Author Topic: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley  (Read 85047 times)

Offline deedee_828

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #325 on: October 18, 2019, 08:24:57 PM »
Wow--I just caught up in your story and it's been quite the read over the past few weeks!
You are a wonderful writer and make your sims come alive! I've grown rather fond of your Wainwrights and their extended families and can't wait to read more.

The only thing that took me by surprise is how badly Claire Ursine and Jared Frio come off in your story as your SP really gave in to their traits!
They are the founders in my Town Jump story and part of their journey is over-coming negative traits, so when they were alive they had to work really hard not to give in to them.
Though we never managed to get Jared to stop mocking people on their birthdays.
And he still laughs when ghostly coward Sam passes out when he sees the other family ghosts.

Some traits are just to ingrained to break!
Much like Maria and her Diva drama queen histrionics, Patrick and his hot-headed temper which is a trait he shares with my Claire, and of course Boyd's neurotic personality, which many of my own Frios have experienced.
But those traits more than make up for themselves with how much it adds to the story.
Especially being such well-rounded characters as you have managed to make them.
Characters that many of us readers now look upon with such fondness we can't wait to see what adventures lie ahead!


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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #326 on: October 23, 2019, 02:24:24 PM »
I've been reading this for a while now, never having seen it when it initially posted. I'm sort of late to the game in reading Sims stories even though I am now addicted. I love this family. I love how  you work in their traits in a "show me, don't tell me" fashion. I hope, actually, that you write your own original fiction as well. You're a good writer with few grammar and punctuation errors!   Anyway, the other reason I am posting mid-story instead of at the end is that I have to the baby mat part of Generations pack or part of a mod?  I can't use mods. They crash my computer, which is a bummer because I love some of the different poses mods.  Also, do you make you own "sets"?  Like for the hospital scene when Cycl0n3 got his behind broken or when Blair is in the police station or the founders are in the lab? Because I know those are rabbit holes. LOL Dumb questions, I know. And I hope you are still around these boards to answer!

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Offline Cheezey

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #327 on: October 25, 2019, 11:23:53 PM »
Wow--I just caught up in your story and it's been quite the read over the past few weeks!
You are a wonderful writer and make your sims come alive! I've grown rather fond of your Wainwrights and their extended families and can't wait to read more.

Thank you so much! I'm glad you're enjoying it.

The only thing that took me by surprise is how badly Claire Ursine and Jared Frio come off in your story as your SP really gave in to their traits!
They are the founders in my Town Jump story and part of their journey is over-coming negative traits, so when they were alive they had to work really hard not to give in to them.
Though we never managed to get Jared to stop mocking people on their birthdays.
And he still laughs when ghostly coward Sam passes out when he sees the other family ghosts.

Yup, sometimes the NRaas Story progression really goes wild with a sim's traits. It likes to kick off the child support fail a lot, even with sims you might not expect it from. If they are evil, mean-spirited, dislikes children, or absent-minded, especially, it seems to trigger frequently.  So Jared got it a lot, but Connor did a few times (due to the absent-minded trait, I guess) with his daughter with Pauline, and Iqbal Alvi got it a couple times for Lane as well. Both Connor and Iqbal seem like good parents, though, so that seems out of character unless they just forgot to put the check in the mail or something. VJ gets it often and wound up in jail from it, too, but he's evil so I'm not super surprised about that. In my game, Thornton also didn't pay up a few times for Tad and Maria back when they were still minors, which is sad considering how rich Thornton is, but the dislikes children trait won out, I suppose.

Jared is one of those sims that I found hard to keep in line when I played him. Mean-spirited makes a sim autonomously rude so often.  In this game, Buddy has it, and I often have to keep an eye on Patrick when he's around or their relationship will start tanking, because Buddy will say something rude out of nowhere, and Patrick's hot-headed reaction will make it worse. (Though Patrick is guilty of starting it on occasion, too.)  But I agree Jared and Claire are a fun pair to play, as they have an interesting dynamic to work with.

Some traits are just to ingrained to break!
Much like Maria and her Diva drama queen histrionics, Patrick and his hot-headed temper which is a trait he shares with my Claire, and of course Boyd's neurotic personality, which many of my own Frios have experienced.
But those traits more than make up for themselves with how much it adds to the story.
Especially being such well-rounded characters as you have managed to make them.
Characters that many of us readers now look upon with such fondness we can't wait to see what adventures lie ahead!

Thank you! I like my sims to have a negative or at least a questionable trait or two, since it makes them more fun to play and write for.

I've been reading this for a while now, never having seen it when it initially posted. I'm sort of late to the game in reading Sims stories even though I am now addicted. I love this family. I love how  you work in their traits in a "show me, don't tell me" fashion. I hope, actually, that you write your own original fiction as well. You're a good writer with few grammar and punctuation errors!

Thank you! That's very kind of you! :)  I enjoy working in their traits and thinking about how and why they might have developed them, from a characterization perspective.   

Anyway, the other reason I am posting mid-story instead of at the end is that I have to the baby mat part of Generations pack or part of a mod?  I can't use mods. They crash my computer, which is a bummer because I love some of the different poses mods.

Nope, the baby mat isn't a mod. It's premium Sims 3 store content that came with the Titanic Toy Machine, which is part of the Golden Ticket Toy Shop venue that goes with Midnight Hollow.  It's something the machine makes, but if you have that content installed you can use cheats and buy it straight out of buydebug.

Also, do you make you own "sets"?  Like for the hospital scene when Cycl0n3 got his behind broken or when Blair is in the police station or the founders are in the lab? Because I know those are rabbit holes. LOL Dumb questions, I know. And I hope you are still around these boards to answer!

Not dumb questions at all!  I do have sets.  Some are lots in Sunset Valley that I customized that are in the game full time, like the lab lot.  I left the rabbit hole as it was, but I built a separate lab building on the same lot that the sims can use, which is where all the lab scenes were done.  My hospital lot is like that, too. I've changed and customized Sunset Valley quite a bit in this game.  I have Mick's Karaoke lounge on the original lot for the hospital, and put the Prism Studio in as my museum, and have the hospital on the old art museum lot, so I had room to build a second building next to it.  That one does have some mods and CC in it, though, hospital equipment decor that is player made.  Some of my "business office" scenes were actually taken on that lot, since I didn't have anything pre-built for that but some of the office rooms and cafeteria were close and just needed a few tweaks.

Other scenes like the prom gym, police station, and the alien ship room, are in a closed and inaccessible second floor of a building I replaced the Petit Shark Pool with that has my consignment shop, laundromat, coffee shop, and comic shop that I built in it.  I just teleport in the sims to get the screenshots I need when I need to make them.

Lastly, I have a few lots that I place in throwaway saves for staging only when I need them, becauase they won't work in my town full time without causing me to have to change a lot of stuff around. The theater/band set where Patrick works is one of these. I built it under the theater lot, but deleting and putting it back in means resetting every sim's job who works there when the 3 rabbit holes are deleted and that's a pain that I prefer not to deal with. My "inside the school" lot is similar. I built an open rabbit hole modeled after the original Sunset Valley school to be used with the mod rabbit hole rugs at one point, and really like how it turned out, but in this town I had to combine rabbit holes on other lots.  Unfortunately, because of that, it won't work full time on my current save because I used the smaller school from the Town Life stuff pack so I could also fit the police station on the same lot, to free the police station lot up to put a lounge on it.  Lastly, my "inside the diner" set is placed only when needed.  I have to temporarily delete another lot in a throwaway save to place it to get those screenshots because I don't have enough lots open anymore to leave it up.

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 110
« Reply #328 on: October 25, 2019, 11:25:12 PM »
Chapter 110

After blowing out the candles, Orion cut his cake and took the celebratory slice feeling like he was on top of the world.  He was legally an adult, he’d be graduating from high school with high honors, and he’d been accepted into a competitive technology program at a local university.  He was a natural with computers and advanced technology after so many years of messing around with it alongside his parents, especially combined with his innate telekinetic abilities.

Although he could’ve easily gotten into Sims University, Orion knew his parents wanted him to stay close to home, and truthfully, he didn’t want to go that far.  Taking the Galaxa or any major alien tech to a place like that was risky, and he wanted to keep using it like he always had.  Besides, Boyd and Susan were getting older and frailer by the day.  He didn’t want to burden them with unnecessary worries, and he didn’t want to be away if their time came while he was still working on his degree.  He didn’t like thinking about losing them, but he also knew it was inevitable.  No one lived forever, and they were far older than many who met Grim at a ripe old age.

“Happy birthday, Orion!”  Esmeralda sat down across from him and Travis.  Orion was still elated that Tara was there, but she was waiting in line for cake, so he hadn’t talked to her yet.  “It must be so cool being officially an adult now.  No more rules!”

Orion was grateful for both the sentiment and the temporary distraction.  “You’d think, but not exactly.  Believe me, I’ll still hear about it if I do something they don’t approve of.”

“Yeah, but you can tell them to stuff it and not get in trouble for it.”

“That depends on how you define ‘trouble.’  Grounding, no.  Long-winded speech of disapproval…?”

“And you’d never blow that off, of course,” Travis remarked wryly.

“No more than you’ve taken every one of Blair’s cop mom speeches to heart.”

Esmeralda giggled.  “He doesn’t.”

Travis eyed her over his glasses.  “For the record, cop Mom is a lot different than the cop Grandma you see.  Not to mention you’ve also got the world’s most laid-back spoil-the-kids grandmother ever living with you, along with Tad and Chris, who can’t even lay down the law with his freaking cat.”  He did an imitation of his brother.  “‘Diddy!  Shame on you, hopping right into the pizza box!  Bad cat!  I’m locking you up!’  One minute and sad meow later: ‘Oh, no, that won’t work this time.  Not like the last fifty!  Nope, no way…  Hey!  Stop looking at me like that!  …  Oh, fine, you’re cute and fuzzy.  I’ll let you out and pet you.’”

Both Orion and Esmeralda were amused, but Orion had to chime in again.  “True, but you and Chris also never got the same kind of lectures me, Patrick, Iris, and your mom did from my parents.”  He paused.  “Well, I don’t know about Blair, because to hear it told, she was an angel who never misbehaved, but I was there for the rest of us.”

“Tad’s not really that strict, but it’s not like I can do whatever I want,” Esmeralda pointed out.  “He gets mad about stupid things and gripes about them to everyone.  And when Caleb does something and Tad gets on his case, he can just run to Grandma Morgana saying, ‘She’s my mom and you’re not my dad.’  I can’t.  But I don’t get in trouble that much anyway.”

Orion raised an eyebrow.  “You don’t get in trouble, or you don’t get caught?”

“What?  I can’t believe you’d say that,” Esmeralda replied with playful haughtiness and an overly innocent expression.  “Is this the face of a troublemaker?”

Orion snickered, and Travis smirked.  “Uh-huh.  Luckily for you, I owe my llama of a brother a lifetime of paybacks, so your secret is safe with me.”

When Susan got her cake, she sat down next to Orion.  “I hope your birthday’s been nice so far, sweetie.”

“It has.  Thanks.”

“I’m glad.  We’re very proud of you.”  She paused.  “I noticed Tara’s here.  Did you invite her?”

Orion glanced around and saw her standing by some balloons eating cake by herself.  “Yeah, but I was surprised she came.  Especially since it’s her birthday, too.  But she did say on SimBook she wasn’t doing anything special.  Just going out to lunch at the bistro with family.”

Susan smiled.  “I guess she wanted to wish you a happy birthday in person, then.  Have you talked to her yet?”

“No.  She came in while I was blowing out the candles, but I don’t think she wants to talk much in front of people.  So I will when I’m done.”

“Well, I hope you two have a nice birthday chat.  You deserve it.”

Although he knew she meant well, he couldn’t help but think sourly that if she and his father had just let him tell Tara everything back when he first wanted to, it wouldn’t be like this now.  But saying so would just be petty and hurt her feelings, and he didn’t want to do that.  It wasn’t like it would fix anything with Tara anyway.  “Thanks,” he said.  “Me too.”

He finished his cake and noticed Tara was also done.  She was still keeping away from the crowd over by the balloons, but Eni Jish Xip had gone over and introduced herself.  Orion hoped that neither would say anything too weird and create an awkward situation.  Tara had an unfortunate knack for putting her foot in her mouth, and Eni Jish Xip might have been a Sixam diplomat, but she wasn’t exactly a smooth conversationalist among the Earth crowd herself.  Not only that, she knew about Tara’s history with him, and while he didn’t think she’d intentionally do anything to upset him, he didn’t want any of her “help” with his relationship, either.  Not with her track record.

He put his plate in the dishwasher and went over.  “Hi, Tara.  Thanks for coming.  I see you’ve met Eni Jish Xip.”

Tara looked from him to her, and then down anxiously.  “Yeah.”

Eni Jish Xip was more empathetic than Orion anticipated, and he realized she must’ve been reading Tara, and him, too.  “Yes.  Tara Keaton is a pleasant individual.  I can see why you enjoy her companionship.”  She turned to Tara.  “I can tell you would like to express birthday wishes to Orion Wainwright, so I will go indulge in another libation so you two may converse.  It was a pleasure meeting you.”  She nodded to Orion and went to the living room while he talked to Tara.

“It’s nice to see you.  Happy birthday.”

She smiled, but seemed even more anxious now.  “Thanks.  Happy birthday to you, too.  You look great.  Happy, I mean.”  Oh, why’d I say it like that?

Orion wished he couldn’t still pick up on her thoughts so easily, especially since it felt to him like maybe she did mean it the way he hoped.  He motioned for her to follow him to the counter where they were less likely to be interrupted.  “Thanks.  You look great, too.  How was lunch with your family?  I saw on SimBook…”

“Good.  Mom and Dad took me to the bistro, and Wilbur and Penny and Rodrigo came, too.  I was kind of surprised, since she and Wilbur haven’t been getting along great lately, but it was nice.  Rodrigo’s gotten really big.  And it was so fancy, I had to scale down and change before coming here.  I’m glad I did.  That formal dress would’ve been way overkill and I’d have stuck out even more.”  She glanced through the archway to where Eni Jish Xip chatted with Plumboptimus.  “More than her, even.”  I can’t believe that’s his alien mom!  I hope she never abducted and probed me and I just don’t remember!

Orion hoped that, too, and he hated that Tara still feared that even though they were broken up.  She should’ve at least been able to not worry about that now that they weren’t together anymore, but apparently not.

“So she’s…?”

“Genetically, my mother.  That’s her.”

“I can kind of see how she looks like you.”  She bit her lip.  “Aside from just being green and her eyes, I mean.  Like in the face.  Your cheekbones.”  I hope that didn’t come out rude!

“I get what you mean,” Orion assured her.

“She was nice, but kind of…”

“Off?  Strange?  Dare I say, alien?” he said with a light smile.  “Yeah, that’s how she is.  I hope she didn’t say anything too odd.”

“No.  She was fine.  But it’s kind of weird knowing she probably knows we…”  She regretted her words mid-sentence and re-started.  “So, who do you tell everyone else she is?”

“Just someone with my condition that knows me and my parents from the lab.”

“Like you’re test subject buddies, or something.”

“Something like that.”

If I hadn’t made him tell me his secret, that’s what he’d be telling me, too.

Orion hated that he sensed that, that she thought it, and that it was true and she knew it.  It made the next thought he picked up on even worse.

And I wouldn’t even know because he’s so good at lying about it.

I have to be, he wanted to tell her.  I never wanted to lie to you, and I won’t do it again!  But he couldn’t say any of that, not without letting on that he was reading her thoughts, intentionally or not.  He knew exactly how well that would go over.  Their eyes met in an awkward silence that fell between them, and he picked up on yet another thought.

I wish I could tell when you’re telling the truth so I could trust you again.  Tara shifted awkwardly and looked away, remembering that he could read thoughts and hoping, horrified, that he hadn’t sensed any of that.  Maybe he hasn’t since he hasn’t said… but you’ll never know for sure, will you?

It made him glad he hadn’t let on, but it felt dishonest anyway.  Was there any way he could not be wrong here?

“I almost didn’t come,” she admitted after a moment.  “But I didn’t want to not see you again before…”

“Before you leave for Shang Simla?”

“You saw that post, too, huh?”  So he is still reading my posts like I do his…

When he sensed that, he tried not to give it the weight he did, but he couldn’t help it.  Was his wish coming true?  Could she really be coming around?  But if so, why was she still leaving?  “Yeah.  And Wilbur told me.”

“Oh.  I didn’t know you ran into him.  He didn’t say anything to me.”

Big shocker there, Orion thought, although he was glad she didn’t ask more about it.  He wouldn’t have kept it from her if she did, but Wilbur’s Golden Llama visit wasn’t anything he wanted to bring up now, especially in front of other people, even if they weren’t in direct earshot.  “Do you want to go over to the study and talk?  Just so people aren’t…”

“Staring and wondering why we’re broken up but talking like this and what we’re talking about or what’s going on?”  Tara cast a nervous look around the kitchen, especially as Maria glanced over at them curiously while putting her own plate in the dishwasher.  “Yeah.  Okay.”

As they left the room, Iris shook her head while chatting with Travis.  “Man, this party’s turning into one of your horror movies.  Attack of the Awkward Exes.”

“I didn’t think Lane bothered you that much.  You talked to him a while.”

“Yeah, but he’s still an ex.  Mostly I talked to him because he just lost his mom.  I’d feel bad for anyone that happened to.  Even someone I had a bad breakup with.”  She paused.  “He didn’t even really want to be here anyway.  He said Miraj and Holly made him come so he wasn’t sitting at home all depressed and stuff.”

“Hey, you don’t have to justify it to me.  Talk to who you want.  I’d talk to Lane over Lester any day.”

Iris sighed.  “Really?”


“You say something rude about Lester every time something about my boyfriends comes up.  I know you don’t like each other, but do you have to bash him all the time?  It’s not like I go around making fun of Starla in front of you.”

“Sorry.  Didn’t realize it bugged you so much.”  He frowned.  “You don’t like Starla?”

“I didn’t say that.  What I meant was, how would you like it if I was always saying bad stuff about her?”

“Honestly?  She probably wouldn’t care any more than I think Lester does about what I think of him, so I’d blow it off.  But okay.  I’ll lay off mocking him when you’re around.”

“Thanks.”  She smirked.  “I realize what a Herculean effort it is for you.”

“Well, at least you agree that it’s a grand favor I’m doing for my favorite aunt.”

“Favorite aunt?  I’m your only aunt, you llama,” she joked back.  “Unless you count Maria as that instead of as, like, your sister-in-law once removed or whatever.  And you’re lucky you don’t have any awkward exes, or they’d have probably shown up at this party, too.”

“A problem I’ll hopefully never have.”

Iris raised an eyebrow.  “Oh?  Could it be that surly little Travis has the golden heart of a romantic who believes he’s already found his one true love forever and ever underneath that grumpy everything-sucks exterior?”

“Shut up,” he retorted, turning just a bit red in the face.  “All I said is I hope I don’t ever have an ex that makes me want to either hide under a rock from them or bury them under one.”  He paused.  “Though anyone with half a clue could see that Orion doesn’t want to do either with Tara.  What he wants is pretty obvious.”

“Tell me about it.  Honestly, I wish he’d just get over her so he doesn’t keep getting jerked around.  But unfortunately, like everyone else in this family, maybe even you,” she said with a gleam in her eye, “he seems to think that the first person he falls totally in love with has to be ‘The One’ and he should work it out with them no matter what plum they pull.”

“Hey, Starla’s never pulled any plum with me.  I wouldn’t put up with that.  It’s one of the things that makes her great.  Super low levels of llama load.”  He chortled.  “You think I’d put up with what Patrick and Maria do from each other for five minutes?  Or Tad’s constant mooching of my snacks every time he’s over while complaining about stupid plum, or Chris’ dumb jokes and needing to be BFFs with every cat on the block?  And don’t even get me started on Mom and Dad and how I’m pretty sure they’ve been together forever only because no one else could deal with them but each other.”

“Maybe it’s the woohoo,” Iris quipped, doubly amused when Travis blanched.

“Ew.  Thanks for that montage of mental images I never wanted.  May you now be cursed with wondering whether werewolves actually do it doggy style the next time Patrick and Maria get too loud.”

Iris made a face.  “You’re a pain the plumbob, and Chris is now my favorite nephew for at least the next week.”

“Love you too, favorite aunt by default,” Travis replied cheekily as he headed off to grab another potato chip.

Once they were alone in the study, Orion and Tara continued their conversation.  “So, what did you want to talk about?” she asked, shuffling nervously.

“You said you almost didn’t come, but you wanted to see me before you left.  Was that so you could tell me you were going?”

“I—I guess so.  I thought you probably knew already from seeing it online, but since you didn’t like or comment… but you said you also heard it from Wilbur anyway.  It’s not like it was a secret or anything.”  She paused.  “Are you mad I didn’t tell you?  I just figured since we were broken up, you wouldn’t care.”  She frowned.  Wait, does that makes it sound like I think he’s a jerk? “I mean, I didn’t want to bother you or be all weird thinking you even should care since we’re not together anymore, not like I think you hate me or anything.  But—”

“I’m not mad.  I’m… I’m happy for you.  If going to Shang Simla is what you want, then you should.  You’re good at martial arts and you’re getting a chance to study with masters.”  He met her eyes as she looked up.  “And I’ll always care about you.  I didn’t comment because, well, I didn’t think you’d want me to.  Since you hadn’t told me yourself.  I figured you still wanted space.”

Tara looked down again.  “It’s not—it’s not so much that I want space, Orion.  I need it.”  Because I can’t stay away from you and I have to.  “What I mean is, I do want to study martial arts, and if stuff hadn’t happened like it did and we were still together I’d have hoped maybe you might come with me, but obviously, that’s not going to happen, and it can’t happen.  So I just need to go.  By myself.”  She let out a self-deprecating laugh.  “Maybe I’ll learn some of that discipline and peace and be able to put it to work on my head as well as my body.”

Orion couldn’t pretend he didn’t sense that.  “So are you saying you’re leaving just as much to get away from me as you are to study?”

Tara balked.  “No, I—wait, were you reading me?!”

“I didn’t have to.  You said it.  You need space.”

“You didn’t answer my question,” she said, her voice rising.  “You said you wouldn’t lie to me anymore!”

“I’m not lying.  Yes, I sensed it.  I’m sorry.  I told you that you broadcast sometimes.”  He looked back at her.  “But even if you weren’t, if you want the truth, here it is.  I do tune into you.  Just like you, I can’t help myself.  You know why?  Because I still love you.  Because I can’t stay away from you, either.”

“Orion, don’t—”

“No.  Let me finish.  I’ve tried to move on.  To get past this, us.  But I can’t any more than you can.  To the point that you’re going to China to study just as much as you’re doing it to force yourself to stay away from me,” he vented.  “I haven’t seen anyone else, been with anyone else, any more than I think you have, and it’s all because I’m not over you any more than you’re over me.  Not really.  You say you don’t want to be together, but you act like you do.  It sure feels like you do.  Your actions say just as much as whatever I’ve picked up on that you don’t say does.”

