.  You probably weigh less than Maria, and I can hold her just fine.”  Patrick realized just after he said it how badly she might’ve taken that, even though he hadn’t meant anything rude about her by it.  He breathed a sigh of relief that she’d been too far away to hear.  “Not to mention my other frat brothers.  But all right.  I’m game.  Go on and lift me, llama.  Let a pro show you how it’s done.”

Chris put his arm around Patrick and lifted, and as he hoisted him up, his toga slid down somewhat.  “Oh, man.  You better have underwear on under that.  I don’t want to be scarred for life.”

“If my brothers wouldn’t get on my case for wasting juice, I’d hose you for that,” Patrick retorted as he grabbed the spigot.  “Now watch and learn.”  He aimed the stream into his mouth as Chris held him in place.  Patrick had gotten quite proficient at keg stands in his time at Sims University, and he guzzled the party juice as fast as it poured in while spilling very little of it.

“Wow.  You really got a quality education here, huh?  You did actually learn stuff about art and music, too, right?”

“Ha ha,” Patrick replied as Chris set him down and he straightened his toga.  “You’re looking at a Dean’s List soon-to-be graduate, I’ll have you know.  So I’d say I not only got a quality education, but a well-rounded one.”  He grinned proudly.  “Follow in my footsteps, dear nephew.  Embrace the true Sims U experience.”

Chris snickered.  “Is that what Grandpa told you back when you came here the first time?”

“No, but he did have a surprisingly detailed warning about overdoing it on wonderpetal, and said to not let any inglorious moments get caught on camera.”

“Considering your spot on the hall of fame, you failed.”

Patrick shrugged and laughed.  “So did he, which is probably why he said it.”

Their conversation was interrupted when Chris’ phone went off.  “Oops.  Forgot to silence that.”  He pulled it out, and Patrick noticed it was Tad calling.  He was surprised when Chris hit the “ignore” button and sent it straight to voicemail, and then silenced the phone.

“Wow!  Did you just blow off Tad?”

“Oh, it’s nothing personal.  I told him I’d talk to him after the party.  He’s probably just seeing if I’m back yet or something.  I’ll call him when I get home.”

Patrick raised an eyebrow.


“You sure like to live dangerously.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“If I ignored Maria like that for no good reason…”  He made a dramatic face and waved his arms to imitate an explosion.  “I’d hear about it.  Loud and clear.”  He patted Chris’ shoulder.  “You’re a brave man.  Better go get yourself a cold one.  You’re gonna need it.”

“Oh, come on.  It’s just a couple hours.  It’s no big deal.”

“All right.  It’s your funeral.  I’m just saying, I know what it’s like to feel the bite of an angry Wolff.”

“Tad’s not Maria, and that’s major TMI.  Keep your kinks to yourself,” Chris said wryly.  “Besides, everyone knows which of you is the alpha dog in that relationship.”

“Oooh, now that one was worthy of your dad!  Maria and I are equals, for the record.”

“Sure.  Just as long as you answer your phone on time!”

“All right.  Whatever.  Here I am trying to be the good uncle and help you out, and you give me a bunch of plum.  We’ll see.”  He tapped the keg.  “You ready to do that keg stand now?”

“Did someone say ‘keg stand?’” Jeffery asked as he passed by.

“Sure did.  Chris here is about to take the plunge.”  Patrick clapped him on the back.

“Excellent.  Want me to do the honors, or are you?”

“I’ll let you.  You’ve got bigger muscles.”  Chris gave Jeffery a distinctly coy look, and Patrick almost snorted into his drink.

“Oh boy, if only Tad could see that.  Maybe I should send him a picture,” he teased as Jeffery hoisted Chris up to the keg.

Jeffery wasn’t into guys, but he was still amused and flattered.  “Hey, no need to get the man in trouble.  There’s enough juice in here to get him to do plenty on his own.”

Patrick smirked at Chris.  “Yeah.  Might take all of one stand, right, lightweight?”

“I’ll show you, llama!”  Chris stuck the tap in his mouth while Jeffery held him for it and Patrick looked on.

Just then, Patrick noticed Harold, one of his fraternity brothers who apparently didn’t respect boundaries like Jeffery, talking to Maria and clearly hitting on her.  He went from enjoying the banter with Chris to furious in a flash, especially when Harold tried to put his arm around Maria.  She didn’t respond, other than to step back awkwardly, but it still set him off.  “What the plum!”

“Hey.  What’s going on?”  Patrick tried to keep a lid on his temper, but the juice made his fuse shorter than usual, and it came out loud and angry.

“Patrick!  I—we were just talking.”

“Yeah, I saw.”  He glared at Harold.  “What’s with hitting on my fiancée, dude?”

Harold blinked.  “Oh, she’s… oh.  Right.  I forgot you were engaged now.”

Patrick wasn’t sure if he was playing dumb or just so juiced up that he’d seriously forgotten, but either way, he wasn’t feeling at all charitable, and he got in Harold’s face.  “So?  Even if we weren’t, what the hell?”

“Patrick, it’s okay.”  While Maria couldn’t throw stones about making a scene, she didn’t like seeing Patrick that upset.  “It was just a misunderstanding.”  She straightened and looked at Harold.  “I’m not interested.  I was just being friendly.”

“Fine.  All right.”  Harold looked at Patrick.  “Sorry.  You know how it is at these parties.  Sometimes girls like options, and opportunities come up—”

He tightened his fist.  “Not with her, they don’t!”

Harold held up his hands and backed off.  “So I see.  Chill.  We’re good.”  He turned to Maria.  “Sorry.  Have a good night.”

He walked off, and Patrick shook his head in disgust.  “Freaking llama.  He does that crap all the time!  That’s why he’s never got a girlfriend for more than five minutes.  He’ll screw anyone he can get in the sack, no matter who he’s with, or they’re with.  I can’t believe he had the gall to try and pick you up right in front of me!  He’s lucky I didn’t kick his plumbob!”

“You know I wouldn’t have done anything or led him on.”  Maria took Patrick’s hand and met his eyes.  It soothed his anger, especially as she caressed his fingers.  “I’d never do that.  I love you.”

“Yeah, I know you wouldn’t.”  Patrick was calmer now, but he cast one last glare in Harold’s direction.  “I'm just mad that he tried.  He’s supposed to be my fraternity brother, and we’re supposed to respect each other.  Not to mention assuming you’re some trashy girl that’d just hop in bed with a drunk llama the second her fiancé’s not looking.”

“Well, thank you for coming to my rescue, anyway.  He was pretty pushy.”  She smooched him.  “My knight in… juice-covered toga.”

He smiled at her.  “Rescuing my fair maiden?”

“Fair maiden?  Hey!  Earlier you said I was a goddess dressed as a mortal,” she teased.

“Defending my goddess, then.”  He brushed her cheek, then straightened.  “Who probably needs a refill as much as I do.  Come on.  Let’s see how Chris is handling his juice.”

“…if you want to, go for it,” they heard Jeffery encourage Chris as they approached.  “You wouldn’t be the only one.”

“I know!  But it’s colder than it feels.”  Chris’ voice was high and slurred; the juice was hitting him hard now.  “I know that, because,” he tapped his chest proudly, “science and med major!”

“Eh, you’ll be fine.  I might join you all in a bit.  Just got to finish this first.”  Jeffery swirled what remained in his cup.

“Join for what, dare I ask?” asked Patrick.

They got their answer when Chris let out a juiced-up whoop, stripped out of his toga, underwear, and even his hair laurels—which messed it up but good—and took off hollering to catch up with the other streakers at the party.  Patrick, Maria, and Jeffery couldn’t contain their laughter watching him go.

“Oh, my Watcher, Jeffery.  How much did he guzzle out of that keg?” Patrick asked.

“Enough,” he replied with a grin.

Maria giggled.  “Tad’s going to love this story.”

“Not nearly as much as Blair would,” Patrick said, snickering.  “I can practically see her turning colors from here, and I can only imagine what Cycl0n3 would say.”

“Think we should tell them, or save it as blackmail material?”

“Nah, it can be our secret.  I think he’ll already be in enough trouble later without our help.  From the hangover if nothing else.”