Tara’s eyes filled with frustrated tears.  “That’s not fair!  You can literally read my mind!  I don’t have alien powers.  I can’t even figure out normal people half the time, whether they like me or hate me or find me annoying.  And sure as plum not when they’re being honest.  When they say one thing and do another.  I trusted you, but—”

“I get it,” Orion groaned frustratedly.  “I really do.  I lied to you, a lot.  I kept something huge and major from you, and I shouldn’t have.  I screwed up!  I know that.  Plum, do I!  If I could hop in a time machine and go back, I’d tell my parents to go suck a meteor, take whatever punishment they gave, and tell you as soon as it wouldn’t have been breaking my word to them.  I’m sorry.  I hate that I hurt you, I hate that you don’t trust me, and I hate that despite that, you still love me enough that part of why you want to leave is because you’re afraid of it.  Of me!”

She turned away, upset.  “I’m not afraid of you, I’m afraid of what happens if I’m wrong like I always am, and trust you not to hurt me only to end up even worse than now!”  Her lip quivered.  “The alien stuff, that’s weird and scary enough, but I think I could deal, if I could trust you to keep me safe and not let them hurt me.  But how can I trust you?  Even if I know you love me and want to believe you’re telling me the truth now?  How do I know for sure?  I loved and trusted Tom, a long time ago, and I was blindsided when he hooked up with Bianca.  I trusted my brother, only to find out he’s been a freaking Golden Llama and lying to everyone about what he’s doing when he’s out doing that, including the woman he loves!  I thought Penny loved him, but she’s cheating with one of her friends—yeah, found that out by accident when I saw them together, and I know Wilbur doesn’t know about that!  So she’s a liar, too.  Everyone lies!  You did, at least in the past, even if you say you don’t anymore.  And even I do, when I say I’m over you.”  She laughed bitterly.  “So I wonder how and when I can really trust, because I can never tell for sure!  So as much as I want to believe you, as much as I’d love to…”

“Then take a leap of faith and let me earn it back!  You don’t have to believe me now, but I’ll prove it to you.  Just give it, give us, another chance.  I won’t let you down.”

“I can’t,” she sobbed.

“Why?  Because going on like this is so much better?” he challenged.  “Come on.  We both know it’s not.  We’re both miserable!  Just turn around and look at me, Tara.  Tell me you don’t still love me, and you really want it over.”

“That’s not fair,” she argued, even as she turned to face him with tears in her eyes.  “You can read me, and I can’t—”

“You can’t deny how you still feel.”  Orion met her eyes and took her hands, stroking them tenderly as he held them while she leaned closer.  “Not any more than I can,” he finished, and, now that he knew for sure she wanted him to as much as he wanted to do it himself, he kissed her.

They stayed in that embrace for a passionate moment, enjoying being in one another’s arms, together, again.  They lingered, savoring that feeling…

Until Tara’s fears got the better of her and overwhelmed her once more.  She wrenched away.  “Oh, Watcher!  What are we doing?  This can’t happen!  We shouldn’t—oh, I was so stupid to come!  So freaking stupid!”


“No!”  Her voice went shrill in panic.  “Don’t you see?  This is why I have to leave!  Because whenever I’m around you, I just—Oh, what’s wrong with me?  What am I doing?”

“Being honest with yourself?” Orion retorted, hurt and frustrated.  He reached for her again, but she wrenched away.

“No!  I can’t!  I want to, but I can’t!  I’m sorry.  I’m so, so, so sorry!  But I can’t do this,” she gasped miserably.  “I love you and I want to stay, and I want to imagine it’ll work, but it won’t!  It won’t!  I know it won’t!  It can’t!  It never does!”

Orion tried not to fall apart himself.  “That’s not true!  We love each other!”

“I know, but that doesn’t matter!”  Tears streamed down her face.  “It doesn’t mean—”

“Doesn’t mean what?”

“It doesn’t mean getting back together isn’t a mistake,” she sobbed.  “I’m sorry!  I shouldn’t have come!  I have to go!” 

“No, you don’t,” he insisted.  “Please!”

“I’m sorry,” she repeated tearfully.  “I never meant to hurt you.  I really didn’t!  I’m sorry!”

The worst part was, he knew she meant it.  All of it, good and bad.  “Tara…”

“Good luck with your tech degree and all the stuff you’re going onto now,” she said, eyes closed and voice wavering.  “I’m sure you’ll do really well.  You always do.”  She swallowed.  “Goodbye.  I’ll—I’ll see you when you I get back from China, I guess.  Or online.”

She turned and bolted through the door, and he followed, upset.  “Tara, please!  No!  Don’t do this!”

“I’m sorry,” she repeated raggedly one last time before running through the crowd, grabbing her coat, and dashing out the front door.

“Yeah.”  Orion clenched his jaw so he wouldn’t burst into tears in front of everyone still at his birthday party bearing witness to the spectacle.  “Me too.”  It seemed that his birthday wish came true after all, just not the way he wanted, and it made him bitter.  But hey, at least nobody died, except maybe me inside.  Guess I just should’ve been more specific.

He noticed everyone in the living room staring at him after Tara ran out.  Boyd was the first to speak.  “Orion, are you…?”

“I’m fine.”  He forced a smile although it felt as fake and flat as his tone.  “We just had a… conversation that went somewhere it shouldn’t have.  That’s all.  Don’t worry about me.”

He could sense the concern and pity radiating from his family and friends, and while he appreciated the sentiment, it only made him feel worse. Even freaking Buddy feels bad for me.  How sad a sack must I look like for that? he thought ruefully as he walked over to the bar.

He looked at Patrick.  “I think I’ll take that birthday drink you offered me earlier.”

“Sure, though I’d start with one of these.”  He handed him a glass off the tray.  “Plumboptimus whipped them up a few minutes ago.  Nice and smooth.  Made with the premium stuff.”  He left off that they weren’t nearly as strong as what was in his glass.  Although he didn’t think it’d hit someone built like Orion too hard, he didn’t drink often, and the last time Orion was that upset over Tara, he dropped a meteor across the road.  Patrick wasn’t one to throw stones about a drink and blowing off steam on a bad day, but he didn’t want Orion to overdo it and end up doing something he’d regret later.  While Orion took a heavy sip, Patrick and Iris watched him with concern as the rest of the crowd distanced themselves a bit and gave him his space.  “Sorry your birthday got a llama load dumped on it,” he said.  “That sucks.”

“It was my own fault.”  He swallowed down about a third of his glass.  It tasted good, and it warmed him, although he already decided he was done after that.  He glanced over at Iris.  “Should’ve known better than to talk to the ex, right?  Though at least you were smart enough not to invite yours.”

“It’s just a shame mine went so much better than yours,” she said sympathetically.  “I’m sorry.  Whatever happened—”

He put up his hand as he downed the next third.  “Like I said, just got into stuff we shouldn’t have.  But it’s over.  I’ll be fine.”

Both Iris and Patrick were dubious of that, but since it was obvious he didn’t want to say more about it, they let it go.

The festive mood picked up a little, and Orion put on a happy face to appreciate the well meant sentiment of the guests there to celebrate and wish him well.  After the last of them left, Boyd approached him.  “I’m sorry things went plumbob-shaped in the middle of it all, but I hope you enjoyed at least part of your birthday.  We’re all real proud of you.” 

“Thanks, and it’s… it’s all right.  It is what it is.”  He knew his parents felt guilty about their part in his breakup with Tara, but it just wasn’t in him anymore to hold it against them at this point.  It was over.  Tara had made that clear.  Being angry at them wouldn’t change her mind or keep her from running off to Shang Simla for months.  “I’ll be fine, really.  It’s my birthday.  A new beginning.  A fresh start.”

“That’s true,” Susan agreed with a hesitant note of concern.

“Really, Mom.  Dad.”  He looked from one to the other.  “Yeah, it sucks.  I hoped Tara and I could work things out, but that’s not going to happen.  And now I know it.  We’re moving on to different parts in our lives.  She’s going to Shang Simla and I’m going to get my tech degree.  New school, new people, new… friends.  Onward to new adventures.”  He smiled.  “Like I said, I’ll be fine.  Thanks for everything.  My birthday was all right.  Plum just happens.”

“You know, your resiliency is one of the things I’ve always admired about you,” Boyd said fondly, while Susan nodded with him.

“We love you, Orion.”

“I know, Mom.  I love you all, too.  Thanks.  I’m going to call it a night and meditate for a while.  Good night.”  He headed upstairs.

“Poor Orion,” Susan said after he left.  “He’s talking a good game, but he’s crushed.”

“He really loved her,” said Boyd.  “I hoped when she showed up that maybe things would go the other way.”

Iris sighed.  “I wish I could say I did, but I had a feeling two exes turning up at the party wasn’t a good omen.”

“Do you think one of us should talk to him?  Not right now, but maybe later?  Soon?  To make sure he’s all right,” Susan suggested, glancing over at Boyd.  “Not us.  I’m sure we’re the last ones he’d want to talk to about it, but maybe one of you?”  She looked over at Iris, Maria, and Patrick.  “How about big brother?  You two have always been close, and I’m sure he’ll be more willing to open up to you.”

At that, Iris spoke up.  “Uh, no offense, but Patrick, or any of you guys, are the last people Orion needs advice from right now.  Sorry, but none of you in your long term I-married-my-first-love-from-high-school fairy tale relationships are going to be able to say anything that he really needs to hear,” she said bluntly.  “What he needs, what he’s needed for a long time now, is to stop clinging to the notion that they can magically work things out when the reality is that she’s going to keep hurting him.  He needs to just let her go and move on, once and for all, for good.  And none of you, or Chris or Tad, or Blair or Cycl0n3, have ever done anything like that, have you?  You’ve all been together forever and worked it all out through thick or thin, no matter what the plum.  Even if you might’ve dated someone for five minutes before winding up with each other, none of you ever had to walk away from something super serious with someone you were with for a long time, right?”

“No,” Maria admitted.  “I thought I was in love with Julius when I dated him before Patrick, until he didn’t call me like he promised.  And we were only together a couple weeks when I dumped him on Love Day with a note in his locker so I could go out with Patrick and not feel bad about it.”

Patrick didn’t say anything, and Susan shrugged.  “I had a crush or two on boys at my old school before moving here, but it’s true, your father’s the only one I’ve ever really loved.”

“I was almost as big a nerd as Cycl0n3 at that age, so I was thrilled that someone as amazing as your mom would go out with me,” Boyd confessed.  “Before that, most girls who talked to me were trying to get me to do homework for them.”

“So you get my point, then?  Because I’m pretty sure none of us want Orion to take a cue from you guys and go off to his classes and other stuff and not take a chance at meeting someone new, because some part of him believes that Tara is his one true love and she still loves him, so he should keep freaking pining for her while she’s away in Shang Simla because she might change her mind when she comes back?”

“No, of course not,” Susan agreed.

“Though I’ll point out a very similar situation did happen with Blair and Cycl0n3 way back when,” said Boyd.  “They broke up when he went off to university and got back together when he came back.”

“And she actually didn’t date anyone while he was away,” Susan continued.  “She was heartbroken a while, and then just immersed herself in her last year of high school and then her new job on the force.  I remember when she got Hank Goddard as a partner.  I hoped she might go out with him, even if not seriously, just to get a bit of life experience.  She never did, though.  And obviously it all worked out for the best.”

Iris groaned.  “Yeah, see, that’s exactly the kind of thing Orion doesn’t need to hear right now, anecdotal evidence or not.  Something to reinforce the idea that since he really loves her, he should hang in there because fate will work things out.”

“Probably not,” Patrick agreed.  “But I wouldn’t encourage him to hang onto someone who’s jerking him around.”

It was all Iris could do not to say how rich that was coming from the fairy tale relationship king of being jerked around by his big bad wolf, and how it was another example making her point, but she kept things diplomatic.  “You know, back in Egypt, he was this close to falling for another girl.  One he had fun with, that he had things in common with, who seemed to like him.  But he didn’t, because he was so hung up on Tara.  And yeah, it might’ve been just a fling, but maybe after, he might’ve realized that there are billions of girls on this planet that aren’t Tara Keaton!  Even if just a tiny percentage of them are someone he’s compatible with, that are attracted to him and he’s attracted to, and that could accept his alien secret once they knew—even just a small percent—that’s still a heck of a lot of options and way more than the one who keeps breaking his heart.  He just has to realize they’re there and seek them out.  But it’ll never happen as long as he doesn’t actually let her go.”

“It seemed like he’s accepting that, though,” said Maria.

“Yeah, and the last time you got mad at Patrick, you said he was the world’s biggest llama and you were never ever speaking to him again until you calmed down and got over it twenty minutes later,” Iris said sarcastically, continuing before Maria could huff about it.  “And Orion’s probably doing the same thing.  Saying he’s done with her for now, while he’s hurting, but once he sits and mopes—excuse me, meditates—on it, there’s going to be a part of him whispering ‘maybe’ and ‘what if.’  So we can’t encourage that.  Consciously or not.”  She frowned.  “He’ll just end up hurt again, and he’s been hurt enough.”

A silence fell over the room, and none of them could disagree.  Boyd and Susan exchanged looks with Patrick and Maria, and each other, and then Susan spoke, proud and impressed with her youngest daughter’s insight.  “You’re absolutely right, sweetie.”


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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #329 on: November 05, 2019, 09:37:52 AM »
Oh, no! I'm of story!  So, some thoughts. For so!e reason, when Blair speaks I hear the voice of actress Teri Polo in my head. Blair's voice in the game is much higher pitched. Not a fan of Supernatural or vampires or that stuff, but you've done well with the alien and plant SIM states so far, so l am still hooked. LOL. Can't wait for more!

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 111
« Reply #330 on: November 10, 2019, 10:43:59 PM »
Oh, no! I'm of story!  So, some thoughts. For so!e reason, when Blair speaks I hear the voice of actress Teri Polo in my head. Blair's voice in the game is much higher pitched. Not a fan of Supernatural or vampires or that stuff, but you've done well with the alien and plant SIM states so far, so l am still hooked. LOL. Can't wait for more!

Thanks! I'm glad you're enjoying it. :)

This save is the first time I played an alien, plantsim, or werewolf for more than just briefly. They can be fun and some of their abilities are useful, but it's a different playstyle for sure. I used the retuner mod to make the werewolf lifespan normal length instead of the default 1.5 times longer than normal, though. I'd rather Maria not outlive Patrick and the others by that much.

Chapter 111

After Orion’s birthday, Boyd and Susan finally completed the working prototype of Blair’s now much belated birthday present—a plumbot named Cybelle.  They designed her to be helpful around the house, like Plumboptimus was for them, but with some more advanced touches that they’d learned since building him.  Cybelle was a more feminine bot, complete with a metallic ponytail that reminded them of Blair’s playful nature.

They equipped her with the friendly functions, competent cleaner, and solar powered chips that Plumboptimus also had, as well as one that allowed her to perform basic workplace functions.  If it worked like it should, Cybelle could have a job outside the home and pick up some extra income, something that was always nice in retirement.  Boyd and Susan didn’t need that, as wealthy as they were, but they thought Blair and Cycl0n3 might like it.  Even though they’d done well for themselves and stood to inherit plenty from Boyd and Susan when the time came, and the elder Wainwrights had also set up generous trusts for their grandchildren, Blair still felt strongly about supporting herself and not coasting on her parents’ wealth.  She didn’t mind gifts, though, so Cybelle was a way for them to respect her wishes and give her something while they were still around.

Cybelle needed some final tweaks and a test run before going to Blair and her family, however.  They wanted to troubleshoot away any bugs and see how she performed in the workplace first, so they gave her a low-level position at the lab cleaning glassware and doing basic maintenance.  If all went well, Cybelle could go to Blair and Cycl0n3 shortly afterward, complete with an extra paycheck for them to use as needed.

Plumboptimus got an upgrade, too.  With Patrick and Maria’s baby on the way, they wanted to make sure he could help care for an infant.  That required special programming, but one of the manuals from Oasis Landing had the schematics for a chip that granted plumbots that capacity, so they made one for him.  Unfortunately, Plumboptimus only had a limited number of chip slots, so that meant replacing his new solar powered chip with that one for now.  He was rarely away from home long enough to need it anyway, and the other chips were too useful to give up, even temporarily.

Orion also helped with the bot maintenance and building, but he was still learning and nowhere near as proficient at it as his parents.  He found that out the hard way, along with the fact that Plumboptimus was advanced enough to experience, comprehend, and react to discomfort.

“Please take care placing the electric probe during tune-up!  It is unpleasant to experience this!”

The shock to his senses caught him off-guard, but if it felt like that, Orion couldn’t really blame Plumboptimus for being upset.  He couldn’t sense AI emotion like a regular sim’s, but that got the message across loud and clear.

“Sorry,” he mumbled, shaking the static away.  It hadn’t done him any actual harm, but it did almost knock him on his rear end.  “I’ll remember that.”

“Thank you.”

Boyd and Susan also discussed creating another plumbot for Chris’ ever-growing household after Cybelle was ready to go to Blair’s.  They could certainly use one, since Tad’s application to foster another child was approved and social services placed a girl a little bit younger than Caleb with them.  Her name was Hilda, and she was an orphan like Esmeralda.  She’d never known her father or who he was, and her mother had been a lonely and troubled woman who attracted abusive men.  Her mother’s last boyfriend put her first in the hospital, then in the morgue, and while he was in prison for the rest of his life for it, Hilda was left with no mother or family to care for her.  That was changed now, though, since Tad and Chris were happy to welcome her into theirs.

Despite her traumatic background, Hilda was an energetic child that loved music, and she was also a natural with technology like many of the Wainwright clan.  As an only child who’d been alone a lot, Hilda spent a lot of time on computers and tablets from a young age.  Before long, she was the one doing tech support for Morgana, Caleb, and Esmeralda on theirs when Chris and Tad weren’t around.

Esmeralda was growing up fast, too.  Her birthday came and she started high school.  Even though she professed not to be “all that interested” in boys or dating, she spent a lot of time with Owen Frio, a boy her age, to the point that Caleb teased her often about it.  That usually got him smacked with a pillow—and Hilda would sometimes join in on the pillow fighting depending on who she felt like siding with—but it was pretty clear that even if Esmeralda didn’t like all the flirty romantic teenage girl stuff, she certainly liked Owen.

He was at the birthday celebration she had with her friends, along with her friends Venus Alvi and Estevan Donner.  “I see you side-eyeing Owen,” Chris teased Tad when they noticed Owen flirting with her.  Esmeralda might not have been much of a flirt, but Owen certainly was, and it seemed like opposites attracted.  “Come on.  He’s a nice enough kid.  She could do worse.”

“Heh.  I don’t know.  Look at him.  He thinks he’s hot plum.”

Chris snorted.  “So does Esme, by the looks of it.”

“Oh, shut up.  You’re worse than Caleb.”

Caleb overheard and snickered.  “He’s worse than me at just about everything.”

“Hardy har,” Tad retorted.  “Not at cleaning.  Go put that plate in the dishwasher.  Don’t just leave it on the counter.  Diddy will be all over that and get fur and frosting everywhere.”

“Mom said the party host is the one who’s supposed to clean and you’re hosting the party, so…”  Caleb shrugged cheekily.  “And Diddy’s asleep over there.”  He went over to the chair Diddy was in and gave him a gentle shove.  “Hey, move your fat fuzzy butt.  I want to sit here.”  Diddy meowed in protest, but moved, resettling his head on Caleb’s leg once he sat down.

Hilda tossed him a video game controller.  “Play with us.  Estevan and I just beat level 10.  I bet we could get even farther with you playing, too.”

In addition to Hilda, the family was also excited about the impending arrival of Patrick and Maria’s baby.  She was starting to show just a bit, and she was thrilled when she felt the baby kick for the first time.  “Can you feel it?”

Patrick felt a tiny flutter when he put his hand against her belly.  “Yeah!  I wonder if I can hear anything.”  He knelt down and put his ear against her baby bump.  “Hey, kid?  You’re awake in there, right?”

“That’s a good way to teach Junior to kick you in the face,” quipped Buddy.

“Ah, shut up, Buddy.  I’m trying to hear the baby.”

“What’d he say?”

“He’s just messing around.”  Patrick listened more intently.  He thought he heard a little swish, and a moment later, he felt a slight tap against his cheek.  “Hey!  That’s so cool!”  He stood up.  “Our baby’s getting bigger.”

“And me with it,” Maria sighed melodramatically.  “I’m in the stretchy pants full time now.”

Buddy scoffed.  “Yeah, sure.  It’s all baby.  Not the half a carton of Ben & Simmy’s you polished off after lunch.  It must be a werewolf with an appetite like that!”

That time Patrick knew better than to comment.  He just shot Buddy a quick “don’t even go there, dude” look before Maria could notice, and then planted a smooch on her lips.  “Well, you look cute in your stretchy pants anyway, so don’t worry about it.”

The werewolf subject was still a touchy one, and Maria’s hormone-driven pregnancy mood swings didn’t help matters.  When the time for the next full moon came around, she was extremely edgy, even though they had a plan in place.  She was going to a special secure room that Boyd and Susan set up at the lab so she couldn’t hurt herself or anyone else, where she’d have things to do and food to eat that would satisfy the werewolf urges.

Before that, though, Patrick took her to the spa.  “I should probably go here after I wolf out, not before.”  She sighed and looked up at the wintry afternoon sky.  Moonrise was hours away, but she dreaded it more with each passing second.  “I might need to wax off all that awful hair if it doesn’t fall off.”

“If you need to, you can, but that didn’t happen last time.  Just try to relax and enjoy your pampering package.  The massage, the aromatherapy, all that stuff.”  Patrick hoped the spa trip before nightfall would put her in as good a mood as possible so her transformation wouldn’t be as traumatic.  “And I promise I’ll be there with you tonight.”

“Not in the room with me.  I—I don’t want to hurt you when I change, and I don’t remember enough from when it happened last time to be sure I won’t.  I was alone then.”

“I’ll watch through the window, but if you need me, I’ll be in there in a flash.  I promise.”

She smiled weakly at him.  “I’m glad.  And I’m so glad you’re not working tonight.”

“I’d have just told them some llama load to get the night off if I had to anyway,” he assured her.  “Now, go on in and get out of the cold.”

“And what are you going to do?”

“Mom would probably like me to get a haircut and all clean-shaven before Orion’s graduation tomorrow, but I don’t feel like it, so I think I’ll just head over to the diner and get a burger or something.”

Her eyes lit up.  “Mmm.  A cheeseburger.  I want one of those tonight.  The beast within craves it,” she teased.

“Then I’ll do you one better and get you a fresh one to go, with extra bacon, before we head to the lab.”  He kissed her.  “Text me when you’re done.  Love you.”

“I love you, too, Paddy-cakes.”  Maria went into the spa while Patrick dashed across the snow-crusted street to the diner.