“Maybe we should send hm home with some sweetgrass.  Glad he’s having fun, though.  It’s not a bad way to end a first term, cutting loose like that.”

“Aside from Harold, it hasn’t been a bad way to end our last one, either.”

Maria leaned closer and gave Patrick a come-hither look.  “No, but I bet I can think of a way to make it better.”

“Oooh.  Well, on that note, let’s head home and finish partying our togas off.”

While Patrick and Maria left and continued their party privately, Chris stayed and kept partying.  Once the streaking novelty wore off, and he got cold, he clumsily put his toga back on and hung around a while longer.  He had fun and met lots of new people.  He returned to his dorm in a great mood, although he had to shower before bed.  Keg stands were messy.

Even though he was still juiced, he remembered he’d promised to call Tad.  When he checked his phone, he saw he’d missed more calls from him during the party, the last of which had a voicemail that had a rather grouchy-sounding Tad saying to call as soon as he got it.  Chris noticed the time and felt a bit bad about calling back at that hour, since Tad would need to get up for work in just a few hours, but he didn’t want to not call after hearing that message.  He vaguely remembered Patrick’s warning and had the thought that it figured that one time, he’d have to be right.

“Hey, Tad!”  His greeting came out overly enthusiastic, flirtatious, and giddy from the juice.

“Oh, wow.  You really are trashed.”  Tad sounded irritated, and Chris wondered why.

“Did I wake you up?”

“No, because I’ve been waiting for you to call like you said you would.”

“And I am,” Chris replied, confused.  “What’s wrong?”

“I called you a bunch of times.  Why didn’t you answer?”

He was taken aback by Tad’s surliness.  “Uh, because I was at a party?  I didn’t think there was any emergency.  It’s not like I saw a text or anything saying it was.”

“Would you have even checked them if I had?” Tad scoffed.  “I started to think you lost your phone with everything else.”

“What are you talking about?  Are you—are you mad at me for going to a party I told you I was going to and just having fun for a little while?”

“No.  I get why maybe you didn’t answer the first couple of times,” Tad said bitterly.  “But you could’ve at least taken five seconds to send me a text.  But then, I guess you didn’t exactly have your phone on you when you were running around buck naked and trashed around a bunch of horny university partiers, huh?”

Chris blinked.  How had Tad heard about that already?  “What—?  Did you talk to Maria or something?  What did she say?”  He couldn’t imagine why Maria or Patrick would have told Tad that, but they were the only ones he could think of who might.

“No, I haven’t talked to my sister, although it looks like she at least had the class to keep her toga on.  She and Patrick were tagged in a picture taken by one of those fraternity guys.  A picture that also had a naked redhead whose butt I recognized running around in the background.”  Tad sounded less than impressed.  “So, I’m glad you had fun stripping and streaking like your dorm pal.  Hope that’s all the show they got.”

“Oh… oh, my Watcher,” Chris groaned.  He hadn’t noticed anyone taking pictures, and it never occurred to him that he might wind up on social media.  If Patrick was tagged, that meant odds were good his parents and grandparents and Orion and Iris saw it, too.  He prayed none of them recognized his naked backside as easily as Tad had.

“Yeah, those last few calls?  That was me trying to warn you.  But you’d have known that if you bothered to get back to me before now.”  Chris’ cheeks burned as red as his hair while Tad continued.  “I’m glad you made it home all right, at least.  I was starting to worry whether you were okay or just passed out somewhere.  Or with someone else,” he finished with a mutter.

“You know I wouldn’t do that!”

“I don’t like thinking it, either, but what the hell else am I supposed to wonder about when you just ignore me?”  His voice hit a highly emotional note.  “Especially when you’re drunk as plum and running around naked.  It’s not like that’s your usual kind of thing, either.”

“It was just some fun at a party,” Chris said sheepishly.  “Kicking back and cutting loose.  You’d have probably joined in if you were here.”

“I wouldn’t know, because I wasn’t there.”  Tad was sour and angry, and Chris got upset.

“Well, I’m sorry you weren’t, but we both know you probably would’ve, too!  You also ought to know I wouldn’t cheat on you.  Juice or not.  Don’t you trust me?”

“Yes, but I also expect the courtesy of an answer when I try to get a hold of you!  I’m not saying you have to drop everything the second I call, but you could at least try to return it within a few freaking hours so I don’t start thinking the worst!  I’m glad you’re all right, but—”

“I’m fine!  Look, I’m sorry I worried you, okay?”

“Me too.  It’ll be loads of fun sending Esme off to school and going to work on two or three hours of sleep.  Because it’s not like I’m going to have an easy time falling asleep after this.”

Chris sighed, tired and drained.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean… I don’t want to fight with you, Tad.  I didn’t mean to make you worry and I’d have messaged you if I realized.”

“All right.  I don’t want to fight with you, either.  I love you.”  He said it on a grouchy, but sincere note.

“I love you, too.”

“I’ll just be glad when you’re home.  But in the meantime, don’t leave me hanging like this again, all right?”

“Yeah.  Okay.  I won’t.”

“Thank you.”

“I’ll let you go for now.  You should probably get some sleep if you can,” said Chris.

“And you should probably sleep it off,” Tad replied on a note of concern.  “Drink some water so you don’t get too sick.  I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

“And see you when I’m back in town.”

“Promise you’ll call once you’re here, too?”

“I promise.”

“I miss you.”

“I miss you, too.”

“Good night, Chris.  Love you.”

“Love you, too.”

As he hung up, Chris felt drained.  Not only was the party euphoria utterly gone, but he’d just been reminded of why he was so anxious about being away from Tad and the strain him being at Sims U put on their relationship.  Not to mention the picture posted on SimBook.  He quickly looked that up.  He was relieved that while Patrick and Maria were prominent in it, him and the other streaker were in the background and somewhat blurred.  Hopefully, no one other than Tad would be looking for him in it and recognize him.

Still, he sent Patrick a private message asking if he’d un-tag himself from it, just in case their family members took a second glance.  Although he expected him to razz him about it, he was pretty sure he would.  “It’s a good thing SimBook doesn’t have butt recognition software,” Chris muttered tiredly, and crawled into bed.

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 87 Part One
« Reply #284 on: January 27, 2019, 11:22:18 PM »
Author's Note: This one is pretty long at just under 8k words, so I split it into two posts.  I've also updated the chapter listing in the first post for this thread to break the story up into its different time periods.  Since it's not a traditional legacy, there are no hard lines between generations, and it's a bit more subjective, but it gives a clearer definition as to when things take place.

Chapter 87

Their final term at Sims University was over, and the grades were in.  Not only were Patrick and Maria about to graduate and come home with their degrees, they were graduating with honors.  “Woo!  Yes!  We rock!”  They did a celebratory dance after reading over their transcripts.  “Feels good, huh?”

“It feels great!  We’re now successful university graduates!  Or we will be, after the ceremony makes it official.”

Patrick pulled out his phone to make a post about graduation, and saw a post from Chris, too.  “Chris just posted.  He made the Dean’s List, too.”

“I’m not surprised.  He worked pretty hard.”

“Almost as hard as he partied last night.”  He chuckled.  “I can’t believe someone captured his bare backside in that picture.”

“It was nice of you to remove your tag from it.  I took mine off, too.  He is dating my brother, so…”

“Probably for the best.  It wasn’t a great picture of us, anyway.  I looked pretty plum-faced.”

“You were plum-faced.  I was more buzzed than I want to admit, too.  Besides, that picture Jeffery took of us in our togas by the fire was better.”

“Not to mention it didn’t have Chris’ butt in it,” Patrick snickered.  “At least when I party hard enough to take my toga off, I don’t do it in front of a camera.”

“Just keg stands, right?”

“Hey!  I wasn’t naked for that, and it was our first term.  I’ve learned since then.”

“Yes, you certainly learned how to party here, Red-Headed Step-Fiancé.”

“Well, if I’m going to rock out on stage someday, I might as well get used to the lifestyle, right?”

“Mmm-hmm.  Just as long as you don’t take up with any groupies, mister.  I won’t put up with that for one second!”  Maria tapped him playfully on the chest, and Patrick took her into his arms.