Thankfully, Maria’s full moon transformation came and went without incident.  She handled it reasonably well.  The spa visit left her nice and relaxed, and going through the transition in the safety of the lab with Patrick, her mother, Boyd, and Susan all there made it easier.  Much of it was a blur to her afterward, but she did little more than howl, scarf down some meat, and run around to burn off the energy before crashing for a nap.  It wasn’t nearly as traumatic as her first transformation, and she came home tired, but otherwise all right.  She didn’t even need the emergency waxing or manicure she worried about.  If anything, her hair and nails were shinier and stronger than ever thanks to the prenatal vitamins she’d been taking.  They were model-perfect, aside from needing a brushing and a polish, respectively.

Knowing the emotional toll it took on her, though, Patrick still went out of his way to pamper Maria when she came home.  He surprised her with a bouquet of roses.  “Welcome home.  See, I knew you’d handle it just fine.”

“You’re too sweet to me.”  She inhaled their scent, noticing some nuances that she’d never really picked up on before.  She wondered if that was part of the werewolf thing, scents being more powerful, but even if so, it was at best a mixed blessing.  Sure, roses might smell nicer, but what about the baby’s diapers when the time came?  Ugh.  No, she’d pass on that, thank you very much.  She still resented that she couldn’t be cured, but she supposed if she had to live with it, she could manage.  It made for angsty inspiration for a novel, if nothing else.  Hopefully, the baby would be spared.  Maria certainly never wanted to have to explain to her child that she was sorry, but they were both stuck with a hideously awful curse from Grandpa Thornton that Uncle Orion’s misguided alien mother made incurable, so they would both have to endure it forever with no hope of it ever going away.

Orion’s graduation was a happy occasion, and all the family attended.  His grades were excellent, and he graduated with high honors, making them all proud.  Susan boasted that she bet no other parents there could say they had not only three children, but also a grandchild, who all came out of high school with near perfect GPAs.  “No pressure on you two, though,” Boyd teased Iris and Travis.  Not that he or Susan thought they would be any different.  Travis had always gotten good grades in everything but gym class, and despite all the time she spent socializing or hanging out in the greenhouse, Iris’ academic performance had always been stellar.

Although it was a happy occasion and a proud achievement, graduation was still bittersweet for Orion, especially when he saw Tara in her robes.  It signaled not only the end of high school, but of his time with her, and his heart still ached over it.  He wished he could be at her side, moving on with their lives together, but instead they were going their separate ways—her all the way to Shang Simla.  He knew this would be the last time he’d see her other than online for a long time.  A part of him wanted to go and say goodbye again, but he didn’t.  Everything had already been said that needed to be, and the way things stood, it was time to move on.  Instead, Orion indulged in one last long wistful look at her and resolved to accept things as they were.

It seemed Tara was doing the same.  She didn’t come to him, either, although he caught her looking over at him a time or two as well.  The one time their eyes met, it was as if to say a regretful silent farewell, or see-you-later, anyway.  Despite everything, they hadn’t unfriended one another on social media, but Orion did unfollow her so he wouldn’t see any more reminders of her unless he sought them out.  He still cared about Tara, but until he got over her, he wanted space as much as she did.

Luckily, he had plenty to distract himself with after graduation.  He started classes at the local university, and even though he lived at home rather than at a dorm, he still spent a lot of time on campus.  He liked to study at the student union coffee shop between classes.  He didn’t need it for an energy boost the same way regular humans did when they were behind on sleep, but he still enjoyed a good cup of coffee.  It was nice for keeping warm on a cold day, and it gave a little bit of zing to his workouts.

He also started working part-time at the lab.  Although he was taking a full credit load, only needing a few hours of meditation instead of a full night’s sleep allowed him to do both without overextending himself.  Orion wanted to learn about Wainwright Innovations’ various projects and operations.  It was good experience that counted as work-study credits toward his degree, and he was the first Wainwright from the younger generation to take more than a casual interest in the family business.  While Patrick knew the board members, and Boyd and Susan gave him basic instructions for keeping the business going if something happened to them, he had his own career to focus on.  They were all glad when Orion expressed interest in taking it over in a more hands-on way.  Boyd and Susan always hoped one or more of their children or grandchildren would run Wainwright Innovations after they were gone.

It wasn’t all nose to the grindstone for Orion after graduation, though.  He still hung out with his friends that were still in town.  He met up with Guillermo French at the gym for a workout.  Guillermo was taking classes at the same school he was, but his major was fine arts with a focus on culinary classes.  He’d always been good in the kitchen, like his mother, and he decided to pursue that passion as a career.  That was one of the reasons he was at the gym as much as Orion.  “The leftovers from class are great, but man, I’ll end up with a huge gut if I don’t use them for bulking.”  He flexed.  “Today we had to make a stu surprise out of whatever was handed to us, and I got chicken and cream sauce ingredients.”

“Bet it was good, though.”

“Too good.  I ate it all.  I should’ve brought some home for Dad, but he was a llama this morning and gave me a hard time because I didn’t let Luna out before she took a dump on the rug.  He’s freaking retired and home all day, and I was rushing to get to class first thing, but ‘It’s your plum dog!’  Even though his lazy plumbob wasn’t doing anything but watching TV or playing dirty old man on the dating sites.  So screw it.  He can eat his canned soup.”  He frowned.  “Especially since the old geezer has better luck on Senior Singles than I do on Sim Finder.”

“Iris keeps saying I should try that.”  Orion gave him a curious look.  “Not worth it?”

Guillermo shrugged.  “Depends on what you’re looking for, I guess.  I’m looking for other guys, so I can’t really say what plum the women on there pull, but the guys I’ve met from it so far are either just after a hook-up, or they turn out to be nothing like they said they were.  Using profile pictures five years old so they don’t look anything like you thought, or they’re not actually single.  Oh, and one guy lied about not only having a job, but having a degree, too.”  He rolled his eyes.  “Some of that plum wouldn’t even matter if they were honest in the first place, but who wants to deal with someone who starts off pretending to be someone they’re not?”

Orion felt for him, but he couldn’t help but wonder if that’s how he would come off with his alien secret.  But it wasn’t like he could put that on a dating profile.  “Sorry.  That sucks.”

“Well, maybe you’ll have better luck on the other side.”  He chuckled.  “Shame you’re not into guys.  If you were, we could skip that whole step, and I’d just ask you out.”

“Hey, if I was, I’d go for it.  Someone I already like who can make me gourmet meals?  Sign me up.”

Penny, who just finished her workout on the treadmill, came over.  “Hey, guys.  Good to see you.”

“Hi, Penny,” Orion replied, while Guillermo nodded to her.

“How’s it going?”

“All right.  You know, I couldn’t help but overhear what you guys were talking about, and it reminded me of that dance way back when the three of us and Sommer were the depressed lonely singles club while everyone else had a date.”

“Yeah, but you had a date.  Or a boyfriend, anyway.  Wilbur was just working.”

Penny scoffed.  “Heh.  Some things never change.  Just add a never-ending engagement and a kid to it.”

“And I’d just gotten hung up on freaking Mario Kayes.  Who’s now saying he and Rachelle are getting married after his birthday, if you didn’t hear.”  Guillermo frowned.  “Despite totally leading me on, on the side, for ages.  I wonder if she ever realized.  I probably should’ve told her, but I guess I’m enough of a llama myself that I hung in there hoping he’d pick me and tell her himself.”

Orion remembered that dance, way back when he first started high school, before he’d even been with Tara.  “Shame it didn’t work out that way.  I liked Rachelle.  She never saw me as anything more than a friend, though.  Then I got with Tara later anyway, but… well, we all know how that worked out.”

Although Guillermo didn’t know all the details, as Orion’s friend, he knew enough, especially about the mixed signals she’d been sending since the breakup.  “Yeah.”

Penny gave Orion a half-joking sympathetic smile.  “Maybe you and I should form a support group.  We could call it Burned by Keatons.”

Before Orion could react, Guillermo turned to her with a wry gleam in his eye.  “And here I heard you already got some salve on that burn.”

“Whoa!”  Penny was obviously shocked, but then she tried to play it off like she didn’t know what he was talking about.  “What do you mean by that?”

“I think you know what I mean.  Rumor has it you’ve got a little, uh, side action?”

“What?  Keep your voice down!”  She looked around in a panic.  “Good Watcher, Lisa came here with me and our kids and I just saw Kristian go downstairs.  The last thing I need is for her to hear something like that!  Now who told you that?”

Orion wondered that, too, because he’d heard the same rumor, from Tara.  He hadn’t mentioned it to Guillermo, though, so he wondered just how well kept a secret Penny’s affair was and who else knew.  You’d think an observant Golden Llama like Wilbur would notice his own fiancée cheating, Orion thought sarcastically.

“Let’s just say, quoting that old song… I heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend who heard it from another you’ve been messing around.”

Penny’s eyes went wide, but she responded in an even more hushed and anxious tone.  “Very funny.  Whoever it was, they should mind their own business.  Yes, I’m frustrated with Wilbur, but do me a favor and don’t spread that any farther, please?”  She glanced at Orion.  “You too.”

“Not my circus, not my monkeys.  And even if I did hear something…”  He shrugged and smiled.  “Like you said, burned by Keatons.  I hardly see Wilbur anymore unless it’s something involving Patrick’s band anyway.”  Or him skulking on my property, but with Tara away, hopefully he’ll knock that plum off and find someone more interesting to spy on than me and my supposedly crazy mad scientist parents.

“I’ll keep my yap shut, too,” Guillermo agreed.  “But if, hypothetically, something was going on you didn’t want people knowing about, you might want to be more subtle about it, because there is talk.  I heard about it from a classmate who works at the diner who works with someone that delivered to the alleged, uh, someone in the Doo Peas newsroom who was sweet-talking you on the phone in their cubicle when lunch arrived.”

Penny paled a bit more, but straightened, trying to keep calm.  “Great.  Freaking Sunset Valley rumor mill strikes again.  Thanks for the heads up.”  She glanced nervously at the stairs.  “I’ve got to go.  Nice seeing you guys.  I’ll talk to you later.”

After Penny left, Guillermo turned to Orion.  “Plum like that really makes you want to hop right on that Sim Finder app, huh?”

“Hopefully, that’s not where Penny met her special new friend.  Besides, there have got to be some people looking for an honest, meaningful match on there, right?  They can’t all be duds.”

“That’s what I keep hoping.  If nothing else, I figure trying beats pining after someone you already know is a dud.”  They headed over to the pull-up bar.

“Are you talking about Mario or Tara?”

“Both,” Guillermo replied, and started his set.

Despite his initial reluctance and what he’d heard about it, Orion decided to give the Sim Finder app a try anyway.  Even if he didn’t find lasting love, he might at least meet someone he liked and have some fun.  He made a profile and tried to be both honest and interesting.  He doubted he’d get many matches because of how he looked, but at least anyone who did probably wouldn’t be shallow or put off by it or his “condition.”

When he mentioned to Iris that he was taking her advice and trying it, she immediately volunteered to “troubleshoot” his profile to make sure, from the ladies’ perspective, that he wasn’t making any “major blunders.”  Orion was too amused to be insulted, although he ribbed her about knowing so well how to use a site that she was technically not supposed to be on at her age.

“Please, it’s not like I don’t know how this stuff works.  Even regular old social apps have things in common with people looking for dates.  You think I’ve never gotten random DM’s from thirsty guys on SimBook hoping I’ll go for them?”

“All right, then.  I defer to your expertise,” he said, and handed her his phone.

She made a few minor tweaks, and insisted Orion add two pictures.  One of him in a tight workout shirt to show off his muscles because, “You’ve got the athletic body, so show it off, especially since you’re worried about not looking attractive enough.”  Then she took one of him in his leather jacket by his motorcycle.  “Some girls really go for that rebellious guy with a heart of gold thing you’ve got going on.  So rock it.”

“Yeah, I’m a real rebel.  Letting my little sister take my dating profile pictures.  I wonder how many cool points that would lose me.”

“It’s me,” Iris retorted on a haughty playful note.  “I can only add coolness points.  You’ll thank me later.”

It turned out she was right.  When Orion checked back, he had a few matches, and a couple of them even mentioned the pictures Iris suggested.  One was from a motorcycle enthusiast who told him he had a great bike, and two others were complimentary remarks on his physique—even if one did imply she hoped it was real and not hidden behind a new juice gut like the last guy she met with a picture like that. 

Overall, he was surprised by how many responses he got.  After exchanging a few messages, some didn’t turn out to be as a good a match as he hoped, but there was one named Kelly he particularly liked and felt hopeful about.  She was enthusiastic and responsive, and seemed as interested in him as he was in her.

“Don’t let it go to your head, but you were right about the motorcycle picture,” Orion told Iris after he and Kelly made plans to meet at the coffee shop in town.  “Kelly just told me she’d love to go for a ride sometime.”

“Haha, did she say on your bike?”  Iris enjoyed watching him turn a slightly purplish shade of green in the cheeks even as he chuckled back.

“We’re just meeting for coffee and maybe a movie or something after.  We haven’t been sending those kinds of messages.”

“Yet.”  She gave him a sly look.  “I’ve seen how you’ve been looking at your phone.”

“You mean the same way you look at yours when not-Lester from Egypt messages you?”

She waved her hand dismissively.  “We still talk sometimes, that’s all.  Besides, he lives halfway around the world. What’s a few messages?  Anyway, this isn’t about my old flames, it’s about you meeting the mysterious Miss Kelly.  So, what’s she like?”

“Nice.  Kind of enthusiastic about stuff.  Uses lots of exclamations and emojis, but it’s cute.  She works at the bookstore and likes the beach.  She also likes collecting shells and rocks, and horseback riding.  She told me when she saw my motorcycle picture that she prefers the fuzzy low octane version, but maybe we could compare stories sometime.”  He handed her his phone with her profile pulled up.

Iris noticed how much Orion brightened when he talked about Kelly, and she gave him an encouraging smile as she looked over the profile.  “She’s pretty.  Lots of pictures of her on a horse.  Does she live on a farm?”

“No.  She boards her horse over at the stables up by Pinochle Pond.  She rides up in that area.”

“Maybe you can take her up there on your motorcycle and let her give you a ride on… Dragon?  That’s an interesting name.”

“Anyone who likes horses has to be a keeper,” Patches chimed in from nearby.  “You should go for her, Orion.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.  And she likes fantasy stories, so that’s why she named him that.  That and she says he’s a real spitfire.  But she likes that.”

Iris smirked.  “Then I guess we know what attracted her to you, Wild Motorcycle Man.”

“Yeah,” giggled Patches.  “Orion loves living on the wild side!  That’s why he goes on all those adventures at night.”

“And now he can go adventuring with Lady Kelly on her Dragon!”

“Ha.  You two are just full of laughs today, aren’t you?” Orion quipped back good-naturedly.

“Aw, we just want you to have fun,” Patches said.

“Yeah, but before Kelly and I go on any adventures, we need to complete the coffee shop quest of a first date first.”  He smirked deviously.  “Speaking of potential dates, let me show you one whose profile I saw as a potential match.  You might recognize her.”  He tapped at his phone and turned it around to show them.

“Oh, my Watcher!  Is that Mrs. Black?!”  Iris was horrified to see her Simlish teacher from last year wearing a skimpy leather outfit that was very unlike the professional school dress code and her prim and stern demeanor in the classroom.

Orion laughed, because she’d been one of his teachers as well.  “Apparently she’s into younger guys.”

“She’s like almost sixty!  And a dominatrix or something?  What the plum!”

“Aw, she doesn’t look bad for her age,” Orion argued on a teasing note.  “And you’re never too old to have fun, right?  It says on her profile her husband died last year, so she’s probably pretty lonely.  There’s nothing wrong with an age difference if that’s what you’re into.  Some guys like an experienced woman.”

“Tell me she didn’t match you, or you didn’t match her back!  Weren’t you her student once, too?”

“Nah.  She was just a suggestion.”  He was still amused by Iris’ over the top reaction.  “So, do you think she takes her trusty old red pen out along with that whip?”

“Ugh!  I don’t want to know!  Put it away.”  Iris made a face.  “Or better yet, send a screenshot to Travis.  I think he has her this year.  Let him enjoy it.  He likes horror shows.”

“Maybe later,” Orion replied with a grin as he put his phone away.  “Right now, I’ve got a date to get ready for.”

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 112 Part One
« Reply #331 on: December 01, 2019, 04:30:35 AM »
Author's Note: This chapter is image-heavy, so I split it into two posts.

Chapter 112

Orion was both nervous and excited when he met Kelly at the coffee shop.  A first date was nerve-wracking enough, but this was his first date in a long time, and with someone who wasn’t Tara.  She was the only girl he’d been out on a date with before now.  He didn’t count Dunya.  Even though they had fun together, she was just a friend and even if there had been some attraction, they both knew it’d never go anywhere.  Adding to Orion’s nervousness was that he and Kelly hadn’t interacted in person before.  She’d seen his pictures and video chatted with him once, so she’d heard his odd voice, but that wasn’t the same as being in the same physical space with someone.  What if, up close and personal, she found him just too unusual or weird looking to be attracted to?

She came in, shivering from the cold, and looked around for him.  At least I’m not hard to spot, Orion thought as Kelly approached.  She was every bit as attractive in person, and to his relief, she was smiling and didn’t seem put off at all.  “Hi!  It’s nice to meet you, officially.”

“You, too!”  Kelly’s eyes lingered on Orion a moment, and he couldn’t help but sense her thoughts.  Wow, that really is some condition!  Poor guy.  I bet he’s had to deal with so many llamas.

It was always a little awkward to pick up on something like that, but he was glad it was just surprise, curiosity, and sympathy, and not aversion.  He wondered how she’d feel if she knew he could do that.  Would it freak her out?  Would she accept all the truths about him when the time came?  But this was just their first date, so he didn’t need to worry about that yet.  “So, can I get you a coffee or something to eat?  My treat.”

“Oh, that’s really sweet of you!  I’d love to.  Thanks!”

“You’re welcome.”  He paused.  “Hope I don’t look too shocking not through a screen.”

“No, you’re fine.  If anything, I think you look a little more buff,” she said flirtatiously.

“Thanks.  I’ll take that.”  He smiled at her.  “You look pretty good yourself, by the way.”

Flattered, she stepped a little closer.  “I’m glad you think so.”

They got their orders and sat down.  Kelly had a hot chocolate, while Orion had a mocha and a donut.  “My sister always says this place has the best donuts in town, and since she’s retired SVPD, she’d know.”

“It’s so wild you have a sister that much older than you.  Is it weird having your nephews be your age?”

“Not really, since I’m used to it, but sometimes it feels like Chris and Travis are more like my cousins, and Blair’s like an aunt.  My brother Patrick’s about to have his first kid, though, so that one probably will feel more like the typical niece or nephew.”

“You have such a big family.  I just have one brother and he’s younger than me, so no kids, and he and my parents are still back in the Roaring Heights area.”

“So what brought you to Sunset Valley, anyway?  I know you like to ride, but I’d figure a place like Appaloosa Plains would appeal more.”

Kelly shrugged.  “I like the beach and it’s nice out here.”

Orion thought she hesitated when she said that, but then she took a drink from her cup and he realized it was just that.  It struck him that he was so used to anticipating and reassuring Tara that he’d done it with Kelly out of habit.  But Kelly wasn’t Tara.  She seemed confident and self-assured, and he liked that about her.  “Well, I’m glad you do.  Otherwise we might not have met.”

She gave him a flirtatious smile.  “And that would’ve been a shame.”

They stayed talking at the table long after finishing their drinks and snack.  They clicked just as much in person, and Orion really enjoyed getting to know Kelly.  He found out that she not only loved riding her horse, Dragon, but that she doted on him the same way Chris did with Diddy.  She visited the stables even on days that weren’t good for riding and gave him treats—usually carrots, but sometimes fruit—and Orion told her how his parents grew life fruit and offered to get her some to give him for a special treat.

She asked Orion about his martial arts and when she could finally see him “crack those stone blocks like a bad llama” in person, and he said he’d be happy to show her at the new dojo that opened in town, or at his house sometime.

Kelly giggled coyly.  “Already inviting me to your place, hmm?”

“Well… only if you’re comfortable.”  He smiled back at her.  “I’d say you wouldn’t have to worry about me getting you alone in a strange place, but with the house plumbot and my parents’ mad scientist reputations, I’m not sure that makes it sound any safer even if they’re all home.”  And that’s not even getting into Maria’s werewolf secret or the invisible doll spirits.  The thought started off amused, but then soured as he realized that even Tara never found out all of it, because the stuff with Maria happened after their breakup.  He couldn’t help but wonder what she’d have thought of that, even as he wondered what Kelly might, along with everything else.

She didn’t seem fazed, though.  “I never heard anything bad about your parents, and the plumbot sounds pretty cool.  You said he cleans for you.  Maybe you can let me borrow him to steam my rug sometime,” she hinted playfully.  “Sometimes those riding boots sometimes track in a lot of mud.”

He echoed her flirtatious tone.  “I could probably arrange something.”


More customers were coming into the coffee shop, so rather than hold up a table, they got up.  “I hate to leave.  I’ve been having a great time.”

“Well, nothing says we can’t go do something else.”  Kelly leaned in close, giving him an encouraging look.  “Any ideas?”

Tempting as it was to take her up on her earlier hint about watching him break blocks, he didn’t want to come off like the kind of guy pushing her to move too fast by inviting her to his house on their first date.  “How about a movie?  There are some shows starting soon, and a few out I wouldn’t mind seeing.”

“That sounds fun.  Let’s go.” 

Kelly took his hand, and Orion squeezed it back, elated.  She was every bit as fun and sweet in person as she was online, and it seemed like she really liked him, too.  Maybe this could go somewhere…

When they got there, they watched a comedy that had just come out.  They both enjoyed it, and Orion loved how comfortable Kelly was with him.  They shared a popcorn and held hands during the movie, and once after whispering a comment, she rested her head on his shoulder for a little while.  It made Orion realize how much he missed being close with someone like that.

Although he could’ve, he refrained from trying to read her thoughts.  Tempting as it was to try and gauge how things were going, and how she really felt about him, it felt like the wrong way to start a new relationship.  If things worked out, eventually she’d learn he could do that, but while things were new, he thought it was better not to.  When the time came and she inevitably wondered, he wanted to be able to say truthfully that he never used his powers to pry or spy on her.  Losing one girlfriend over trust issues was enough.  He never wanted that to happen again.

After the show, they chatted on their way out, recapping their favorite scenes and one-liners.  Once they got outside, though, the chill and the hour said it was time to either wrap things up or go to one of their homes.  But since Orion didn’t want to come off like the guy after only one thing, he decided to call it a night.

“I really had fun with you tonight.  You’re even more amazing in person.  I’m so glad we met.”  Orion leaned close, and Kelly put her hand on his shoulder.

“Me too.  Tonight was great, and so were you.”

“I hate to go, but I guess it’s time.  Could I give you a good night kiss before we trudge through that snow to the parking lot?”

“Sure.  Maybe if it keeps me warm the whole walk, I’ll ask for a second for the road,” she replied flirtatiously as their lips brushed.