“There’s only one ‘groupie’ I want, and she’s right here.”  He dipped her low for a kiss.

When graduation day came, Patrick crossed the stage and accepted his diploma with pride.  Although Boyd and Susan wanted to be there with him, the several hour drive to Sims University was just too far for a day trip.  Instead, his family watched the graduation ceremony on live stream from home.  He understood, and he appreciated them being there in spirit, along with all the congratulations and well wishes he got in messages and on social media.  Besides, he had Maria with him, and Chris and his friends at Sims U, so he was hardly alone.

Patrick felt quite accomplished.  He was now a Sims U fine arts graduate and learned a lot in his time there.  He fine-tuned his artistic skills and sold several paintings, a few to galleries.  He also developed some skill with a paint can, although that was more with his friends at the Grotto than in academic practice.  He’d taken an elective in cooking and could now whip up a halfway decent meal.  His guitar playing was better than ever, and he enjoyed working on his own original compositions.  He’d also done well in his voice lessons and sounded good behind a microphone, although he would always prefer playing to singing.  Now he had the degree and resume that Stiles McGraw told him to come back and see him with back at Maria’s high school graduation dinner.  Soon, he could be living that dream of performing on stage.

In addition to the academic and practical achievements Patrick made at Sims University, he also made great friends and countless memories.  His time with his friends at the Grotto and the fraternity, especially Cid and Jeffery, introduced him to fascinating people.  By the time he left, Patrick had become well known in that artsy rebel crowd as the partying guitarist and painter.  There were worse things to have a reputation for, he figured.

Maria’s academic performance was also impressive, and she earned her communications degree with honors.  She was proud of all she’d accomplished.  Her skill with the written word had been well-honed, and she’d made considerable progress on her novel, the first of several she hoped to publish someday.

None of her family were able to make the trip, either, but her mother watched the live stream like Patrick’s parents had.  Later, she learned that Tad, Esmeralda, and Caleb also watched the part where she received her diploma on stage.  Despite his resentment about not getting into Sims U himself, and how aggravated he got with Maria’s behavior at times, Tad did love his older sister, and was glad to see her succeed.

Thornton also called to congratulate Maria, but he didn’t mention anything about watching the ceremony, even though she gave him the live stream information ahead of time, too.  She supposed he was too busy, probably with some business thing.  He always was.  It hurt, but she couldn’t honestly say she expected different.  “I suppose I should be grateful I at least ranked high enough on his calendar to get a phone call,” she vented to Patrick and Chris.  “I’m only his daughter.  It’s not like I’m a freaking board member or someone important.”

Even if it was a fair enough statement, it was dramatic.  That was something Maria’s time at Sims University hadn’t toned down.  If anything, the craziness and ups and downs of living on her own with Patrick for the first time had amped up her melodramatic tendencies.  While it gave her a certain flair and advantage in her creative endeavors, it also made her rather high maintenance at times.

Fortunately, Patrick never seemed to mind that much, at least not for long.  His temper flared hot and often, but it tended to cool almost as fast as it lit, and he hated fighting with Maria.  She felt the same.  She believed wholeheartedly that love conquers all, so all it usually took to smooth over a spat was a heartfelt peacemaking gesture.

“We’ve done it.  Graduated university.  It’s all official now!”  Patrick took her hands and spun her around in a cutesy twirl, and she held onto him afterward.

“Now we can really start our lives together.  Go home, get married, eventually have kids…”

“Stress on ‘eventually,’ but yeah.  I want to get settled into some kind of steady work first, and I’ll selfishly admit I’d like you all to myself for at least a little while.”

“Sure.  I’d like to finish my book first, too.  At least the final draft.  It’ll be hard to get much writing done with a baby to take care of.  Babysitting Caleb sure taught me that.”  She leaned closer and stroked his cheek.  “The wedding’s really the only thing I don’t want to put off.  I want it all official, for us to be husband and wife, forever.”

“Nothing standing in the way of that now.  We can plan it all out soon as we get back.  It should be easy with us already living together.  You love browsing all that bridal and wedding stuff anyway.”  They had already decided that after graduation, Maria would move in with Patrick at the Wainwright mansion.  They’d been living together at Sims University anyway, and they were planning to get married soon.  Now that she knew the truth about Orion, there was no concern about explaining things like the Galaxa or the fact that Orion didn’t sleep.  Besides, with Tad adopting Esmeralda and Caleb getting bigger every day, Morgana’s home was too crowded for her to go back to even temporarily.  Staying with her father wasn’t an option either wanted to consider, and there wasn’t much point in Maria getting an apartment only until the wedding.

When they returned to Sunset Valley, however, Maria didn’t go straight home with Patrick, but rather to her mother’s to see her family.  Patrick was fine with that, although he suspected she also hoped it would get her out of some van unloading.  Not that he could blame her.  He’d be happy to pass that buck, too.  He planned to enlist everyone at home to help, that was for sure.

They all greeted him as soon as he pulled up.  “Wow, full house!  Hi!”

“Welcome home, big brother!”  Iris hugged him.

“Thanks!”  He was barely able to get that out before Susan hugged him, too.

“It’s so nice to have you back.  Congratulations, graduate!”

“We’re really proud of you,” Boyd added, taking his turn next.  “I wish Sims U wasn’t so far and we could’ve been there more than electronically.  We’re glad you made it home safe.  Roads were all right?”

“They were fine.  But I’m sure you knew that because you checked thirty times anyway, right?”

“Maybe more like twenty, but guilty as charged.  Is Maria at her mother’s?”

“She wanted to see them, and they were eager to see her, too.”

“Understandable.  We’ve all missed you kids,” said Susan.

“Blair texted us when you dropped off Chris.  We heard his first term went just as well?”


“I saw you guys partied well, too,” Orion teased.  “Too bad Chris didn’t make it into any pictures wearing his toga.”  The way he said it hinted that maybe Orion had spotted him in the one he and Maria un-tagged themselves from, but Patrick wasn’t going to ask in front of his parents.

“We got one or two that didn’t make it online.  I’ll show you later.”

Plumboptimus beeped enthusiastically.  “I would also like to see the media depictions of your stay at the institution of higher learning.”

“Oh, sure!  I didn’t know you’d be into that kind of thing.”

“We’ve fine-tuned Plumboptimus’ social functions while you were away,” Boyd told him.  “You might be surprised at some of the stuff he’s interested in.”

“Actually, we were hoping we could pick that creative genius brain of yours for some help with a music chip.  We’d like to enable him to not only play music files, but actually play instruments, too.”

“Oh, wow!  That sounds cool.  I’m not sure how much help I’ll be building circuits, but I’d be happy to give you whatever input you need.”  Patrick gave Plumboptimus a thumbs up.  “Add in some laser lights, and you could make a great addition to a show on stage.”

“Wow, does that mean you’re already in a band?” Iris asked.

“Not yet.  I’m hoping that offer Stiles made back at Maria’s graduation dinner still stands, though.”

Susan smiled.  “It does help to be engaged to the sort-of stepdaughter of a rock star, hmm?”

“Yeah, although it’s more ‘sort-of’ than anything else these days.  Things are a little rocky with him and Maria’s mom right now, so… I wouldn’t bring that up.  I’m keeping it all professional.  Though it is kind of wild to think that he used to live with Blair and Cycl0n3 before they were married.”

“Bring that up and you’ll just remind him how old he is, and he might not want to hire you after all,” Iris joked.  “Besides, if you want to name drop, you can always mention that I’m going to the winter dance with Zelda Mae’s son.  She’s in his band.”

“Thanks, but I think I’m going to steer clear of much of that.  Got to let my playing speak for itself.  If I got a gig, I wouldn’t want to wonder if it was only because I knew someone.  Though I don’t think they’d do that, but you know.”  He gave Iris a curious look.  “Hey, is it your boots, or have you gotten taller since I’ve been away?”

“Yes, she’s growing like a—”

“Mom, if you say ‘weed,’ I’m going to kill you.”

“Springtime sprout,” Susan emphasized.  “I’d never call you a weed except when you’re being ornery.”

“Aw, that doesn’t happen too often, right?” Patrick teased.