“Sounds good to me.”  The winter chill disappeared in the warmth of their kiss, and Orion savored every second of it.  He was so lost in the moment that he didn’t even notice that patrons of another movie started coming out, including Stiles, although he was polite enough not to interrupt an obviously private moment just to say hello.

But another individual who saw them was not so gracious.  “Oh, I freaking knew it!” an angry male voice snarled from behind them.

It ended their kiss abruptly, and Orion and Kelly both turned around, startled.  A guy their age stood there glaring at them with the same look Patrick usually had just before he punched a hole in the wall.  “So, this is your night out with friends, huh?” he hollered at Kelly, whose expression was somewhere between guilty and indignant.  “You lying little—”

Shocked, Orion looked from him to Kelly. “Who’s this guy?  Some crazy ex?”

“Ex?” he scoffed before Kelly could answer.  “Is that what she told you?  I’m her fiancé!  Who the hell are you?  And why the plum are you green?”

Orion was too shocked to care about the insult, and he stared at Kelly hoping that it wasn’t true even as he broke his own rule and used his abilities to read her and find out.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t what he discovered.

Oh, plum!  Jerod found out.

Even as Orion hoped against hope that he hadn’t been lied to and played, it was obvious he had been.  He felt like his heart had just been tossed into one of the icy puddles at their feet.  “Kelly?”

“Look, Orion, I—”

“No.  Don’t.”  He stared at her, wondering how he could’ve been so wrong, how he could’ve missed the signs and been blindsided.  The hesitation when he asked why she chose to live in Sunset Valley.  Was it really the beach, or did it have something to do with him?  There had been times Kelly would suddenly sign off or stop answering messages, saying something came up.  Orion just assumed it was normal everyday things, not that maybe it was because there was another guy around.  He felt so foolish.  This is what I get for being honorable and not using my powers, he thought bitterly.  It seemed Guillermo wasn’t the only one finding liars on Sim Finder.  “Everyone lies!” a crying Tara reminded him in an unwanted taunting memory.  Tara.  Really, did he have to think of her, too?

“She always does this,” Jerod, Kelly’s fiancé, accused hatefully.  “You’re not the first, though probably the weirdest-looking.”  He glared at Kelly.  “You cheating liar!  Do you think I’m stupid?  You think I didn’t know you were talking to some guy when I wasn’t around, even though you keep saying it’s nothing, and keep your phone locked all the time?”

“Well, maybe if you weren’t such a jealous, controlling llama, I wouldn’t have to!”

“I’m jealous and controlling?  Because I don’t trust you after I keep catching you lying and cheating on me?  I wonder why?!”

“I told you to stay off my phone!  And now you admit you’re following me around and spying on me!”

“It’s not like I’m going to get the truth out of you any other way, so lay off the poor victim bit!”

“If I’m so awful, why don’t you just leave, then?” she snapped.

“Oh, can it with that tired crap!  Every time I say I’m done with you, you always come crying back, saying you’re sorry, that you want me, begging me not to go, and like a dumb llama I stay.  Because I love you and you say it’s just me now, you’re sorry, you won’t do it again, and you love me,” Jerod retorted.  “Until you do it again.  And you always do!”  He looked at Orion.  “How long did she have you fooled for?  Does she even have her engagement ring on?”  He continued before Kelly could respond.  “I’ve been on duty at the base a lot the last couple weeks.  Now I know what—and who—she’s been doing when I’m not around.  Finally.”  He kicked the snow and spat in it before storming off toward the parking lot.

Disgusted and hurt, Orion just walked off in the opposite direction without a word.

Kelly started to go after Jerod, but paused, giving Orion a regretful look.  “Orion, wait.  Before you go—”

He didn’t want to hear it.  “Goodbye, Kelly.  Go work it out with him.  Obviously, you need to.”

“I didn’t mean to… I’m sorry.”

“Yeah.  Me too.”

“I really did, really do, like you.  For what that’s worth.”

Orion bit his lip, trying not to show how miserable and hurt he was.  “I know.  I liked you, too.  But it doesn’t matter.”  The worst part was, he did know.  He’d sensed that, too, when he read her to get the truth after Jerod showed up.  She was attracted to him, and she did want him.  She hadn’t wanted to hurt him, or Jerod, for that matter.  She was just insecure and lonely, craving love and attention and validation that she apparently wasn’t getting enough of from Jerod, even if she did love him.  But she’d still lied to both him and Jerod, someone she allegedly planned to marry, and she cheated on Jerod, too.  Multiple times, from what he said.  And those were red flags Orion couldn’t get past.  No matter how much he liked her, even if she had dumped Jerod on the spot and begged him for a chance instead.  “Goodbye,” he told Kelly.  “I hope things work out for you.”

So this is what it feels like to find out someone you care about isn’t who you thought they were.

He wondered if it was some sort of karmic payback, a taste of what Tara might’ve felt about the lies he told her.

Ugh, Tara again!  Why?  It was over!  He was ready to move on.  Why did his stupid brain keep thinking about her?  Orion looked up at the winter sky and wondered if it was cold and snowy in Shang Simla.  What was she doing there?  Training?  Had she moved on yet?  Had she met someone there?  Was she with him now?

No!  Stop! Even if thinking about Tara distracted him from the disaster with Kelly, it was just as depressing.  Besides, neither of them was his last chance for love.  He had to remember that.  Iris and the others were right.  There were so many people in the world.  There had to be someone else, somewhere, sometime, that was right for him.  Someone that he would be happy with, who’d love and accept him for who he was.

But it’d sure be nice if I didn’t have to keep getting my heart stomped and my hopes annihilated trying to find her, he thought as he hopped on his motorcycle and rode home.

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Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 112 Part Two
« Reply #332 on: December 01, 2019, 04:31:19 AM »

Back at home, Patrick was having a much better night than his brother.  He got out of work early after rehearsal since Gretchen declared she was too sick to do anything after.  She had run to the bathroom to puke, but Patrick suspected that had more to do with the greasy pizza the band had for dinner and her general aversion to manual labor than any serious illness.  Pauline had wanted them to test out some new sound equipment after rehearsing, and some of it was still in boxes.  Even without Gretchen, it didn’t take long to finish, though, and Patrick and Wilbur called it a night once they did.  Their next show wasn’t for another week, anyway, and the only other thing on the schedule soon was a DJ gig at a club later in the week.

The new room they built to be the baby’s nursery was finished, and thanks to the efficiency of Plumboptimus, most of the furniture and décor was up, too.  They already had lots of baby items, even though Maria was only in her second trimester.  Pregnancy hadn’t been hard on her, at least, in that she didn’t have much fatigue or nausea.  As much as she hated being a werewolf, it blessed her with a strong constitution.

Maria showed Patrick some things she ordered for the baby that arrived earlier.  “Isn’t this bunny light adorable?  I just had to get it.”

Patrick leaned over to talk to her baby bump.  “You hear that?  Your mom’s taking decorating cues from Aunt Blair!  Cute little bunnies and butterflies everywhere!”

“Oh, stop,” Maria teased back.  “I’m nowhere near as cutesy fluffy woo-woo about this as Blair.  And speaking of her, let me show you the goofy sunflower onesie she gave us.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s cute, but…”

“Very Blair?”


“Well, at least Junior will fit in with the flowers come springtime.  Though that’ll make for some future embarrassing baby pictures for him or her.”

“Aww.  You mean like that one of you as a toddler with baby Chris dressed up in Starfleet uniforms for Spooky Day?  I remember you turned as red as your hair when I first saw that back when we were in high school.”

“Thankfully, you already loved me and knew they were all huge geeks by then.  I don’t even know whether to blame my parents or Blair and Cycl0n3 for that one.  Though at least they didn’t put us in red shirts.”

“You might not have made it to the ripe old age to have your own kids if they had,” she teased.  “But you shouldn’t be surprised they properly dressed you for your rank, Captain.”

“Hey, don’t you start, or I might ask Morgana for a refresher on your baby pictures.  Wasn’t there one of you in a cute little princess outfit, pouting because little Squire Tad was trying to grab your scepter out of your hand?”

“Yes.  My dear brother was a pain in my tutu from very early on,” she quipped before taking on a more serious tone.

“That reminds me.  We still need to decide on a name.  ‘Junior’ isn’t going to work forever, especially not if he turns out to be a ‘Juniorette.’”  She paused.  “When you say that, by the way, are you serious?  Do you want to name the baby Patrick Stuart Wainwright, Junior, if it’s a boy?”

“With a potential initial-inspired nickname of P.J.?  Nah.  I wouldn’t want to subject him to pajama jokes on top of all the Star Trek ones I still get.”

“At least while he’s little, he’d be bald like his namesake,” Maria remarked, while Patrick ran his hand through his hair in response.

“Don’t joke about that.  I could swear mine looks thinner in spots, but it’s probably just stress from everything going on.”  He sighed.  “Besides, Dad stresses more than anyone, and he’s still got a full head of hair even at his age, so, maybe I’m safe.”

“I thought whether you lose your hair or not passed down on the mother’s side?  But it’s been a long time since I took biology.”

“I think it’s a main factor, yeah, but not the only one.  And I’ve got no idea if my grandpa on Mom’s side was bald or not.  It’s been ages since I saw any pictures.  Her parents died before Blair was born, and you know how Mom gets if she’s not in the mood to talk about that stuff.”

Maria nodded.  Although it rarely came up, she knew about how Susan lost her family young, and that thinking about it still bothered her sometimes, even a lifetime later.  “Kind of like how my dad gets about his family.  Though now we know why, I guess.”  She paused.  “Your parents did name you after both your grandfathers, though.  Was that just a sentimental thing, or do you think they wanted to start a tradition or something?  Blair wasn’t named after any relatives, was she?  I know Orion and Iris weren’t.”

“As far as I know, Blair was just a name they liked.  Dad told me once her name or what they would’ve named her if she was a boy weren’t tied to any family history or memories.  Guess they circled around the opposite way by the time they had me.”  He chortled.  “Though I wouldn’t have been Star Trek named if I was a girl.  My grandmothers’ names didn’t conveniently match any characters or actresses on that.”

“And neither do your parents, if we were to do the same thing with our kid.”

“Our kid’s already going to have the Wainwright name, anyway.  If we want to do the homage thing, we should pick a first name from your family, so we get both sides.  Even if Mom and Dad would be flattered if we named the baby after one of them.”

Maria made a face.  “My dad might’ve already passed on enough to our baby with that stupid werewolf gene he gave me.  And he’s… well, I love him and all, but he was never Father of the Year.  I don’t want to name our baby after him.”  She paused.  “And I adore Mom, but Morgana Wainwright would have the same initials as me as both Maria Wainwright and Maria Wolff.  What if she became an artist or author like me?  Hundreds of years down the road they might confuse which ‘M.W.’ wrote or painted this or that!  No.  I don’t want our potential legacy to get confusing.”

“Okay.  We don’t have to pick a grandparent name if you’d rather go original.  But if you still like the idea of a family theme or tradition, we could go with other relatives.  Aunts, uncles—”

“As if Tad wasn’t full enough of himself without having a namesake,” Maria replied with a roll of her eyes.  “And don’t even joke about naming it Cycl0n3.”

“Ha, no.  I was thinking names of our aunts or uncles or extended family.  Not that I’ve got many.  I only had one uncle, Mom’s brother Jonathan, and he died way before I was born.”

“My parents were both only children and my dad’s cousins named one of their kids Gator,” Maria said disdainfully as Buddy strolled in and joined them.

“Gator Wainwright?  Sounds like what you’d name one of the geezers’ biology experiments gone horribly wrong!”

“Definitely no to that one,” Patrick agreed.  “What about your grandparents?  Both my grandfathers’ names would just be recycled Wainwright names anyway, and my grandmothers were named Myra and Maureen, so, just like with Morgana, we’d run into that ‘M.W.’ issue you’d rather avoid.”

“Eh, Mom’s mother was named Dorcas, so even if our child wouldn’t be subjected to endless ‘dork’ jokes and rude nicknames in school, it’s also too old fashioned for my taste.  And her father’s name was Barney, like the purple dinosaur.  No way.”

“Oooh.  Yeah.  I can already hear Blair and Cycl0n3 singing that ‘I love you’ song to the point of annoyance, and the kid’s not even born yet.  So, what about your dad’s parents?  Your grandfather’s name was Lucas, right?”

She nodded.

“I like that.  I even promise not to suggest putting ‘George’ before or after it like my parents probably would’ve.”

“Good, because I wouldn’t let you anyway.  I do like how Lucas Wainwright sounds, though.  Naming our baby that I hope won’t be a werewolf after his great-grandfather who made a cure, even if I can’t use it, would be nice.  I’m sure he’d have understood why I hate it.”  Maria paused thoughtfully.  “It’s funny you brought up my grandparents, because Dad once told me I look a little like his mother.  He said I took after that side of his family, like he did.  But that Tad just seemed to be a mirror of Mom, in more ways than one.”

Patrick frowned as he tried to gauge how Maria felt about that.  “Did he mean that a compliment or an insult?”

“Probably both.  You know how his compliments are always a little backhanded.   Like when he’d say he admired my ambition and drive but wished I’d put it toward something ‘practical’ instead of art or story writing.”

“Yeah.  I know how he is,” Patrick sympathized.  “What was your grandmother’s name again?  We need a plan for a girl, too.”


“I think Jessica Wainwright has a nice ring to it, if you like it.”

“Actually, I do.”  She met his eyes.  “Do you want to pick a middle name from your family?”

“Nah.  We’ve got to be at least a little original.  Besides, like I said, the kid’s already got my last name.”

“Then Lucas or Jessica it is, then,” Maria decided, while Buddy chimed in with his own input.

“And if it’s a boy, ‘Buddy’ would make a great middle name, after your bestest friend ever!  Just saying.”

“Lucas or Jessica, with middle names as of yet to be determined,” Patrick agreed as he took Maria’s hands.

“Hmph.  It’s an awesome name, and you know it,” Buddy huffed.

Maria noticed Patrick glancing at the empty space beside them.  “Is Buddy putting in his two simoleons?”

Patrick chortled and gave her a curious look.  “Tell me, what do you think of Lucas Buddy Wainwright?”

“Hah.  I don’t think he wants to know what I think of that,” Maria replied on a haughty note.

Buddy folded his arms, offended.  “And you wouldn’t know good taste if it bit you on the plumbob!”

After deciding on the baby names, Patrick and Maria went downstairs to watch TV.  Boyd and Susan were in the living room dressed for bed, but Boyd was settled into the recliner in a way that looked like he didn’t plan to get back up.  “You guys starting a late-night binge watch session, or are you just killing time waiting for Orion and Iris to make it home safe from their dates?” asked Patrick.

“Don’t remind me that they’re out in that snowy mess, please.  The weather app said the roads are icy, and of course, Orion took his motorcycle.”

“Well, it’s not like he could take the Galaxa to meet a girl from online,” said Maria.

“I know, I know.”  Boyd waved his hand agitatedly.  “But he could’ve borrowed one of our cars.  I wish he would’ve.”

“Borrowing Mom or Dad’s car would’ve cost him cool points, though, and he wants to impress her,” said Patrick.  “Try not to worry.  He’ll be fine.”

“I hope so.  And I hope Iris doesn’t stay outside too long.  The wind chill is brutal tonight, too.”

“I’m sure Lester will keep her warm enough,” Maria said, while Susan chuckled.

“No doubt, but that won’t make him worry any less.”  She looked at Boyd with a mixture of concern and exasperation.  “Are you sure about staying down here?  Patrick’s here now.  He can help you, if you won’t let me.”

“Help with what?” Patrick asked, and Boyd groaned.


Susan frowned.  “Your father’s back gave out on the stairs earlier, and he fell.  He says he’s fine except for being a little sore and weak, but he doesn’t think he can make it up the stairs right now.  And he insists on not calling a doctor or trying to take it slow up them with help.”

“I don’t need a doctor, and Susan, you can’t hold me if I fall again!  I’m not risking taking you down with me, and Plumboptimus is charging.  I’ll be fine here with a little heat for now.”

Patrick sat down on the couch and looked at his father.  “You fell?”

“I’m fine.  You know how my back is.  It’s just old age.  Your mother’s worrying over nothing.”

“It’s not ‘nothing’ when you can barely get out of that chair after hobbling over to it,” Susan argued.  “But fine.  Don’t listen to me.”

“You should’ve called me.  We were just up in the baby’s room.  Come on, Dad.  I’ll help you upstairs.”

“No,” he insisted with a slight wince as he shifted.  It was obvious he was in more pain than he wanted to admit, but he was adamant.  “I’ll go up later.  Like you said, it’s a good cover for making sure Iris and Orion get home safely anyway.”

Susan folded her arms.  “Maybe Orion should just float you up if you’re still being this stubborn when he gets home.”

“Really, Dad.  You’d probably be more comfortable in your own bed.”

“And if you’re that sore, you probably should get it checked,” said Maria.  “I can call my mom or Chris, if you don’t want to go to urgent care.”

“No.  Don’t bother them, please.  I don’t want to trouble them, and besides, Chris will just tell Blair.  Then she’ll give me another ‘this is why you should exercise’ lecture, and I don’t want to hear it.”

Patrick scoffed.  “You know I’m not going to tell you to go do yoga, but if it hurts that bad—”

“Then I’ll have you mix me a nightcap to go with my medicine,” Boyd groused.  “Seriously.  I’m fine.  I’ve got the heat and massage on and it already feels a little better.  I’ll go up later.”  He looked at Susan.  “You go on to bed, honey.  I know you’re tired, and I don’t want to keep you up.”

“Like I’ll be able to sleep well worrying about you.  I wish you’d just let Patrick try to help you.”  Susan sighed and turned to their son.  “But in the meantime, keep an eye on him.”

“Will do.  I know how stubborn he can be.”

“You should talk,” Boyd retorted.

“You can’t say I don’t come by it honestly.  Just be glad mine doesn’t come with the side of an exercise lecture,” Patrick said wryly before changing the subject.  “Speaking of things that run in the family, you two might as well be the first to know.  Maria and I picked out baby names.”

Both Susan and Boyd brightened.  “Oh?”

“We decided to do kind of like you did with Patrick and use a family name.  One of my grandparents.  The baby will be a Lucas or Jessica.”

“We’re still working on middle names, though,” Patrick added.

“Lucas for a boy, huh?  Will his nickname be Luke?” asked Boyd.

“As in Skywalker?”  Patrick laughed.  “Oh, my Watcher.  You going to get him a lightsaber rattle, too?  You two never change.”

Susan smiled.  “You can’t say it wouldn’t be cute.  But that reminds me.  Maria, we finished studying the blood samples you and Tad and Thornton gave us to try and pinpoint the werewolf gene markers with.  Without getting too technical, we’re pretty sure we found them.  Once the baby’s born and we can get a sample, we should be able to tell right away whether he or she’s a werewolf.”

Maria put her hand on her belly.  “Oh, good!  That’s such a relief.  I really hope not.”

“Well, it’s a 50/50 shot.  As it turns out, it literally worked out that way with you and your brother.  You are, but Tad isn’t.  He doesn’t have the marker.”

“Lucky him.  Guess he won’t ever have to worry about it.”  Maria’s tone was flat as she contemplated how unfair that was.  Not only had Tad avoided being abducted—because it happened to her first, and that was what made them tell Eni Jish Xip to stop—but he didn’t even have the accursed gene to switch back on to begin with!  And he and Chris probably wouldn’t end up having biological kids of their own anyway.  So why did she have to be the one stuck with it?!

Patrick gave her a sympathetic look.  “And hopefully, neither will our baby.”

“Yeah.  Hopefully.”

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 113
« Reply #333 on: December 19, 2019, 11:55:30 PM »
Chapter 113

Although Boyd was lucky that his fall turned out to be only a minor injury and a somewhat less-than-minor annoyance, Chris showed up for a surprise visit the following morning anyway.

“Hi!  It’s always good to see you, but I didn’t know you were coming,” Boyd said after Plumboptimus let him in.  “What brings you by?”

“It’s good to see you, too, Grandpa, and getting around so well.  A little birdie told me you weren’t last night,” he said on a pointed note of concern.

Boyd glanced over at Susan with a raised eyebrow, but her expression gave nothing away.  “And would this little birdie happen to be of the well-meaning Grandma variety, or was it perhaps a red-headed guitar-playing songbird, his mate, or an alien or plantsim that chirped that tune?”  Although Orion and Iris hadn’t been there when Boyd fell, Iris came home while he was still in the recliner, and after Orion got home from his disastrous date with Kelly, he bio-boosted Boyd so he could make it up the stairs on his own.

“Privacy rules prevent me from disclosing that, but I can say they were just worried about you, so don’t be mad.”

“And here I thought those laws were supposed to protect my information.  Thanks for your concern, Chris, really, but—”

“How are you, Grandpa?  How bad a fall was it?  Are you still sore?  I’m here, so you might as well let me take a look.  Free of charge.  I even promise not to nag you about exercise, since I know as a scientist you know all that stuff anyway.”

“Appreciated, but I really am fine.  I was just going up the stairs, and for some reason my back gave out and I slipped.  I fell, but it was only down the last few stairs.  It was sore last night, but after resting on the heat and massage chair, I’m all right now.”

“And because he took a bunch of anti-inflammatories and Orion bio-boosted him,” Susan interjected with a look at him.  “Humor us and let him check you out.  He’s here anyway.”

“Uh-huh.  Very conveniently.  I can guess which birdie was the messenger pigeon now,” Boyd grumbled, although he did let Chris go ahead and examine him.

He determined that Boyd just had some superficial bruises from the fall, a pulled muscle, general weakness from age, and some aggravated arthritis that Boyd already knew he had.  After he finished, he took a pill out of his medical bag.  “Doesn’t look like you did any major damage.  Since you said it’s not that sore anymore, I won’t insist on an x-ray, but if it gets any worse, I want you to go get one.  Better safe than sorry.  In the meantime, take these for a couple days.  A little stronger than over the counter.  This one will last for the next 8 hours, and I’ll call in a prescription to the pharmacy for you for more.”  He paused.  “And I know I don’t need to tell you not to take them with any of Patrick’s specials, but I have to give the standard doctor warning to all patients.  Also, rest up, and take it easy until the inflammation goes down.  Let someone else do any heavy lifting.”

“Don’t worry,” Susan assured Chris.  “I’ll make sure he complies, whether he likes it or not.”

“Oh, yes.  Your grandma will do her best to take care of me, whether I need it or not,” Boyd added on an equally wry note, and Chris hugged them both.

“Good.  Because I want you around and healthy for a long time.  And if something like this happens again, please at least call me or your regular GP if you won’t go to the ER, okay?  I get not wanting to sit around at the hospital, but falls aren’t anything to mess around with, especially at your age.”

“Noted,” Boyd agreed grudgingly.  “Thank you.”

Susan nodded to him as well.  “Yes, thanks for coming.  It’s always great to see you.  One of these days when you get more than eight hours off, we’d like to come over and see your new place.”  After adopting Hilda, and now that Esmeralda was a teenager wanting more space and privacy, Morgana’s beachside home had become too cramped for Chris’ household.  They pooled their savings, and with that and a donation from Chris’ trust fund, they bought a much more spacious home, even if it meant leaving their lovely beach view behind.

“In theory, I’m off for the next two days.  So, barring any emergencies with one of my patients…”  He crossed his fingers.  “Take care and tell everyone I said hi.”

“Will do, and you do the same.”

“Give Tad, Morgana, and the kids our best.”

“And Diddy, too, of course,” added Boyd.

Chris chortled.  “I will.  My poor old guy.  His arthritis is even worse than yours.  Of course, if I could take some weight off him, it’d help, but he’s like a bloodhound for treats and scraps.  And boy, cut back his food too much, and you see the living embodiment of hangry in full furry fury.”

Before they went to visit Chris, however, Boyd and Susan had another stop to make first.  Cybelle was now fully beta tested and ready to go to her new home with Blair.  Plumboptimus tagged along while they took her over and presented her to Blair, Cycl0n3, and Travis.

“Here she is!  All ready to move in and help out,” Susan said with a proud smile.

“Go ahead and introduce yourself to your new family, Cybelle,” Boyd prompted her.

Cybelle beeped and looked at each of the Sw0rds in turn.  “Thank you for accepting me into your household.  I look forward to being a member of your family and assisting you in any way I can.”

Blair grinned from ear to ear.  “Wow!  You are so cool, Cybelle.  And cute!  Welcome to our family.  We’re so glad to have you here!”

“Yeah!  Our own high-tech bot, that’s pretty awesome!  Can’t wait to show you all we’ve got here and see what you can do.”  Cycl0n3 turned to Boyd and Susan.  “Thanks again, you two.  I know I pick on you sometimes, but you really are about the best in-laws I could ask for.”

“Of course they are!  Mom and Dad are the best!”  Blair hugged each of her parents enthusiastically.  “Thank you so much!  I can’t wait to see her in action!”

“We were happy to do it.  You deserve the best,” Susan said fondly.

“Absolutely.  We think you’ll be really happy with her.  She’s got a solar charger, so as long as there’s daylight, she can charge herself.  She can also draw power from appliances and outlets, but that’ll painfully spike your electric bill, so discourage that except in emergencies.  Especially in public.  There aren’t laws about that kind of thing exactly, but the last thing you want is a surprise bill from a business owner or the town.”

“We’d just pass it on to you,” joked Cycl0n3, while Blair playfully bopped him on the arm.

“Oh, stop.  We would not.  We’re responsible.  And that’s fine.  We’ll remember that.”

“The lab will deliver her charging station later today, and it’s ready to install in your garage,” Susan told them.  “She’s also got the same socializing functions that Plumboptimus does, as well as the capacity to work at her job at the lab.  She reliably keeps her own hours, so you shouldn’t need to prompt her to go unless something glitches.”

“She’s also got a cleaning chip, so you can leave the dustbusting and dishes and tidying up to her.”

“I’m cool with that,” said Travis.  “Fewer chores for me.”  He hadn’t said much until now, as he was fascinated by Cybelle and had been distracted watching her and Plumboptimus react and interact with each other and the environment.  Currently, Plumboptimus was relaying mundane details to Cybelle about the Sw0rd house, such as who slept in what room, and where the trash receptacles were.  Some might have found that boring, but Travis enjoyed watching the robots converse like regular everyday flesh and blood sims.  “I can’t wait until Starla sees you!”  He glanced at his parents.  “Mind if I invite her over later?”

Cycl0n3 watched Cybelle take it upon herself to put away a book left on the table.  He was impressed that she put it where it came from on the bookshelf, that she recognized the empty slot as its place, and didn’t just put it somewhere random in it.  “She’s pretty sharp,” he remarked to Boyd before addressing Travis’ question.  “I take it there’s no issue with Travis having his girlfriend over?”

“Nope.  Cybelle should adapt to whatever your normal routines are around here.  Have as many guests over as you want.  Have a party if you feel like it.”

“If she’ll clean up after it, I might.  Go ahead, then,” he told Travis before turning back to Boyd.  “Anything else we need to know?  She got any secret death rays to nuke burglars or anything?”

Boyd chortled.  “You wish.”

“Oh, like a paranoid old llama like you didn’t build that into Plumboptimus to protect your eccentric genius mad scientist secrets back at the mansion.”

“You’ve been watching too much TV in your retirement.  I didn’t put any death rays in Plumboptimus or Cybelle.”  He paused.  “Susan wouldn’t let me.”

“Ha!  The truth comes out.  I knew it.  Well, if you ever do make that upgrade, remember your favorite son-in-law.”

“You’re still my only son-in-law, and I hate to break it to you, but Blair wouldn’t let you, or me, for that matter, either.”

Cycl0n3 sighed.  “I know, but you can’t blame a guy for trying.”

After Cybelle familiarized herself with the Sw0rd home and tidied up some things that were out of place, Plumboptimus gave her a diagnostic scan.  “You are operating at optimal levels and do not require maintenance or repair at this time.”

“Glad to hear it,” Susan remarked from where she was talking to Blair, and then resumed her conversation with her.  “We wrote up an instruction manual for her, but we’ll demonstrate the simple maintenance tune-up and some troubleshooting repairs for the three of you before we leave.”

After doing so, Boyd and Susan had Plumboptimus observe each of them trying out the maintenance techniques on Cybelle to get an objective assessment.  Cycl0n3 got the highest score, since his years of tinkering with computers made him a natural at it, but Blair and Travis also did fine.  Plumboptimus congratulated each of them when they were done.  “Congratulations.  You scored with above average proficiency at the preventative maintenance and repair procedures,” he told Travis.

“I’m glad I didn’t screw it up or shock myself.  Mom told me Grandma said you socked it good to Orion when he crossed a wire.”

“I demonstrated an equivalent discomfort to what an organic being like you would experience.”

“Like I said, you zapped him good.”  He grinned.  “Kind of wish I could’ve seen it.  Bet it was funny seeing his hair stand on end.”

“But don’t worry, neither Plumboptimus nor Cybelle would actually hurt any of you,” Susan clarified when she overheard.  “Orion just got a little zinger, that’s all.  We also fine-tuned their settings to a higher threshold after that.”

“Good, because us old fogeys don’t need any extra zaps to our hearts,” joked Blair.

“Hey, speak for yourself and Dad.  I’m not old.”

Blair raised an eyebrow.  “Still bet you wouldn’t think it was funny if you got zapped onto your plumbob, mister.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Cycl0n3.  “I’d laugh, as long as he wasn’t really hurt.”

“Yes, but everyone already knows you’re a big old llama,” Blair retorted.

“And you love me anyway, so what does that say about you?”

Travis snorted.  “It says I’m screwed when it comes to my genetics.”

Susan patted her grandson’s shoulder with wry affection.  “Oh, I wouldn’t say that, sweetie.  At most, I’d say it just explains a few things about your sunny disposition.”

After visiting with Blair, Cycl0n3, and Travis for a little while longer, they left Cybelle safely in their hands and headed over to Chris and Tad’s new house.  Plumboptimus opted to do some grocery shopping instead, since it was on his task list for the day, so he went home from there while Patrick, Maria, Orion, and Iris drove over to join them.  None of them had been to their new house yet, either.

It was a large two-story home on Sierra Tango street, at the head of the intersection with Maywood Lane, the road they lived on many years ago, not far from the Bunch’s home.  Jack and Judy were long gone, but Penny and her son still lived there with various family members moving in and out at times, and Lisa and her children lived in the small house next door that Blair and Cycl0n3 lived in back when they first got married.  Chris and Tad’s new home was modern and spacious, and even though it was nowhere near the beach like their old one, it had a nice pool and an open field on the hill behind it.  Both Caleb and Esmeralda were outdoorsy and spent a lot of time outside, so while they missed the beach, they still had a nice place to play and explore.  Stiles lived nearby, too, in another house at the end of Maywood Lane.  He and Morgana had never reconciled to the point of marrying or living together, but they were still involved, and now that they lived closer, Caleb and Morgana were able to spend more time with him.

Susan looked around, impressed.  “Very nice.  You kids made a good choice.”

“I love it!  Tons of space, and now I finally got a kitty gym for Diddy and my stray friends in the backyard without someone complaining there’s not enough room,” he said with a pointed look at Tad.

“Hey, sorry, but I didn’t want to rip out the nice shrubs to make room for it.  The cats climbed in them all the time, anyway.”

“All those strays are going to miss you and your free meals, aren’t they?” asked Boyd.

“Yeah, but they won’t starve or anything.  Just be a little less spoiled.  It wasn’t like I could bring them, though.”

“Oh, don’t worry.  He’ll find more strays soon enough.  He always does,” Tad quipped.  “But yeah, we’re pretty happy here.  It was a good deal, too.  Dad even approved, said it was a solid real estate investment at a good price.  My friend Julius sold it to me.  This was his family’s house, but he said it was too big for him to keep up alone.  His sister and brother didn’t want it, either, so they decided to sell it after his dad died.”

Patrick looked around.  “This was Julius’ house?  I hope you took him to the cleaners.”

Chris snorted with amusement. “He gave us a good deal, but no, we didn’t rip him off.  Nice to know you’re not still bitter about your high school feud or anything, though.”

“I’m not bitter.  I just think he’s a llama.  He’s never done anything to change my mind.”

Maria made a distasteful face.  “From what I hear, he’s still basically like a male version of Gretchen.  Hanging around in bars and clubs, picking up the losers and dregs of whoever says yes for a good time.”

“Considering you dated him, I’m not sure what you’re trying to say about his taste there,” Tad needled her, earning him a withering look that could have peeled paint.  “Yeah, he can be a bit of a player, but he’s not as bad as Gretchen.  Her pulling that plum and cheating on him was one of the reasons they kept breaking up.  Though he says they’re serious this time.”

“Yeah, I heard that, too.  Unfortunately, Gretchen loves to over-share about her love life.  I know way more about it than I ever wanted to.”  Patrick rolled his eyes, while Maria frowned irritably.

“If you ask me, I think they deserve each other.”

Chris diplomatically decided to change the subject to something happier.  “So, how are you and the baby doing?  I didn’t see you or Patrick when I stopped by to see Grandpa this morning.”

“We slept in,” Patrick said.  “Had kind of a late night last night.”

“We were both worried about Boyd, and I got a wicked back ache that not even a massage or hot shower helped much.  The baby was super active, too, and I just couldn’t get comfortable enough to fall asleep.”

“That’s normal for pregnant women sometimes, unfortunately.  But it’s good the baby’s moving a lot.”

“It’s doing it right now, actually.”

“Cool!  Can I feel it?”


Chris put his hand on her baby bump.  “Yup, feels healthy and active to me.”

“Did you hear I had an ultrasound, and we were supposed to find out whether it was a boy or a girl, but the position was so weird that the tech couldn’t determine it, and they had to refer it to someone else to read and said they’d call us?  I was so frustrated.  Drank all that stupid water and had to pee for like, forever, while they did it, and then they couldn’t tell us anything!”

“Well, other than that the baby was healthy.  At least they got that,” added Patrick.

“I did hear about that, actually.  Morgana checked in after your procedure and lit a fire under the doctor to get results.  They’re supposed to call you today, but…”


Chris and Morgana exchanged knowing smiles.  “Your mom may or may not have unofficially peeked and know.  And I might’ve accidentally heard, in a total not-against-the-rules-at-all coincidence.”

Ordinarily, Maria would’ve been annoyed that her mother and Chris knew her baby’s gender before she did, but she was so eager to find out that it didn’t bother her.  “Seriously?”

Chris nodded.

“Well, don’t keep us in suspense!  I don’t want to wait for some office chump to call when they probably have a zillion other calls to make and things to do.  Tell me!”

“Yeah, spill it!” added an equally exuberant Patrick.

“Okay.  Congratulations.  You’re having a girl.”

Maria practically squealed with excitement while Patrick grinned from ear to ear.  “A girl, huh?  Awesome!  Our baby’s a little girl!”  He smooched her.  “You hear that, everyone?  Maria and I are having a girl!”

“I’m so excited!” gushed Maria.  “Oh, I can’t wait to buy her cute little dresses and shoes, and do her hair, and take her shopping and stuff…”

Boyd and Susan were also thrilled.  “We’ve got a granddaughter on the way, huh?  That’s great!”

“Our first granddaughter, and our first grandchild from you.  How wonderful!” added Susan.  “Since Esme and Hilda are technically great-grandchildren.”

Tad smiled at Maria and Patrick.  “Congrats!  I can’t wait to meet my little niece.  And when the time comes, I’ll be happy to give you pointers for the teenage years, since I’ll have been through it twice already by then.”

“I’m sure we’ll need them, if Iris is any example.”  Patrick gave his little sister a wry look.

“Hey!  I’m not that bad, and you never know.  Maybe she’ll turn out to be just like Saint Blair.  No trouble at all, ever!  A perfect angel,” she teased back.  “But seriously, congrats.”

“Definitely.  It’ll be cool to have a niece,” Orion said from over on the couch where he’d been chatting with Hilda and Caleb.  They also congratulated Patrick and Maria, as did Esmeralda.

“Maria told me you’re planning to name her Jessica after Thornton’s mother,” Morgana said to Patrick while Maria continued chatting with Chris and Tad.

“I was named after my grandfathers, so we thought it’d be cool to kind of continue the tradition and use a family name, too.”

“Well, I imagine even if he doesn’t say so himself, Thornton will be touched.  He loved his mother very much.”

“Oh?  Maria said he hardly ever talked about his family, at least not until, you know, recently with the werewolf thing.”

“Yes, but you have to understand, Thornton’s relationship with his parents was rather… complicated.  His upbringing was rough.  His father was very strict and proper.  He loved him, but let’s just say it’s clear where Thornton’s critical nature comes from.  And Jessica, she was a troubled woman.  Suffered from extreme anxiety and depression in a time when those things weren’t well understood, and dismissed as character flaws and weaknesses rather than mental illnesses.  She had several ‘nervous breakdowns’ as they called them back then, and Thornton grew up with all of that.  But she was still the one who spent time with him raising him and caring for him, as best as she could, on her better days.  Lucas focused on his career and regarded children as primarily the mother’s responsibility, which was typical for the time.”

Although Patrick never had the warm fuzzies for his father-in-law, he couldn’t help but think that it was no wonder Thornton turned into the kind of parent he was.  He’d have felt sorry for him, except that he’d seen firsthand how him being like that affected both Maria and Tad.  Patrick realized how lucky he was with his own parents.  Sure, they were weird and eccentric, and sometimes downright embarrassing, but they’d never made him feel like their love was conditional or that they wouldn’t be there if he really needed them, even during the times when he resented or butted heads with them.  “Wow.  Well, here’s hoping our Jessica never goes through anything like that.”

“I don’t think she will.  It’s obvious how much you and Maria already love her, and she’s got all of us, too.”

Susan noticed Orion and Hilda sitting together, playing a game on their tablets, and joined them.  “What are you two playing?”

“Kitty Catcher,” Hilda replied.  “I just showed it to him.”

“It’s weirdly addictive,” added Orion.  “It doesn’t seem like you’d get sucked in, but you can catch and collect all these goofy themed cats, and build rooms for them, and even send them to play-battle each other.”

“I’m already level 20 and have tons of cats,” Hilda declared proudly.

Susan chuckled.  “That must do Chris proud.  Though I’d have thought a game like that would appeal more to him than you, Orion.”

“Nah.  He collects the real ones instead,” Caleb remarked from where he played on the floor nearby with a doll—one that looked eerily familiar to Susan.  It had a similar design to Buddy and Patches, and she knew full well what they really were and where they came from, even if she and Boyd still had no idea who sent them. 

The Wolffs are from Moonlight Falls, but that’s Thornton’s side of the family.  Caleb’s not related to them.  How curious.  “Caleb, that’s an interesting doll.  Where’d you get it?”

He held it up to show it off.  It didn’t seem alive to her, but then again, neither had Buddy or Patches.  “Rags?  Travis gave him to me.  He let me go through his old toys he doesn’t play with anymore and said I could keep him.”

“Oh.  That was nice of him.”  So it was one of those dolls after all, one that was sent to their family.  Of their children, only Orion never got one, and Blair, although perhaps whatever attracted the spirit dolls to them happened after she was born, and that was why both of her children got them instead.  Chris never played with his, because Cycl0n3 had deemed it creepy and thrown it out.  At the time, Susan thought that was silly, at least until Patrick continued talking to Buddy well into his teens and beyond.  Knowing what the dolls were made it less concerning as far as questioning his, and later Iris’, sanity, but not knowing why their children and grandchildren got the dolls was a question she still had.  It also struck her as odd that Travis, who loved the occult, never took to his and gave it away.  Was there no spirit in it, or did said spirit just not mesh with his personality?  “I see how much you like it.  Do you play with it often?  Patrick and Iris were quite attached to theirs.  Had little parties with them, as imaginary friends, when they were your age.”  She didn’t know what Caleb knew about the doll spirits, or if Chris or Tad ever talked about them.  Patrick and Iris tended not to mention or acknowledge them around people who didn’t know about them.

“Sometimes.  Rags and I have a good time.  He likes to come with me outside, but I don’t like getting him all icy or wet, so I don’t take him in the snow.”

Susan couldn’t help but wonder if that was just Caleb’s imagination or if he was actually communicating with it, but she didn’t want to put him on the spot or make him feel awkward.  “Probably for the best.  He’ll stay in good condition that way.”  Caleb nodded and resumed playing, while Susan wondered what the children experienced while playing with those dolls.  Would she have formed a bond with one if she’d gotten one as a child?  She glanced over at Patrick and Maria, and wondered if their baby would get one, too.  Just what our house needs, a third invisible spirit.  Between them and the gnomes, we’re starting to rival the Goths’ family ghost collection, and we don’t even have dead people buried in our yard, she thought dryly as she loaded up SimBook on her tablet.

Iris and Esmeralda chatted while everyone else was talking about the other stuff.  She showed her the bedroom she shared with Hilda, and Caleb’s new room, and then they came back downstairs.  “So, big new house and you still have to share a room?  That kind of sucks.”

“Yeah, but there aren’t enough bedrooms for us each to have our own, and he’s a boy and Hilda and I are both girls, so that’s how it goes.  At least it’s a lot bigger than our old room.  Still, it bugs me because I’m older than Caleb, even though he likes to say he can pull rank because he’s technically my uncle, but whatever.”

“Haha.  Orion is technically Chris’ uncle, too, and that never worked for him, either.  Though I totally pull the ‘aunt’ card on Travis whenever I can, mostly because it tweaks him.”

“Tweaking Travis is fun, but I try to be nice.  I like him even though he’s a little weird sometimes.”

“Try all the time,” laughed Iris.

“Well, yeah,” Esmeralda agreed with a smirk.  “Owen always says he’s a dork, too.”

“That’s because he is a dork, but I say that as his loving aunt,” Iris joked back.  “And my boyfriend would agree with Owen, for the record.”  She eyed her curiously.  “That’s Owen Frio, right?”

Esmeralda nodded, and Iris noticed how her face lit up.

“So, you two are a thing, huh?  I thought I heard something like that.”

“Yeah.  We’re going out and stuff.  We went on some dates and… you know.”

“Nice!  He’s cute.”  Iris raised an eyebrow.  “But he is kind of a player, or at least he was, from what I heard.  Not that I’m saying he’s a bad guy or anything, just… you know.  Keep your eyes open.  I’d hate to see you get hurt.”

Esmeralda shuffled a little.  “Oh, you don’t need to worry.  He’s not like that.  Yeah, he went out with other girls before me, and it’s true I haven’t gone out with anyone before or had any other boyfriends, but it’s not like he was serious with any of them.”  She paused.  “Besides, you know how it is.  People like to talk.  Heck, sometimes they say stuff like that about you, and you’ve been with Lester for ages.”

That time it was Iris’ turn to shuffle.  Although she knew she had a reputation for being a flirt, she didn’t think it was anything more than that.  “What do you mean?”

“Oh, you know.  Like people saying you and Lane still have something going on or got back together in secret or whatever.  But that’s totally stupid because everyone knows how you broke up at prom last year.  There was also that thing someone said about Alfonso Donner asking you out and you turning him down, which can’t be true, because I’m sure Rashida would’ve dumped his plumbob if he did.”

Iris frowned.  “Yeah, no.  That is all a big llama load!  Lane lives next door now and showed up at my house for a party once.  That’s it.  And the thing with Alfonso… what?  I’d like to know who made that up, because it never happened.  I’d have told Rashida in a second!  We have kind of an understanding, after how she slept with Lane behind my and his backs.  Which makes the Lane thing even stupider, because why would I go back to him after he cheated on me, even if I wasn’t with Lester?!”  Although she’d technically cheated on Lane, too, she still considered her kiss with Lester a lesser offense.

Esmeralda was nice enough not to comment on that, and just agreed. “That’s what I mean.  It’s like the people who say you hooked up with guys in Egypt on vacation or that you have a dating profile on Sim Finder and lie about your age to meet hot university guys.  Just jerks starting plum for attention, probably because they’re jealous.”  She shook her head.  “It’s why I’m glad I’m not pretty and popular.  People can be so petty.”

Although Iris had heard the rumor about the online stuff, she’d dismissed it as stupid gossip.  The stuff about Egypt hit closer to the truth than she liked, though, and it annoyed her that freshmen like Esmeralda were hearing it.  Still, she was probably right that it was just jealous llamas talking plum.  “I’m glad you don’t believe that crap at least.  Thanks.  And you shouldn’t say you’re not pretty, by the way.  You are.”

“Oh, I know I’m not hideous or anything, but I’m not pretty popular girl material.  I wear sweaters and t-shirts and jeans all the time, and sometimes I don’t even bother with makeup.  I just kind of brush my hair and let it do its own thing, and I don’t get flirting at all.  I suck at it if I try, and if I just talk to guys about something I’m interested in like fishing or cars, half of them get bent out of shape if it turns out I know more about it or am better at it than they are.”  She sighed.  “It doesn’t matter, I guess, because I don’t really want to be one of the popular types anyway.  Not that there’s anything wrong with it; I know you are.  It’s just not me.”

“I get what you’re saying.  But you are pretty, Esme, even if you don’t do your hair and makeup and stuff.  Sorry to break it to you.  A guy like Owen Frio wouldn’t go for you if you weren’t.  I know his type.”

“Hey, don’t get me wrong!  I’m glad he thinks so.”  She smiled the same way she had before when they talked about him.  “And it’s nice of you to say, too.  But it’s funny, because most people would expect someone like Owen to go for a girl like you, not me.”

“Maybe he likes you because you’re not like the kind of girls he used to go out with.  There’s a reason most exes are exes, after all.”

“I guess.  I didn’t really think of it that way.  You sure know a lot more about this stuff than I do.”

“Most of it just comes with experience, and, well, I like a good variety of it.”

Esmeralda gave her a cheeky look.  “For Lester’s sake, not too much, I hope.”

“Nah.  Not too much,” she teased back.  “I’d never want to hurt him.  He means a lot to me.”