“Right.  I think you’ve been away too long if you think that,” Orion joked with a sly look at their sister.

“Please.  Like I’m the troublemaker.  This from Mr. Bad-Sim Biker, who likes to give Mom and Dad heart attacks going out riding in the snow.”

“Don’t remind me, please,” Boyd groaned, while Orion turned to Patrick.

“By the way, tell Maria thanks for understanding about, you know, me.  I’m sorry my alien… people did that.  It sucks and it’s not right.”

“How’s she handling that?” asked Boyd.  “Any nightmares or flashbacks or anything?”

“She’s fine with you, Orion.  She’d never blame you for what they do, so don’t worry about it.  As for the abduction, she doesn’t talk about it much.  It really freaked her out, but she’s trying to move on and forget about it.  When she does bring it up, it’s usually late at night and she got the creeps thinking about it or looking out the window or something.  I just close the blinds and lock the doors and stay up with her until she feels better.  Let her talk and hear her out until she’s okay or falls asleep.”

Susan put her hand on Boyd’s shoulder.  “That’s about all you can do, unfortunately.  Hopefully as time passes, she won’t think about it as much.”

“Well, she doesn’t dwell on things like,” Patrick glanced at his father, “you do, no offense.”

“None taken.  Few do.  I’m glad she’s got you.  Let her know she can talk to any of us if she needs to.  She’s practically family now.”

Iris decided to change the subject to a happier one.  “Speaking of which, when’s your wedding?  Do you have a date yet?”

“Looking forward to that bridesmaid dress, huh?”

“Maria promised not to pick out anything ugly, so yes.  It’ll be fun!  I’m curious who’s going to catch the bouquet.”  Iris gave Orion a cutesy look.  “Maybe Tara will.”

Orion flushed, while Susan laughed.  “Let’s just marry one of you kids at a time, please?  And space it out?  Weddings are big enough without lining up multiples, especially considering Orion is still in high school.”

“At least at my wedding, I can promise the groom won’t forget the ring!”  Although Patrick had only been an infant back at Blair’s wedding, that was another family tale that had been retold many a time over the years, so the younger generation knew it well.

“I think Maria’d kill you if you did,” a familiar voice that only Patrick could hear quipped from nearby.  Patrick glanced over and saw Buddy standing by the stairs, and his invisible friend waved at him.  “Welcome home, Patrick.  Glad you’re back!  Can’t wait to hear what stories you’ve got to tell this time!”

He nodded and smiled back.  University was fun, but it felt good to be home again.

Patrick wasted no time contacting Stiles about the offer he made back before he started university.  He was thrilled when he invited him to come to the theater for an interview.  It was hard to contain his excitement as he sat down with him in his office.  The gold records, awards, and memorabilia in there were impressive.  He imagined what it might be like if he had something like that someday.

“Thank you for seeing me.  I really appreciate it.  I know you’ve got to be pretty busy, and you made that offer to me a long time ago.”

“Oh, it’s no trouble.  While Holly usually handles the interviews, I’m the one who said to come on down and talk to me after you finished at school.  Congratulations on that, by the way.  You and Maria both did a bang-up job there, I hear, and reading over your resume, I can see why.  Accomplished quite a bit.”

“I did my best.”

“I don’t doubt it.  I remember you had some real skill on the guitar.  I’m guessing you kept at that.  Pick up any other instruments?”

Patrick couldn’t tell Stiles about the laser rhythm-a-con, which was a shame, because he had gotten pretty good on that, too, but fortunately there were other things he could mention.  “I took a few lessons on the bass at university.  I’m pretty newbie with piano and drums, but I still remember some basics on them from music club back in high school.”

“Fair enough.  What about singing?  I see on here you had voice training?”

“I did that my second term.  Also unofficially practiced on karaoke, just for fun.”

“Guess that means you’re used to performing for an audience, then.  Good.  Believe it or not, sometimes we get musicians who find out they’re uncomfortable with that once they’re on center stage.”

“I’m fine with that.   I got over it pretty early.  I was in drama club in high school, too.”

Stiles smiled.  “With Maria, right?  Morgana mentioned her being in some plays back then.  So, you were, too?”