“You really love him, huh?”

“Sure.  Yeah.  Of course.  We’ve been together for ages now, like you said.  I wouldn’t be with him if I didn’t care.  If I didn’t love him.” And I do love him!  It’s just, all couples get a little bored sometimes.  Even if they don’t cheat, I’m sure Patrick sometimes flirts back with girls who hit on him after a show if Maria’s not there, and I bet she does the same if a guy gives her a non-creepy compliment.  You can’t tell me Cycl0n3’s never at least play-flirted with some pixelated boobs in an online game, or that Blair never took a second look at hot young cops working out with her in the gym.  I bet even Mom and Dad had at least one little harmless flirt they kept to themselves that made them feel good back in the dinosaur age when they were young!  So even if I maybe crossed a little over the line a couple times, it’s no big deal.  It doesn’t mean I don’t love him.

“I hope someday Owen feels that way about me,” Esmeralda admitted.  “The way you do about Lester.”

Iris smiled back at her.  “I hope he loves you like Lester does me, too.  You deserve it.”

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 114
« Reply #334 on: December 29, 2019, 11:45:03 PM »
Chapter 114

Despite his disastrous failure with Kelly and online dating, Orion still held out hope that his love life wasn’t a lost cause.  Someday, he would find someone he’d love the way he had Tara, who would love and accept him the way she once did.  He still missed her, sometimes, and wondered about her, but aside from occasional wistful peeks at her social media in lonely moments, he accepted that it was over.  By all accounts, Tara was happy in Shang Simla, studying martial arts with the Order of the Resolute Fist.  It seemed she’d found the peace and space she needed, and he was glad for her.  She deserved happiness.  They both did, even if it couldn’t happen for them together.

He took a break from Sim Finder after the Kelly fiasco, though, and decided he’d just try meeting someone in a more traditional way.  There was a girl he liked in some of his classes.  Her name was Sara, and he got to know her while working with her on a class project.  She was a technology major, like him, and a dedicated student with a strong aptitude for computers and electronics.  He learned through casual conversation while they were researching at the library that she grew up around high-tech stuff like he did.  Her father was both a graduate of and tenured technology professor at Sims U, although Sara herself only attended one semester there before transferring out.

“Really?  Most people would pick Sims U just for the prestige and status.  What made you decide to come here instead?”

“Sims U prestige and status comes with a price tag to match, and I don’t want to be paying off student loans until I’m my parents’ age.  Sadly, I’m not from a rich family like you.  My parents are comfortable, but they’re on the edge of retirement and still have a pretty big mortgage.  They can’t afford to help me much, so I’m on my own footing the bill for my degree.”  She gave him a curious look.  “How come you didn’t go there yourself?  You’re smart enough, and your parents are Sims U alumni, right?  My dad mentioned them when I moved out here.  He said I should look for promising openings at Wainwright Innovations after I graduate.  Apparently, he knew them back when he was a student there.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yeah.  His name’s Ludo Vicco, but I don’t know if they ever mentioned him or not.”

“Not that I remember, but I’ll ask sometime.  As for Sims U, I thought about going there, but my parents are getting up there in age, and I didn’t want to be that far away if something happened to them.”  He tried not to think about the other reasons, like the ex-girlfriend that left him and Sunset Valley anyway, and his spaceship and alien secrets that he couldn’t talk about.

“Ah.  I understand.  My parents drive me nuts, but I love them.  Luckily, they’re pretty spry, and I think their daily arguments actually keep them going.  Something to live for, driving each other up a wall,” she quipped.  “I’m glad I transferred, though.  I love Sunset Valley.  The winter’s not nearly as awful here as it is back home, and you’ve got amazing beaches and parks.  There’s a lot more variety in things to do, too.  Up there, everything’s catered to it being a college town.  That’s not to say it’s bad, but it definitely limits opportunities.  If I finished school there, I’d just have to move somewhere else to get a decent job that’s not at Sims U anyway.”

“Hey, if you do end up sticking around and applying at the lab, I’ll put in a good word for you.  I work there myself.”


“Earning work-study credits and learning the family business.  Only part time because I’ve got a full credit load, but still.”

Sara was impressed.  “You’re pretty ambitious.  You must hardly sleep, or have no life outside of all that.”

“More Column A than Column B,” Orion admitted.  “At least I’d like to think so, anyway.”

“Ha.  Well, in that case, we can schedule our next session at the coffee shop.”  She checked the clock.  “Since our time’s about up, and I’ve got to hustle across campus to get to my physics class on time.”

“Sounds good.  Are you free tomorrow afternoon?” he asked as they packed up their notes and books into their bags.

“A little after noon, yeah.”

“So am I.  Meet you there then.”

“It’s a date,” Sara replied, slinging her bag over her shoulder.

I hope so, Orion thought with a smile as he put on his jacket.

When he got to the coffee shop the next day, Sara was already there.  “Hey, Orion!  I got us a table.  Ready to hit the books?”

“Sure.  You get your coffee yet?”

“Nope.  Figured I’d set up first and wait on you.”

“What do you like?  I’ll pick it up for you.”

“Oh, thanks!  Double red rocket.  I didn’t get much sleep last night because I was busy working on a friend’s laptop.  She’s, uh, well, to be honest, a complete moron when it comes to technology.  She clicked on some ransomware, but luckily for her, she called me to see if I could help before wasting a hundred simoleons buying those llamas a gift card to ‘fix’ it.”

“Ugh.  I’d have taken pity on her, too.  Then probably sent them a fun little surprise back.”

Sara smirked.  “Ooh.  You’ve got a vengeful side, I see.”

“Not so much vengeful as just dishing back some karma.  I don’t have any sympathy for scam artists, even if whoever’s getting scammed should be smart enough to know better than to click on a weird popup.”

After their study session, Orion and Sara put on their jackets and got ready to leave.  Even though they met up for class work, they had a nice time chatting, and he hoped she liked him as much as he liked her.  He tossed his empty cup in the trash.  “Need another to keep you up in your next class?  I’m getting one to go myself.”

“Well, I won’t say no, but after you paid for mine earlier, I don’t want to be a shameless mooch.”  She had gotten out her wallet to pay him back when he brought it to her, but he told her it was his treat, so she didn’t argue.

“It’s fine.  I wouldn’t offer if I minded.”  He smiled.  “Besides, I’m a rich boy with no student loans, remember?  I can swing it.”

“If you’re sure.  That’s really nice of you.  I appreciate it.”

“No problem.  In fact,” he met her eyes flirtatiously, “I’d be happy to treat you to dinner or something if you’d like to go out sometime not just to study.”

“Oh… wow!  Really?”  She seemed surprised but flattered.

“Yeah.  If you want.”

“I—sure.  That sounds fun.”  She paused.  “Where do you want to go?”

Orion was thrilled.  “Is there anywhere you’d like to try that you haven’t been to yet?”

“Oh, several places!  Unfortunately, my student budget doesn’t cover much more than pizza or the diner, so I don’t go out a lot.”

“What kind of food do you like?  I’ve been to most of what’s around here.  And don’t worry about the money.  I said I’d take you, so it’s on me.”

Sara gave him a coy look.  “With generous offers like that, I’m surprised you’re still single.”

“I am.  I promise.  I don’t play those kinds of games.”  He wondered if Sara had been burned by guys pulling the same plum that Kelly had with him.

“I didn’t think you did.  I was just kidding around,” she assured him.  “Have you been to that fusion lounge up on Pinochle Point?  I’ve heard it’s nice.”

“Yeah, I was there once.  I liked it.  Want to try it out Friday night?  I get out of the lab at 7.”

“Sounds great!   See you then.”

Orion’s heart fluttered with excitement.  “See you then.”

Orion met Sara at the lounge on Friday night.  He was used to seeing her dressed casually with her hair tied back, so when he saw her in a stunning low-cut designer dress with her dark hair flowing down around her shoulders, he couldn’t help but take a long appreciative look.  “Wow!  Sara, you look amazing.”

“Thank you!”  She smiled back at him.  “You look nice, too.  That’s quite a… bold jacket.”

“Hey, at least it’s not leather with a skull, right?”

“It’s okay.  I meant it as a compliment.  It suits you.”  She smirked.  “Pun intended.”

“Ha.  Thanks.  I hope you weren’t waiting long.”

“Nope.  Just a couple minutes.  I like the music.  Very relaxing.”

“It is,” Orion agreed.  “Usually when I come out to places with live music, it’s where my brother’s band is playing and that’s… significantly more energetic.”

“Ah, yeah.  Red Rooster Crisis.  I saw them once when they played at the bar up the road from City Hall.  They’re pretty good.  The guitarist is your brother, right?”

“Yeah.  He doesn’t look a thing like me, though,” Orion remarked wryly.

“Not surprising, considering you were adopted.”  During one of their first study sessions, Orion had picked up on her curiosity about his odd appearance, so he told her the usual story about his parents adopting him to study his condition.  She glanced at the posted menu.  “So, what do you recommend?”

“Everything I’ve tried here has been good, but the stir-fry was great.  My mother swears by the dim sum, though.  Says it’s the best in town.”

“Tough choice.  It all sounds delicious.  Let’s go.”

After dinner, and a lively conversation about computers and other shared interests, they stayed to have a drink and listen to the live music.  “So, your favorite music is western, huh?”

She nodded.  “Musically I’m a country girl at heart, but I like other stuff, too.  But I wouldn’t have guessed you being such a fan of classical.  That motorcycle and skull jacket hide a cultured soul.”

“It comes with growing up with an artsy music geek older brother.  He may play hard rock on stage, but he listens to all types, and I really get why the classical stuff is timeless.  Some of it helps me meditate, too.  And stuff like this.”  He gestured to the stage.

“You mean with your martial arts?”

“Yeah.”  He left it at that as they approached the bar.  “I’ll have a Feng Shui Fountain, and you…?”  He turned to Sara.

“The same, please.”

“Two Feng Shui Fountains it is, soon as I see your IDs.”  The bartender paused and gave Orion a double take.  “Orion Wainwright?  Oh, Watcher.  You’re old enough to buy drinks now.  Hoo boy.  You probably don’t remember me, but my name is Iris Fitch.  I used to babysit you and your brother and baby sister with the same name as me years ago.  Your parents first hired me to watch Patrick way back when they still lived on Maywood Lane.  I remember him getting real cheeky with me when he got a little older about not doing what I said even when I told him I was just doing what your parents told me.”

“Oh, wow!  Really?  I’m sorry I don’t remember, but it was a long time ago.  I’ll tell my parents you said hi, though.  And Patrick.”

She handed his and Sara’s IDs back to them.  “Sure.  That’d be great.  I hope they’re doing well, and it was good seeing you.  Have a nice evening.”

“They are, and I will.  You too.”  Orion took their drinks and left her a generous tip.

They enjoyed the cocktails and listened to the music together, but while their conversations were good, Orion noticed a subtle hesitation every time he went to take Sara’s hand or put an arm around her.  At first, he thought it was his imagination, since she seemed to sincerely like him, and then he wondered if she was just shy or guarded about her personal space.  It became more obvious as the night went on, though, and after she casually turned around after a brief touch, he couldn’t help but wonder if he’d done something to offend her.  “Hey, is everything okay?”

“What?  Oh, sure.”  She drank from her glass.  “Sorry.  It’s… it’s just kind of warm in here.  Maybe the drink’s making me feel a little flushed.”

Was she just nervous?  Sara had seemed confident enough earlier, but maybe now that it was getting late, she was worried he might turn into a jerk trying to push her into bed or something.  Orion hoped he hadn’t given that impression, and considered breaking his self-imposed rule to not use his abilities to sense her thoughts. It sure would’ve saved me some trouble with Kelly.  His powers had also been a big help with understanding Tara.  It still felt dishonest, though, and he didn’t want to start a new relationship making the same mistakes he did in his last one.

He set his glass down.  “Do you want to sit or go outside and get some air?”

“No.  I’ll be fine.”  She smiled at him in a way that he couldn’t help but feel was somewhat forced.

“Okay.  If you’re sure.”  He moved closer.  “If you’re not feeling well, I won’t be offended if you want to call it a night.  I promise.”

“That’s sweet of you, but I’m all right.  I’m just going to go to the bathroom for a minute.  I’ll be right back.”

“Okay.”  Screw it, Orion decided as he opened himself to read her.  If there’s a problem, I want to know about it now instead of later.  If I’m wrong, I’ll tell her I’m sorry and I only did it once when the time comes. 

Immediately, he was both glad he did, and wished he hadn’t.

It sucks.  He’s nice, smart, fun, rich, and I like him.  Wish I could be just a little bit attracted to him.  I was hoping if we went out and I gave him a chance I could get past it… but I just can’t.

Orion felt like he’d been socked in the gut.  She likes me, but I’m too freaking ugly for her. The worst part was that he could tell Sara genuinely regretted her lack of attraction and was berating herself for being shallow.  But no one could force that kind of chemistry.  It was either there or it wasn’t.  And obviously, it wasn’t there for her, even if it was for him.

When she returned, Orion decided to be straightforward and spare them both any further awkwardness.  “Hey.  Are you feeling better?”

“Yeah.  Thanks.”

“Good.  I’m glad.”  He met her eyes.  “Look, I’m sorry it took me a while to pick up on it… but I get it.”

“Get what?”

“You’re not really feeling any kind of romantic vibe, are you?”  Her expression and moment of hesitation confirmed it, even though Orion already knew.  “It’s okay.  I’m not offended or anything.  But I also don’t want to put you on the spot any more than I already have if that’s it.”

Sara sighed with a mixture of remorse and relief.  “Oh, Watcher.  I’m so sorry.  I didn’t want to be rude or hurt your feelings, because I do like you…”

“But just as a friend.  I understand.”

“It’s nothing you said or did, though.  You’ve been great, and I’ve had a good time with you.  And I super appreciate how generous you’ve been, buying me dinner and stuff.”   

Orion sensed that she felt guilty about that, and for hurting his feelings.  In a way, that made it better, because he hadn’t misjudged her character, but it didn’t make the actual rejection sting any less.  Especially since it reminded him how much his weird looks did matter when it came to finding someone, no matter what else he had going for him.  “It’s fine,” he said with as much positivity as he could muster.  “I’m glad you got to come out and try a new place, at least.  What are friends for?  I hope we are still friends at least.  I like having coffee and geeking out with you about computers and stuff after class.” 

“Of course,” Sara assured him.  “I like that, too.”

It was nice to hear, although it was obvious that things would still be at least mildly awkward for a while.  Hopefully, they would still be able to chat and hang out once in a while, and if it was weird to do more than that, well, at least it didn’t end on a bad note.  “Good.  Well, I guess I’ll see you in class, then.”

“Sure.  Thanks again for taking me out tonight.  I really enjoyed myself.”

“I’m glad you liked it.”  They picked up their coats.  “Have a good night.”

“You too.  Good night.”

While Orion endured a run of bad luck in his love life, Iris remained confident in hers.  Sure, sometimes she lamented that she and Lester didn’t have much in common beyond their physical attraction, and there were times she wanted a little more.  And maybe, occasionally, she indulged in some harmless side stuff, like online flirting, but she only ever really cheated the once, in Egypt.  She knew it was kind of sneaky to still be messaging Zaki, but he was so brilliant, and they had such deep and interesting conversations, that she couldn’t help herself.  And it wasn’t like it was always flirtatious.  Besides, he lived halfway around the world, so it wasn’t that a big deal even if it got a little risqué sometimes.  It didn’t mean things weren’t still rosy between her and Lester.  She loved being with him, especially when their lips were engaged in more than just chit-chat.

“So, how you like my new art studio?”  Lester proudly showed off the tower room in his new house that was set up for his artwork.  The Sekemotos had just moved to the smaller, fancier home with a distant view of the ocean.  Now that Tom lived with Bianca, it was just Lester living with his retired parents, so they only needed two bedrooms.  Leighton and Monika were happy to let him use the window-filled tower room to paint in.

“It’s cool!  You’ve got a great view.”  Iris turned away from the window and approached him flirtatiously.  “Come springtime, you’ll be staring at the ocean and the treetops more than me, I bet.”

“Nah.  You’re more inspiring than any landscape.”

“Oooh.  Does that mean you’re going to paint me?”

He ran his finger down her cheek.  “Aw, you know portraits aren’t really my style.  Besides, you’d be hard to do justice to in spray paint anyway.”

“Nice out there, but I’ll take the compliment,” Iris teased as she wrapped her arms around him.  “So, what do I inspire you to do, then?”

He gave her a sly look.  “Lots of things, although not necessarily art-related.”

“Like what?”

“Like this.”  He kissed her and smoothed his hand down her back until it came to rest suggestively on her backside.  “And since my parents are still out, maybe we could finish your tour with a more thorough look at my room.  It’s a lot cozier in there.”

“It’d have to be, considering the only place to sit up here is that folding chair in the corner,” Iris pointed out coyly.

“Oh, yeah.  Sorry.  Guess I don’t sit much while I work.”

She twirled her finger in his hair.  “And in your room?”

“I’m pretty sure you know already know that one,” he flirted back.

“You can show me anyway.  After this.”  She inhaled and blew him an intimate and sensual flower kiss.  Its heady floral scent was arousing and intoxicating, and like always, Lester found it irresistible.  He took her hand and tugged her toward the stairs.

“Let’s go!”

“Your new room is very nice,” Iris said after they arrived and tumbled onto his bed for a make-out session.  “Though I expected you to have more of your art up.”

“Haven’t had time to unpack everything yet.  Been busy setting up the studio and going out with you.”  He smooched her.  “Did you notice the bed’s new?”

“I did.  Much more spacious.”  She traced her foot along the edge of the mattress.

“I talked my parents into an upgrade when we were packing.  That old twin I had was shot anyway.”

“I wonder how it got that way.”  Iris tickled his back.  “You must be rough on things.”

“You never complained about that before,” he teased, eliciting a delighted sigh from her as his hands wandered in enticing ways.

“Who said I was complaining?”

After a frisky romantic interlude, Iris and Lester snuggled up together.  His room wasn’t as warm as she kept hers, but that just made cuddling with him even nicer.  “I have to say, I like your room more than your studio.  The view may not be quite as impressive, but there are other things worth seeing.”  She traced a finger across his bare chest.

“I’ll say,” Lester agreed, admiring her scantily clad form.  “The only downside is my parents’ room is right on the other side of the wall, and it connects through that bathroom.”

“Speaking of which, I could use a splash of water.  Mind if I go get some?”

“Go ahead.”  He looked at the time.  “We should probably get straightened up anyway.  That movie they went to see is over by now, and they could be back anytime.  It’d suck if they walked in on us like this.”

“True enough.”  She smooched him, picked up her clothes, and went to the bathroom while Lester got up and got dressed.

He had just put his shoes back on when he heard a phone beep.  At first, he thought it was his, but then he realized it was Iris’.  When he picked it up to bring it to her, he saw the notification.

It was a messenger popup on the lock screen from a name he didn’t recognize: Zaki Taymur.  That alone wouldn’t have bothered him, since he and Iris both had active social media accounts with large friend and follower lists.  What did bother him was what he saw of the message from this guy he didn’t know.

Love the pics, gorgeous!  They finally came through after 16 hours.  Worth the wait though, especially that last one.  A second message with a flirtatious emoji indicating that he found said picture quite hot popped up a moment later.

Shocked and hurt, Lester called over to her.  “Hey, Iris!”

She came out of the bathroom, already dressed.  “Yeah?”

He held up her phone.  “Your phone beeped.  Who the hell is Zaki Taymur and what kind of pictures are you sending him to get messages like this?”

Iris felt a stab of dread.  She and Zaki had been messaging each other late last night.  It started off as a casual conversation, but it took a flirtatious turn, and before saying goodnight, they exchanged some pictures.  Nothing too naughty, but he was shirtless in one and she had modeled her pretty new bra in his favorite color in the final one she sent.  She got some connection errors back when she sent them, however, and she didn’t even think the last two had gone through.  It seemed that messenger got its act together hours later, though, and with atrocious timing.  “He’s just someone I know.”  She frowned defensively.  “Were you going through my phone?”

Her evasively guilty reaction upset him even more.  “No.  Like I said, it beeped.  I was bringing it to you in case it was something important, and this was on the screen!  But now I’m wondering what those pictures are, and who you’re sending them to!  Who is he?”

“Just someone I met in Egypt.  We still talk online sometimes.”

“And send each other pictures, apparently.  Pictures he thinks are rather hot, ‘gorgeous,’” he ended on a sarcastic note.

“That’s just him being… look, it’s not a big deal.  Really.”

“It’s not?  Well, in that case, want to unlock your phone so I can see them, then?  I always like pictures of you.  Or what about your conversation?  Can I see that, too?”


“No, really.  If it’s not a big deal, show me.  You know I won’t care if it’s just some friendly chat with this guy.”  He brought up the unlock screen so she could put in the code.  “Show me I’m misunderstanding this.”  His voice choked up with emotion.  “Because I’d like to be wrong.”

Iris knew there was no graceful way out, so she resigned herself to the inevitable and explained.  “Okay.  I—he and I had a little thing when I was there, in Egypt.  But it wasn’t at all serious,” she emphasized.  “It was just something that kind of happened.”

“Something that kind of happened?” Lester repeated incredulously, hurt and angry.  “Let me guess.  The guy in that picture?  The one you said you were just dancing with?”

Iris nodded guiltily.  “It was a little more than dancing.”

“A little more, or a lot more?”

“Are you asking if I slept with him?”

“Did you?  How much more is in those pictures?  I know what kind of pictures you send me in our private chats!”

“Lester, please, I know it looks bad, but—”

“But what?” he demanded.

“This thing with Zaki, it really didn’t mean anything!  I swear.  I wasn’t in love with him!  I wouldn’t lie to you.”

Lester scoffed.

“Not about that,” she insisted, hurt by his lack of trust despite her guilt.  “All it was, was a little fling, a vacation… whatever!  But it’s over!  It was over when I came home, and I never thought in a million years that he’d ever come between us.  He lives halfway around the world!  I’ll probably never see him again.”

“Well, he’s still messaging you, and you’re sending him pictures as recently as 16 hours ago that you still haven’t shown me aren’t that bad.  So, even if he lives all the way over in Al Simhara, it doesn’t sound very ‘over’ to me.”


“No, Iris.  Come on!  I’m not stupid,” he snapped, hurt and angry.  “Just admit it.  You fooled around while you were away and thought it was okay to keep talking or whatever to him online because you thought I’d never find out.”

“I knew you’d just be hurt or jealous, and since nothing real is ever going to happen with him again anyway, no, I didn’t tell you,” she admitted tearfully.  “I’m sorry.  I really never meant to hurt you.  But it’s not like we’re married or engaged or anything, or even ever promised to be a hundred percent devoted in so many words.”

“Seriously?  So, if I was with someone while you were off in Egypt, you’d have been totally cool with that because, hey, we’re not married and you were out of town and I had needs?!  Funny, that’s not how I remember you taking it when Lane hooked up with Rashida behind your back.”

“That was different,” Iris argued.  “She’s my friend, not some girl from out of town that he’d never see again!”

“That’s a llama load!  Besides, you are still seeing him, at least online!”  It was obvious how hurt and betrayed he felt as he glared back at her.  “Why?  It wasn’t that long a trip.  I missed you, but I didn’t go off and hook up with someone to keep me warm in the cold here while you were away heating up the desert with this guy.  I thought we loved each other!  At least, you said you love me.  Was that a llama load, too?”

“That’s not fair!  I do love you!  Do you really think I’ve just been saying that this whole time?!”

“I don’t know what to think!  But if you love me, why are you screwing around with other guys behind my back?”

“It’s not ‘guys,’ it was one guy, who lives all the way in Egypt!” Iris retorted hotly as tears welled up in her eyes.  “I’m sorry!  I didn’t mean to hurt you!  I swear I didn’t!  Because I do love you!”

“Not enough to not hook up with this Zaki guy when you were away.”  He turned away, upset.  “And worse, keep messaging him after.”

“Look, I—I don’t know what to say.  I screwed up.  I’m sorry!  I guess I thought if you never found out about the Egypt thing, it wouldn’t matter because it was over.  And the messages after were just that.  Messages.  Like I said, it’s not like I’ll ever see him again, and I’m not in love with him or anything.”

“Does he even know about me?” Lester asked bitterly.

“He knows I have a boyfriend, yeah.”  She left off that was mostly thanks to Travis running his big mouth, although she supposed Zaki would’ve found out when he friended her on SimBook anyway, since Lester was on her profile as her boyfriend there.

“So he just doesn’t care, then,” he scoffed.  “One of those guys.  Nice to know.”

Iris frowned.  “I don’t think either of us can really play that card with a straight face, considering how we got together.”

“Yeah, well, the difference is, I knew how I felt about you and felt like absolute plum for what it did to Krystal.  Because I cared about her, too, even if it wasn’t the same or as strong as how I couldn’t stop thinking about you and wanting to be with you.  I wouldn’t have… I wouldn’t have done that if I didn’t think we were going to have something amazing.  Something too good to not go for, something that made it worth it.  I wouldn’t have hurt her like that just to have a fling that didn’t mean anything.”  His voice wavered.  “I thought it was the same with you and me and you and Lane.  Even if he hadn’t made your breakup easier by hooking up with Rashida.  Which is why he did it, because he knew how we felt about each other.  I guess I thought I could play that card because while I’ve been with you, I haven’t been looking for someone else.  Even when things weren’t a hundred percent perfect.  And I didn’t think you would, either.”

“Lester, I’m so sorry!  I swear I didn’t ever want to hurt you.”  She sniffled as he turned away, trying not to show the glint of tears in his own eyes.  “You may not believe it, but it’s true.  I love you!”

“But you still hooked up with that guy anyway, and kept talking to him and sending him pictures after.  Even after you were back with me.  So even if you do, I’m still not enough for you.  Obviously.”

“Then I’ll stop talking to him.  I won’t message him anymore.  I promise.”

“And the next time you’re away?  Or I am?  And someone else comes along that you like?”  Lester shrugged.  “Let’s be real.  You said yourself it wasn’t like we were married or engaged or promised anything.  If I let this go and asked you right now to promise we’d be exclusive from here on out, no exceptions, would you?”

The moment she hesitated in answering answered for her.

“Yeah.  I thought so.”  A terrible silence fell between them for a moment until Lester spoke again.  “Maybe you have the right idea.  You always were the smarter one.   Maybe we should see other people.”

It hurt more than she ever imagined, and she struggled not to burst into tears.  “Is that really what you want?”

“I don’t think I can have what I really want.  Not with you also having what you want.”

Iris wanted to argue and change his mind, and put things right between them again, but deep down she knew he was right.  As much as she loved Lester and loved being with him, in his arms, staring into his dark eyes and enjoying his warm kisses, she couldn’t deny that she still yearned for something more.  And I’ll just hurt him more if I keep looking for it while we’re together.  “I guess this is it, then.  I’m sorry.”  Her voice choked up.  “I never meant to hurt you.  I really didn’t.  I hope you believe that, at least.  And that I do care, that I do love you.”

“Yeah,” Lester said regretfully, taking a long last look at her.  “I do.”

Iris turned toward the door, her heart breaking.  “Goodbye.  I hope you find someone who makes you happy.”

He watched her leave, feeling much the same.  “You too.”

Author’s Note: As you might have guessed, I added a handful of new sims to my town in the last couple days of the seventh game week.  Although NRaas SP populated my town pretty well, a lot of the sims are related to each other, which limits their dating pools.  I also wanted to add in some new characters and genetics to the town for my sims and SP to play with.  Sara Vicco, who appeared in this chapter, is one of them. She’s the daughter of Ludo Vicco and Tammy Parker, who SP hooked up way back when Boyd and Susan were at Sims U in the first week of the game.  Orion’s online dating disaster Kelly, her fiancé Jerod, and her horse Dragon are also SV residents now, and there are a few more that you’ll meet in upcoming chapters.

Lastly, the bartender Iris Fitch was a babysitter for the Wainwrights in the early weeks of the game.  She aged up and was replaced shortly after Iris was born, and now she’s one of the NPC mixologists.

Offline vrobx1

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #335 on: January 06, 2020, 12:33:54 AM »

I stumbled on this site from Tapatalk and just started reading your story.

I have a long way to catch up but I want to say I love the story. Beginning at least.

Sunset Valley has always been favorite town/world. Probably because I got to know the characters so well and Blair is a favorite founder's wife I have used.

Anyway, just wanted to say good job and now let me get back to reading.

Sent from my SM-J337VPP using Tapatalk

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 115
« Reply #336 on: January 13, 2020, 04:47:59 AM »

I stumbled on this site from Tapatalk and just started reading your story.

I have a long way to catch up but I want to say I love the story. Beginning at least.

Sunset Valley has always been favorite town/world. Probably because I got to know the characters so well and Blair is a favorite founder's wife I have used.

Anyway, just wanted to say good job and now let me get back to reading.

Sent from my SM-J337VPP using Tapatalk

Thank you!  I'm glad you're enjoying the story so far. :)

Chapter 115

“Hey, didn’t realize you were both up here,” Patrick remarked as he came into the upstairs rec room.  He was looking for Orion, who was one of the only ones in the house that actually used their treadmill for anything other than a clothes rack, but Iris was there, too.  She was watching a show on the garden network and chatting with Orion while he worked out.  “Enjoying a lazy Saturday afternoon?”  He glanced at Orion.  “Or not so lazy in your case?”

“Can’t really run outside when it’s snowing like this.”

“Can’t imagine why you’d want to.  Or inside for that matter.  Anyway, I wanted to let you know, tonight my band’s doing a promotional DJ gig at the club by the beach.  You should stop by.  Grab a drink, enjoy some music, and have some fun.”  He knew Orion had just struck out with a girl he liked, and he hoped getting out of the house and cutting loose for a night would cheer him up.  Then he turned to Iris.  “You too, if you want.  Unless of course you’ve already lined up a hot date.”  He also knew that she and Lester just broke up, since she came home quite upset afterward.  She hadn’t gone into detail about it around their parents or Plumboptimus, but while Patrick was at work, she confided to Maria and later also to Orion, that it happened because of her online messages with her Egyptian flame.

“Nope.  Last week, Lester and I planned to go to a movie tonight, but obviously, that’s not happening.”  She sighed.  “I didn’t make any other plans yet.”

“And I sure don’t have a hot date.  I’m too ugly for that,” Orion said on a half-joking, half-bitter self-deprecating note.

Iris rolled her eyes.  “Oh, stop.  You are not.”

“Yeah, it was just one girl,” Patrick agreed.  “Come on down to the club tonight.  There’ll be plenty more there.  Maybe you’ll meet one who likes to run herself ragged on that thing like you do.”

“Hey, I’ve got to stay fit.  Wouldn’t want to be both out of shape and ugly.  Then I’d never have a shot with anyone but someone who wants me for my money.”

As she came up the stairs and joined them, a bit slow and awkwardly due to her ever-growing pregnant belly, Maria overheard and chimed in her thoughts.  “Don’t be ridiculous, Orion.  You’re a great guy.  You just haven’t met the right one yet, that’s all.  You should go and have fun with them tonight.  You too, Iris.  Besides, I need at least one of you to give me the audience take on Patrick’s DJ’ing skills.  And Wilbur and Gretchen’s.  Though I’m sure my Paddy-Cakes will be the best.”  She made a smoochy-face at him.

“You’re not going, too?” asked Iris.  “I figured you’d want to see it yourself so you could review it.”

Maria made a face.  “I would, but I’m supposed to keep stress down because it’s bad for the baby.  And putting up with Gretchen and Julius all night is the opposite of low stress.  Especially in a crowded club that’s only got high uncomfortable bar stools to sit on anywhere near the dance floor.  So, I’m sitting this one out.  But I know you understand, right?”  She squeezed Patrick’s hand.

“Of course I do, baby.  You know that.”

Orion looked over from the treadmill.  “So, your old pal Julius will be there, huh?”

“Yeah.  Gretchen’s back with him again, and he’s part owner of that club, so he’ll be around.  I plan to down a KTHXBYE or three to drown him out if he starts with any dumb llama remarks since I can’t kick his plumbob without it causing drama for the band.”

“Unfortunately, I would have to put up with them entirely sober, hence why I’d rather stay home,” Maria said.  “But you guys have fun.  Keep Patrick out of trouble for me.”

“Hey!  I’ll be working.  You ought to be wondering who’s going to keep them out of trouble.”

His workout complete, Orion powered down the treadmill and got off.  “Hey, you invited us.”

“Yeah,” Iris added, getting up.  “That’s all on you, big brother.”

Patrick and the rest of the band were at the club before it opened to prepare for the show.  They would be taking turns in the booth, so whoever wasn’t DJ’ing could mingle and promote their band to anyone that might be there looking to book or review them.  They finished setup shortly before the doors opened, although Patrick and Wilbur did more of the heavy work than Gretchen, as usual.  She spent at least half the time in the bathroom, mysteriously unavailable.  “Thanks for taking care of that, guys.  Sorry I couldn’t be more help.  Dinner did a number on my stomach.”

“I warned you about those food truck tacos,” Patrick said with a note of sarcasm.  “That’s why I stuck with the chips.”

“Thought that was so it wouldn’t kill your buzz,” quipped Wilbur.

“Funny.  I haven’t even had one yet, though I might grab a cold one before the show starts.  You guys want anything?”

“Not me.  My stomach just turned.”  Wilbur made a face as the club opened and patrons came in, including one he was not thrilled to see—his dear fiancée, Penny.  Much like Iris, she too had been caught cheating, although Penny’s affair was more blatant and local.  It turned out that one of her close friends, a girl named Tawanda Gibbons who moved into town some time ago, was more than that, and Penny was romantically involved with her on the sly.  “Man, what is she even doing here?  I thought her new honey-bunny made her so happy that she’d be out with her.”  He scoffed, bitter.  “At least she didn’t bring her and flaunt it in my face.  And I guess Rodrigo must be over at Lisa’s again.”

“Maybe it’s just not all about you, Wilbur,” Gretchen said on a dramatic note.  “She’s my friend, too.  And Patrick’s.”  She turned to him.  “Nothing for me, either.  Not until I get over that lead taco.”

As more patrons came in, Patrick was glad to see Orion and Iris among them.  He was busy, but he waved to them while they did their own thing as the show kicked off with Wilbur in the DJ booth.  Unfortunately, Patrick’s mood took a turn for the worse when Julius Langerak approached him.  “Hey.”


“Not that I’m complaining you invited your cute little plantsim sister here tonight—eye candy’s always good for business—but you might want to warn her to be careful,” he said in a surprisingly not-unfriendly tone.  “She’s caught the eye of a couple of creeps trying to buy her drinks even after the bartender told them she’s still in high school.  He just told me about it.”

Patrick sighed aggravatedly as the song changed.  “Oh, great.  Do I need to go kick someone’s plumbob?”

“Nah.  Relax.  It’s handled.  I told the bouncers, and if I see anyone hassling her, I’ll step in.”

“Thanks.”  He was both surprised and grateful.  Maybe Tad was right, and Julius wasn’t so bad anymore.  “I appreciate it.”

“No problem.”  He smirked.  “Besides, I remember how well you fight.  Wouldn’t want to see you break your guitar fingers or end up in traction after they knock your plumbob from one side of the club to the other.”

Or maybe he was still an obnoxious llama after all.  “Oh, go sit on your plumbob and spin.”

Gretchen overheard and came over, giggling.  “Now, now, boys!  Fight nicely.”

“No worries, babe,” said Julius.  “You know I wouldn’t give poor Wainwrong here too hard a time.”

“‘Wainwrong,’ really?  Wow.  You’d think by now you could’ve come up with a better insult than one you used back in high school.  But I guess that’s asking a lot from someone with the IQ of toast.”

Julius snickered.  “And you still talk plum like a llama, I see.  Some things never change.  Anyway, I’ll leave you to what you are good at, which is putting on a show for my customers.  And Gretchen, like I just told him, if you see anyone hassling his little sister, let me or the bouncers know.  Don’t let hot-head there start a fight the other guy will finish.”

Patrick muttered profanity under his breath while Gretchen was amused.  “Aw, but Patrick looks so cute when he rage-swings his guitar.”

“Heh.  You mean like a scruffy little cat picking a fight with a bulldog?  Cute or not, it still won’t end well.  Anyway, I told the bartender to set you guys up with whatever, so feel free to come and grab some drinks.  Even you, Patrick.  I heard you and Maria have a kid on the way, so congrats.  Though she was crazy enough when she wasn’t hormonal, so I can only imagine what you’re putting up with now.  Bet you could really use that juice.  Later!”  He headed back to the bar while Patrick just grumbled.

“Llama.  He’s freaking lucky Maria wasn’t here to hear that.”  Even if it’s not a full moon, he thought on a cranky note, while Gretchen laughed.

“Are you kidding?  I’d have paid to see that.”

“Yeah, you would.  I still don’t know what you see in that guy.”

“Funny.  He’s said the same thing about Maria and you a time or two.”  Gretchen playfully patted him on the shoulder before weaving back into the crowd to schmooze.

So far, Orion was having more fun than his brother.  Although he hadn’t come out with any expectations beyond enjoying the music and having a couple of drinks, Patrick was right that it beat staying home doing whatever while ruminating about his bad luck.  Wilbur was good in the DJ booth, and Orion had the snide thought that he should stick to music instead of Golden Llama-ing around his family’s property.  Orion hadn’t caught Wilbur or any of the other Golden Llamas snooping since the night he confronted him, but he doubted that meant they were entirely off their radar.  Especially since he thought Wilbur side-eyed him when he came in.  But whatever.  Wilbur could suspect whatever he wanted, but Orion knew the truth, and he’d let bygones be bygones as long as Wilbur and the Golden Llamas did, too.

When he went to the bar, he ordered the drink Patrick mentioned earlier, a KTHXBYE.  Although he enjoyed a good Alien Brain, he mused that he already had one of those in his head, and it didn’t need anything sending it into overdrive.  “Starting the night off crazy, huh?” remarked the bartender.  “Some say that’s the best way to do it.”

“I know a few who definitely would.”  Orion glanced over at Patrick, who let out a whoop as he high-fived someone he was chatting with.

The music beat was infectious, and soon Orion was caught up in it.  Patrick was now in the booth and doing a great job.  The dance floor was packed, and Orion could confidently tell Maria later that her dear DJ Paddy-Cakes was a hit.  When he put on a song Orion really liked, rather than shove his way out onto the dance floor, he hopped up on the counter like some of the other patrons did on occasion.  He remembered when he did the same at Patrick’s bachelor party way back when, and just like then, when the bartender grumbled, Orion tossed him some cash, lessening his grumbling significantly.

Gretchen saw, and approved with an appreciative whistle.  “Hey, hey, Orion!  Shake it!”

Orion looked over and saw her grinning at him from where she watched someone in the gyroscope machine.  “Hey, Gretchen!  Want to join me?”

“Ha!  Tempting, but I’m up in the booth in a few.  You’ll have to work it up there while I work it in there,” she replied on a coy note.

While Orion caught Gretchen’s eye with his countertop dancing, Iris was also having a good time.  Luckily, none of the interested-but-too-old-for-her guys got pushy or obnoxious when she made it clear she wouldn’t go for them, but there weren’t many guys her own age that appealed, either, which was disappointing.

That was when her luck changed, and she spotted a boy her age in the crowd on the dance floor.  An attractive one that she recognized, not because she knew him, but because he was Simstagram Famous.  Oh, my Watcher!  That’s Cameron Bloom, here in Sunset Valley!

Cameron Bloom was the son of famous former Bridgeport model Apollo Bloom, who was now retired after a long and successful career.  Cameron bore a strong resemblance to his father, and less to his mother, an actress from overseas who was married to Apollo Bloom for five years before divorcing and running off with some actor from Monte Vista, who she remarried.  Cameron’s natural good looks and being the son of celebrities made it easy for him to make a name for himself on social media, especially since he was also a talented athlete.  Iris followed him on Simstagram—not so much for his fitness tips as for how hot he looked in his workout gear and swimwear pictures—but she had no idea he was in town, since he hadn’t mentioned taking any trips to Sunset Valley.

I wonder if he’ll talk to me?  Iris didn’t want to come off like an overly enthusiastic fangirl, but she hoped that since a lot of guys found her attractive, he would, too.  Especially since he didn’t appear to be with or interested in anyone else there yet.

As Patrick put on a song with a rocking beat, Iris danced her way over to him.  “Hey,” she said flirtatiously.  “Want to dance?”

Cameron smiled back at her in a way that made her leaves flutter.  “With the hot plantsim?  Hell yeah.”  He joined her, and they moved in time with the beat.

She eyed him coyly as they danced.  “So, you noticed me?” 

“Who hasn’t?  Don’t tell me you didn’t notice.”

“I did, but nobody was as interesting as you.”

He grinned.  “You find me interesting, huh?”

“You’re a Simstagram fitness model, Mr. Bloom.  I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who recognized you.  But I’d have still thought you were hot even if you weren’t.”

“Thanks.  And Mr. Bloom is my dad.  You can call me Cameron, or Cam.  What’s your name?”


“A plant name, huh?”

It wasn’t the wittiest flirtation she’d ever heard, but the way he said it was still cute.  “My parents are very original,” she said with a giggle.

“So, is that a plantsim custom?  Sorry if that’s a dumb question, but you’re the first one I’ve ever met in person.”

Iris was surprised.  “Really?  Even living in a big city like Bridgeport?”


“Wow!  I know we’re rare, and heck, I haven’t even met another plantsim myself, but I live here in Sunset Valley, which isn’t exactly a thriving metropolis.  But my brother said there were some at Sims U, so I figured you being from a city with so many tourists…”

“Nope.  You’re the first, so it’s really cool to meet you.  I did meet a few vampires back in Bridgeport, though.”

“Oh, really?  I’ve never met one of those!  What were they like?  Were they cool, or did they suck?” she joked, and he laughed.

“They were okay.  A lot like the rest of us, except paler with pointy teeth.  They have their own clubs they like to hang out in, and I’ve been to a couple.  Not really my scene.  The ones I met were cool enough except for one that was kind of a llama.”

Iris smirked.  “Hope you didn’t tell him to bite you, at least not without some garlic handy.”

“Nah,” he chuckled.  “You’re fun.  I like you.”

“I like you, too,” she replied flirtatiously.

“So, you said you didn’t know any other plantsims, but you mentioned a brother.  Does that mean your parents aren’t?  Were you adopted?”

“Not exactly.  My parents are scientists.  Human scientists.  They grew me from a plantsim seed they engineered in a lab.”

Cameron was impressed.  “Wow!  They must be super smart.”

She thought was kind of obvious, but whatever.  He was hot and nice to talk to, and a great dancer.  “They are.  They own and run the lab here in town.”

“The one up on the hill with the big dome?”

Iris nodded.

“Cool.  I’m still learning this place.  We just moved here this week.”

He moved here?  Cameron Bloom lives in Sunset Valley now?  Iris recalled him recently posting something about moving, but he never said where.  Not that she could blame him.  Celebrities couldn’t be too careful when it came to weirdos and stalkers, especially when they weren’t even legally adults yet.  “That’s awesome!  So you live here now?”

“Yeah.  Dad got tired of the city life and wanted to retire in a house by the beach.  This club is one of the only hot spots I’ve found so far.  Not bad, I guess, but also not much compared to the city.”  He flashed her a charming smile.  “But I bet you know all the cool places and could show them to me.”

“I do.”  Iris swayed a bit closer to him as the song changed to one a little slower and more suggestive.  “And I’d love to.”

“Awesome,” Cameron replied.

After the novelty of counter dancing wore off, Orion went back out to the dance floor.  He was moving to the beat, enjoying the music, when he heard a flirtatious female voice behind him.  “Hey, tall, green, and mysterious.  Want to dance?”

Surprised, Orion turned around and recognized her as the one who’d been in the gyroscope earlier.  She was easy to spot, since she was the only girl in the club he’d seen with long aqua-blue hair.  “Sure.  Though I didn’t think I was all that mysterious,” he replied with a smile.

“Must be the sunglasses,” she teased.

“And here I thought it was the green part.”

“That makes you interesting.  That and your dance moves on the countertop.”

Orion chortled.  “You saw me up there, huh?”

“You’re green.  You stick out.”  She smiled.  “I’m April, by the way.”

“Nice to meet you.  I’m Orion, and I guess we’re even.  I remembered you as the one in the gyroscope because of the blue hair.  I saw you from up there.  Looked like you had fun.”

“I did, although it’s harder than it looks.  Definitely glad I didn’t try it after a couple more drinks.”

“Yeah, it can get pretty wild.”

“Oh, you’ve done it?”  She was impressed.

“Once or twice.”

“How’d you like it?”

“It’s fun.  A little crazy.  Especially when you’re just getting the hang of it, and it goes and spins you in the opposite direction out of nowhere and you’re scrambling to get back in control thinking, whoa, what the hell’s going on here?  But then you get it figured out again, and by the time you’re done, you realize that’s actually part of why it’s fun.”

“Yes!  And when it’s more than you expect, it can really throw you for a loop!”  She emphasized it with a finger-twirl.  “But like you said, that is part of the fun, and I like a good wild ride,” she finished on a suggestive note that wasn’t lost on him.

He found it both flattering and enticing, especially after Sara’s rejection.  April wasn’t hard on the eyes, either, and she seemed fun.  Wonder what you’d think of my Galaxa, Orion mused, not that he could show it to her, or say “Hey baby, want to see my spaceship?” as a pick-up line with a straight face even if he could.  Instead, he just replied with a flirtatious, “Me, too,” and joined her for a dance.