“Yup.  Not leads or anything, but I had a couple of roles in shows that were significant.  Two were musicals.”

“Good.  Well, why don’t you grab your guitar, and we’ll head on over to the practice stage and hear you play?”

Patrick couldn’t wait, and practically leapt to his feet.  “Sure!”

The practice stage was an old defunct theater room on the basement level.  Because the lighting and wiring were old in that part of the building, and it was small, it didn’t make sense to host regular shows there when they had a much newer and more spacious stage upstairs.  It did make a great rehearsal room, though.  Patrick could almost feel the artsy history in the atmosphere when he went in.  It still had some of the original paneling and fixtures, from back when the theater was built, when the orchestra his grandfather had been in played there.  Stuart Wainwright, who Patrick’s middle name was in honor of, died long before Patrick was born, so Patrick only knew what his father had told him about him, but being in that same creative space felt both inspiring and nostalgic.

He picked up his guitar and played one of his favorite tunes.  He was glad that Stiles seemed to not only like his choice but also his playing.  He tapped along to the beat and gave Patrick an approving look.  “Looks like my old memory serves well.  You are as good as I remember.”

“Thank you!  That’s a real compliment coming from you.”  To some it might’ve seemed like brown-nosing, but Patrick meant it.  His heart pounded with excitement to be auditioning with someone as accomplished as Stiles.  It reminded him of when he got that award in music club back in the day, only better.

“No problem.  I mean it.  Tell you what.  Let’s try one together.”  Stiles picked up his guitar.  “I imagine you probably know this one.”  He strummed the first few notes of one of their more popular hits.

It was one Patrick knew well and could play.  He almost exclaimed “Plum, yeah!” in his enthusiasm, but he managed to keep his decorum to a more professional “Absolutely!” instead as he picked up his guitar began playing.

Just then, another one of Stiles’ bandmates came in, which left Patrick feeling even more keyed up in that semi-anxious, star-struck, but thrilled kind of way.  Zelda Mae, the one band member he hadn’t met way back when his high school class toured the theater, smiled at them as she approached.  “So, I take it this is our aspiring guitarist?”

“Yup.”  Stiles put his guitar down, and Patrick followed.  “This is Patrick Wainwright.”

“It’s great to meet you.”  Patrick tried to contain his enthusiasm, but he beamed as he shook Zelda’s hand.

“Likewise!  I’ve got a soft spot for bad-llama guitar riffs, and players,” she said with a playful wink.  “Say, are you related to that sweet plantsim girl my boy is absolutely bananas over?  Her last name is Wainwright.”

Although he hadn’t planned to mention it, she brought it up.  “Yes.  She’s my little sister.”

“I like her.  A real sweet leaf, that one, if you’ll pardon the bad plant pun.  Lane just adores her, and I think they’re adorable together!  Anyway, thanks for coming by.  Can’t wait to hear more of your playing.  Stiles said he was impressed back when he heard you play.  When was that again?  He said it was some time ago now?”

Stiles nodded.  “Maria’s high school graduation party at the lounge.  This is her boyfriend.  He just graduated Sims U with her.”

“Oh!  Wait, are you the one that got on stage with her to tweak her stuffy dad who said going into music is a waste of time?  I love that story!  Oh, Maria.  She’s got some chops, that one, don’t she, Stiles?”

“That’s one way to put it,” he chuckled, while Patrick couldn’t help but feel proud that Stiles shared that story with his bandmates.

“I see Stiles’ sort-of stepdaughter has good taste,” Zelda continued on a borderline flirtatious note that just stayed just in the lines of professional.  “You two sounded pretty good.  He wanted the rest of our opinions on your skills, too, though.”  She patted Stiles on the shoulder.  “Doesn’t want us thinking he’d make an offer just because you’re with his girlfriend’s daughter, if you know what I mean.”

“Sure.  I totally understand.”

“All right, then!  How about I join you two on the bass while we wait on Pauline?”

“I was wondering what her hold up was.”  Stiles glanced in the direction of the door.

“Traffic?  The teenager?  The cute pizza delivery guy?  Who knows?”  Zelda giggled as she picked up her instrument.  “I know how all those can be!”