They chatted while they danced, and Orion discovered that April was not just straightforward in her flirtatiousness, but in general.  He liked that, though.  After his string of romantic disasters, it was refreshing.  He learned that she worked in the kitchen at the diner, and that cooking was one of her passions, although she hadn’t gone to culinary school.  She was thrilled to work so close to where she lived, in the loft complex, because she was passionate about the environment and keeping her carbon footprint low.  Orion told her about his work at the lab, that Wainwright Innovations was owned by his family, and that they were working on ecologically friendly technologies for various applications.  She was impressed, but more by that than him being a rich heir to it, which made him like her even more. 

Unfortunately, that was also when he learned something that slammed the brakes on his hopes for getting romantic with her.  After expressing how awesome she thought it was that the lab was doing that research, April mentioned that her boyfriend Adam, who she lived with and who’d moved to Sunset Valley with her from Twinbrook, considered applying there.  Apparently, he was a skilled organic gardener, but decided to just keep doing “side stuff” selling produce and other things for cash because he enjoyed the freedom of setting his own work hours.

“Oh.  You have a boyfriend.”  It was hard to keep the disappointment out of his voice.  He supposed that at least unlike Kelly, April was honest enough to be up front about it instead of lying.

“Yes, but it’s not like you’re thinking,” she explained as Orion raised an eyebrow.  “I’m not cheating on him or looking to do that, out here at the club, flirting with you or anyone else.  Adam and I have an open relationship.  Neither of us are really the settle-down-with-a-picket-fence types.  Nothing against people wired that way, but we’re not.  So we’re together, but also both cool with each other being with other people.”  She smiled at Orion.  “The Watcher’s honest truth.  I’ve even been friends with some of the girls he dated while we’ve been together.  And he’s never had a problem with any guy I was with as long as he wasn’t a llama.  In fact, I think he’d like you if he met you.”

Orion was shocked.  “Oh.  Wow.  I—I didn’t expect that.”

“I always tell guys I’m interested in up front, so there aren’t any surprises.  Last thing I want to do is hurt someone without meaning to.  It’s best to just be straight about it right off the bat.”

“Yeah, I bet.”  He wasn’t sure what to say, because while he appreciated her honesty, this situation was a first for him.

“Look, if it weirds you out, I get it.  It’s a shame, because you seem like a lot of fun, and guys with unique looks are totally my thing, but I understand if it’s something you don’t want to deal with.  I know a lot of people only want to be with one person and be the only one in their life that way.  And that’s cool, if that’s how it is for you.  I won’t be offended.”

He could tell she was telling the truth, and it left him feeling odd.  He was attracted to her, but he was the type who wanted a monogamous relationship long-term and cheating wasn’t something he wanted any part of.  However, what she described wasn’t that, since nobody was lying to anyone else.  “I wouldn’t say it weirds me out.  I’ve just never been involved in that kind of situation before.”  He paused.  “My last real relationship was pretty serious.  Like I’d have married her if it worked out kind of serious.  We were together a long time, and we were faithful to each other through all of it.”

“And you’re not just looking for a one-night stand now,” April guessed, meeting his eyes.

In the past, he’d have passed on a one-time fling without a second thought.  Back in Egypt, he had, for the reasons he told Iris then.  But now, he was tempted.  Even if that’s all she wants, would it really be so bad?  She likes you.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone in your arms holding you and kissing you and making you happy again, even if it’s just for one night?  Orion found it hard to argue with that feeling in that moment, but he decided if he was going to consider it, he wanted everything on the table up front.  “It’s more like if I go home from here with someone, I’d hope things would go well enough that we’d want to see each other again.  What about you, though?  Is that what you’re after?”

“Just because I’m with Adam doesn’t mean I’m not interested in having something meaningful with someone else, too, if we click.”  She touched his arm suggestively.  “Though if you did just want a hook-up, or to just be friends with benefits or something, I wouldn’t necessarily say no to that, either, if things heated up between us here tonight.  I think you’re pretty hot.” 

That cinched it for Orion, despite her unconventional relationship situation, especially as her fingers slid across his bicep and up to his shoulder, which she gave an appreciative squeeze.  “I think you’re pretty hot, too,” he replied, putting a hand on her waist.

“Then what do you say we finish this dance, get a drink, have some fun, and then,” she leaned in flirtatiously, “see what happens?”

“I’d love to,” Orion said as they grooved together in time to the music once more.

Orion wasn’t the only Wainwright feeling lucky about meeting someone that night.  Iris was having a blast and was absolutely smitten with Cameron, and it seemed like the feeling was mutual, if the way he flirted back was any indication.  She was elated when he agreed to not only take a picture with her, but also didn’t mind her posting it on her own Simstagram.  Cameron immediately got on his own account and shared it on his, saying what a good time he was having and putting a flirty emoji on it.

They were inseparable on the dance floor, and took turns treating each other to sparkling fruit water and diet Glunka-Colas from the bar.  Iris was surprised that he drank diet, since he was in such great shape with a body fat percentage low enough to brag about, but as he told her, to stay that cut, he had to watch his macros.  “If I drink something with that much sugar, I splurge on a Maui Slapuccino.”

As it got later, the club was still packed, although many of the teens had left because of curfews.  Cameron himself was irked that his phone kept beeping with texts from his father, to the point that he silenced it until the vibrating in his pocket also got on his nerves.  “Ugh.  Sorry, but I guess I better answer him before he comes here looking for me or something.”  Cameron rolled his eyes, while Iris giggled knowingly.

“Hey, I understand.  My parents are old, too, and I think my father was born a worrywart old man.  I’m sure the only reason he and Mom aren’t lighting mine up is because I’m here with my brothers.”  Earlier, she had briefly introduced Cameron to Patrick one of the times he was out of the booth mingling in the crowd, and she’d pointed out Orion when she spotted him nearby with the blue-haired girl on the dance floor.

Cameron responded to his father’s text, then returned his attention to Iris.  “He wants me home by one.  Guess I should be glad it’s the weekend.  He’s more of a pain in the plumbob on school nights.”

“I’d have had to be home by midnight if my ride wasn’t with my brother,” Iris sympathized, although she was disappointed that Cameron would have to leave before much longer.  “Glad you’ll still be here for a little while, at least.  Hey, speaking of school, now that you live here, I guess I’ll be seeing you there?”

He shook his head.  “Dad hired a home school tutor to finish my senior year rather than put me in for part of my last year in a new town.  Technically I’ll graduate from my old school in Bridgeport and just take a trip back for graduation.”

“Aw, too bad.  But I guess not having to go to school gives you more time for other stuff.”

“Harder to meet people, though.  So I’m glad I met you tonight.”  He squeezed her hand, and she batted her eyelashes back at him.

“I’ll be happy to introduce you to my friends.  That is, if you want to hang out again…”

“Hell, yeah!  With your friends, and,” he moved in close and met her eyes, “just you.”

“I’d really like that.”

“Me too,” Cameron said, and kissed her.

It was electric, and Iris was delightfully lost in the moment until a familiar and not terribly welcome voice interrupted it.

“Oh, hey, Iris,” Lane Mae called out with a distinctly smug look as he approached.  “No grass gathering around your roots, I see.”

Irked, she and Cameron broke apart.  Although Lane’s tone was friendly, the little barb in it was obvious enough, and she didn’t appreciate it.  The Sunset Valley high school rumor mill being what it was, everyone knew she and Lester broke up recently and that it was over Iris liking someone else, even though she and Lester both left the details out of it when asked.  “Hi, Lane,” she said with forced cordiality.  “How’s it going?”

“Pretty good.  Enjoying the show.  I see you are, too,” he said wryly.

Cameron looked from Lane to Iris, so she introduced them.  “Cameron, this is Lane Mae.  Lane, this is Cameron Bloom.”  She flashed a smug smile right back at Lane.  “He just moved here, but you might’ve heard of him or seen him on Simstagram.  He’s got a ton of followers and sponsors on his fitness one.  He’s kind of a local celebrity now.”

“Oh, really?  Sorry, I haven’t seen it.  That’s not really my thing,” Lane replied with a shrug, although not in a way that came off as rude.  “That’s cool, though.  Nice to meet you.”  He shook his hand.

“Yeah, same.  You’re a friend of Iris’?”

“Oh, she and I go way back,” he said with a gleam in his eye.

“So far you might call it ancient history,” Iris added with saccharine sarcasm.

If Cameron noticed, he didn’t show it, while Lane seemed to enjoy it, much to Iris’ annoyance.  “Anyway, I can tell you guys are hanging out together, so I won’t interrupt any more.  Just wanted to say hi.  Have a good night, guys.”

“You too.”  She gave him a cutesy bye-bye wave for emphasis.

“Will do.”  He disappeared back into the crowd.

“Sorry about that,” Iris said after he left.

“No biggie.  I said I wanted to meet your friends, so, there’s one, right?”

“Well, he’s more of an ex-boyfriend and my neighbor than a friend exactly, though we don’t hate each other or anything.  And his timing really sucked.”

“Yeah, can’t argue that.”  Cameron leaned in suggestively.  “But nothing says we can’t pick up where we left off…”

“Dancing, or kissing?”

“Why not both?”

“Mmm, yes,” Iris replied with a flirtatious giggle.  “Why not?”

Author’s Note: More of the new sims I mentioned last time made their first appearance in this chapter. Cameron Bloom was made in CAS as a family with his father Apollo saved to the bin from Bridgeport and aged up to elder. The two of them are a household in town now, and although Apollo hasn’t appeared in the story yet, SP hooked him up with Agnes Crumplebottom (who is still alive at 92 days, but it’s anyone’s guess how long). April is a sim I made in CAS, and her boyfriend Adam that hasn’t appeared yet is the son of two Twinbrook sims, Marc Brandt and Amy Bull, that I saved to my bin one of the times I played that town. Oh, and the sim involved with Penny who’s been mentioned but not seen yet, Tawanda Gibbons, is so far the only sim that SP’s immigration feature moved into Sunset Valley on its own. She’s part of the town harpy personality group that Gretchen is the leader of.

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 116
« Reply #337 on: January 23, 2020, 10:58:43 PM »
Chapter 116

While it was all play for the younger Wainwrights at the club that night, for Patrick it was work with some occasional play.  DJ’ing was different than performing as the band, but it also gave him a chance to play and highlight music that wasn’t just their music.  He liked experiencing and experimenting with it in a different way in the DJ booth, and the crowd enjoyed his and his bandmates’ selections and creativity.

He was also glad Orion and Iris were out there enjoying themselves, apparently with new companionship, but he missed having Maria there for him in the crowd.  He understood why she hadn’t come this time, though, and even though he’d extended them an invite, he hadn’t expected his parents, Blair, or Cycl0n3 to come, either.  They were all old homebodies and the thought of any of them shuffling in a geriatric groove on the dance floor with the club crowd was a rather comical mental image.  Patrick was disappointed that they kept Plumboptimus and Cybelle home, since the plumbots were social, could dance to music, and would’ve made memorable crowd members, but he understood why they didn’t want to risk anything going awry with them in a rowdy crowd without their supervision.  He wasn’t shocked that Travis didn’t come, either.  He hated crowds as much as Blair, if not more, and his girlfriend was enough like him that Chris had recently dubbed them the “dour duo,” a nickname that stuck, much to his little brother’s annoyance.  Chris unfortunately couldn’t come because he was working a late shift, but Tad stopped in.  He didn’t stay long, but Patrick was glad he dropped by even though he never got a chance to do more than wave to him before he left.

Orion was having a great time with April.  She was fun and interesting, and being flirted with so overtly by someone he also found attractive was a delightful salve on his wounded ego.  They took a break from dancing to chat by the bar over a drink.  “Never had the Glow Goo before,” he said after sipping his.  “The name just wasn’t appetizing.”

“Don’t let that fool you.  They’re great!  Raspberry and mango make it real smooth.”  She tasted hers.

“It’s pretty good,” Orion agreed.

“And they’ve got more zing than a double espresso.  A good one can keep you going all night.”

“Fine by me.  I’m used to staying up all night,” Orion said, although obviously, she didn’t know that he didn’t sleep anyway.

“Is that so?” she teased.  “We could have a very interesting night, then.”

He grinned.  “I hope so.”

After finishing their drinks, they danced to a song Gretchen put on that was one of April’s favorites, then checked out one of the club’s back rooms.  It had a bubble bar, something Orion had never tried, but April clearly had.  “Ooh!  I love these things!  I’m surprised no one’s already on it.  Want to give it a go?”

“Sure.”  He joined her as they hopped on the stools.  “I’ve never done this before.  What do you do?”

She picked up the mouthpiece.  “It’s easy.  Pick your flavor here,” she pointed to the control, “then you just… suck and blow.”  She demonstrated the motions with exaggerated movements while Orion smirked at the playful innuendo.

“Should I take it easy if it’s my first time?”

“Oh, yes.  Be gentle,” she joked as she selected pink.  “You wouldn’t want to get it…”

He raised an eyebrow, amused.

“…up your nose,” she finished, and inhaled deeply from the tube.

“Got it.”  Orion hit the button for purple and picked up the mouthpiece.  He watched April take another puff and blow out a bubble, and then tried it himself.  It was a funny sensation.  The vapor had a chocolatey taste, but getting actual bubbles to come out was trickier than it looked.  He managed a few weak ones and tried again.  The second time went better, but the third, not so much.  He misjudged how much he inhaled and then snorted awkwardly, and, just like April warned him, experienced quite an unpleasant sensation as some went up his nose.

She looked over.  “Uh-oh!  You okay?”

“I’m fine.”  He made a face that made her snicker, which in turn made him do the same.  He already felt a bit giddy and lightheaded, but otherwise all right.

She smirked.  “Oh, dear.  Do you need me to show you how to suck and blow?”

Orion opened his mouth and almost blurted out a line that would’ve been worthy of Cycl0n3, but a giant bubble came out instead.

“Guess not,” she quipped, holding her hose.

“Darn.  Too bad.  It looks like you’re pretty good at it,” he teased back.

“Oh, baby,” she replied playfully.  “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

They stayed at the bubble bar for a little while longer, and Orion finally got the hang of it.  By the time they were done, Orion was blowing bubbles as easily as April, and they had fun trying to blow them at each other and trying little tricks with them.  “That was cool,” Orion told her after they got up.  “Glad we tried it, even if I will probably smell like chocolate the rest of the night.”

“There are worse things you could smell like.  Besides, I’m sure I smell like cotton candy now, so I can’t really throw stones.”

“That’s all right,” he said as they leaned in closer to each other.  “I like cotton candy.  And you smell great.”

“So do you.  I love chocolate.”

“It tastes like it smells.”

“I know.”  Her lips were inches from his.

“Does the cotton candy?”

“Why don’t you find out?” she whispered suggestively.

“Think I will,” Orion replied, and kissed her.

Her lips did indeed taste like cotton candy, although they were sweet enough to kiss on their own without any flavoring from the bubble bar.  That first kiss led to an enthusiastic second, and then a third even more passionate, during which their hands started to wander.

“So, how was it?” April murmured on a sultry note as they broke apart.

“Even better than I thought.”

“The cotton candy?”

“That was good, too.”  He stroked her hair, and she smooched hm again just as a couple of patrons came in looking for the bubble bar.

“Maybe we should go somewhere more private,” she suggested.  “Want to head over to my place?  Since you said you’ve got a pretty full house.  Cool as it would be to meet them sometime, especially the plumbot.”  While they were talking earlier, Orion had told her a bit about his family and home life, although obviously not everything.

“Sounds great!  Lead the way. Just let me let Iris know she’ll have to catch a ride home with Patrick first.”

“Sure.  Let’s go.”

Orion found Iris dancing with Cameron.  “Hey, Iris?”

They stopped and turned around.  “Orion!  What’s up?”  She turned to Cameron.  “This is my other brother, Orion.”  She turned back to Orion and April.  “He met Patrick earlier.  This is Cameron.  We’ve been hanging out tonight.”

“Hey,” Cameron said.

“Cool.  Nice to meet you,” Orion said before returning his attention to Iris.  “Sorry to bug you, but we’re, uh, heading somewhere else.  You okay with going home with Patrick?”

Iris looked from Orion to the girl with him and immediately guessed what was going on.  “Sure,” she said with a knowing smirk.  “I’ll let him know.  You two have fun.  I take it you don’t need me to leave the door unlocked?”

Orion took her cheeky tone in stride.  “I’m good.  See you later.”

“See you later!  And nice meeting you…?”  She looked at April.

“I’m April.  Nice meeting you, too.”

“Good night,” Orion said, waving with one hand and taking April’s with the other before heading to the exit.

Both amused and happy for him, Iris waved back, then twirled onto the dance floor with Cameron.

Before long, it was time for Cameron to leave, too, and Iris walked with him to the door.  “I had a great time with you tonight.” 

“Me too.  I hate to go, but my dad was serious about the ‘be home by one’ thing and I don’t want to make him mad by being late.  Back when we still lived in Bridgeport, I was kind of late getting home a few times and forgot to text or anything, and he got on my case hardcore the last time.  Said if I was late one more time without a real good reason, I wouldn’t be going out again with my friends at all anytime soon.  When I left tonight, he said nothing’s changed even though we’re not in Bridgeport anymore.”  He met her eyes.  “Not that I don’t think you’re a good reason, but I don’t know if I could convince my dad of that.  And getting grounded would make it hard to hang out with you again.”

“Well, I don’t want to be responsible for that,” she replied sweetly.  “Because I definitely want to hang out with you.”

“Oh, hell yeah!”  He took her hands.  “I’ll message you later, okay?”

She leaned closer, batting her eyelashes.  “I look forward to it.”

“Me too,” Cameron said, and they kissed.  “Good night, Iris.”

“Good night, Cam.”  They smiled at each other as he put on his gloves, then he headed out.  Iris lingered by the door until he was out of sight, barely even noticing the winter draft through the warm excitement of her new romance.

Smitten with her new love interest, Iris spent the rest of the night either dancing solo or casually chit-chatting.  Although most of the people her own age had gone home already, she knew and liked Penny and talked to her until she left.  After that, she hung out at the bar drinking sparkling fruit waters and messaging friends on her phone while she waited for Patrick to be ready to leave.

When the show was over and the band finished packing up their equipment, Patrick stretched.  “Anything else left?”

“Yeah, that photographer Holly sent here tonight wants to get one more picture of us together for a general promotional thing.”

Patrick sighed.  “Really?  We’ve got to model now when we’re bone tired?  Great.”

“Oh, it won’t take that long,” Gretchen said, and turned to Julius.  “Babe, go get us a round of Glow Goos.”

“Uh, unlike you, I don’t live two blocks away and I have to drive home, so thanks, but no.  There’s a reason I haven’t had any for a few hours.  Maybe a coffee, though.”

“I’ll take a coffee, too,” Wilbur chimed in.  “I’ve got to get the van back to the theater and it’s kind of plum in the snow.”

“Two coffees and a Glow Goo, sure.”  Julius headed back to the bar, while Patrick sighed.

“Come on, let’s get this photo op thing done.”

Gretchen was right that it didn’t take long, but Patrick was irked when it was over.  The photographer had them do a few different poses, and then arranged them in a way that he thought worked.  Patrick was fine with that and followed his instructions for expressions and stances.  Then, when he had them in the pose he liked best, he suggested they “try amping up the sexiness.”  Patrick put on his best charming smile, while Wilbur shifted to show his physique a bit better, but Gretchen ran wild with it.  With no warning, she slung an arm over Patrick’s shoulder and draped herself on him, drawing her knee suggestively up his thigh while pressing her cleavage into his back.  It caught him off guard, and he didn’t even notice Wilbur flinch, too.  The photographer apparently loved it, though, and suggested Patrick grab Gretchen’s leg to finish it off.  He went ahead and did so, eager to just get it over with, and the flash went off.

“Perfect!  This is going to work great.  You can just see the chemistry here.  Check it out.”  He showed it to them, and Gretchen approved enthusiastically while Wilbur nodded.  Patrick had to admit it was a good picture, even if his smile had been somewhat muted by Gretchen’s surprise antics.  He had a feeling Maria would be less than thrilled when she saw Gretchen all over him like that, though, even if it was just a promotional stunt.  “Thanks, guys.  That’s all I need,” the photographer told them.  “I’ll let you finish up and get this back to Holly as soon as possible.”

When the photographer left, Patrick confronted Gretchen.  “What the hell was that?”

“What?” she asked, taken aback.

“Jumping on me like that?  What was that all about?”

“Nothing!  Wow.  Calm down.  What, did I hurt your back or something?”

“No, but I could’ve done without you practically dry-humping it,” he retorted.  “What were you trying to do there?”

Gretchen rolled her eyes.  “Be sexy for the camera, you know, like he told us.”

“Hey, man, she goosed me, if it makes you feel better,” Wilbur interjected.  “It was pretty over the top, Gretchen.”

She let out a beleaguered sigh.  “Sorry!  Yikes.  You know I didn’t mean to offend you guys or anything, right?  I was just doing what he said, and I thought it’d look cool!  I didn’t think it’d bother you.  I mean, we’re all friends, and the picture turned out great!  At least, I thought so.”

“Yeah, until someone sees it and thinks we’re all getting it on or something.”

Gretchen smirked.  “Oh, now I get it.  You mean until sweet lil’ Maria sees it and thinks something’s up.”

“And Penny,” Patrick retorted heatedly, although, it was obvious that Gretchen was right.

“Heh.  Penny’s got no room to say a word,” Wilbur said, while Gretchen shrugged.

“And she wouldn’t anyway.  Penny and I have been friends for forever and she knows me.  Besides, you can hardly see it in the final picture.  Though I have to say, those squats in the gym have been working fantastic for you, Wilbur.”  She gave him a thumbs-up.

“Thanks,” he said dryly, while Patrick grumbled.

“Well, it’s a little more obvious with how you were hanging on me.  I get it was just acting for the picture, but…”

“Look, I’m sorry, and I know you’re tired and cranky, but Maria’s not seriously that insecure, is she?  I know she’s got her princess moments, but you’ve been together forever, you’re married and from what I’ve seen, never even look at other women, and you have a baby on the way!  She knows you love her, right?  She couldn’t possibly be so petty as to be jealous of a little promotional picture of you with a bandmate.  Plus, she works in media.  She knows what sells.”

Julius came back over when he heard the raised voices.  “Drinks will be up in a minute.  Coffee’s still brewing.”  He looked at Gretchen.  “Everything all right?”

“We were just having a little discussion about the picture, that’s all.  You saw it, right?”

“Not the picture, but him taking them of you guys, yeah.  I was over at the bar.”

“So, you saw us posing with me leaning on Patrick and just messing around with Wilbur, and you weren’t jealous or anything, right?”

Julius snorted.  “What?  Ha.  No.  Of course not.  Wilbur and I have been cool since high school, and everyone knows Maria keeps Patrick on too tight a leash for him to even think about running around on her, let alone actually do it.  Don’t even think he’d want to.  She’s had him whipped like a little lovesick puppy ever since they got together.”

That just irritated him more, even if it was a backhanded vote of confidence.  “Oh, screw you.”

“You’re not my type.  Sorry.  By the way, your sister’s pretty bored.  Nice girl, though.  I talked to her for a little while.  Met your little brother earlier, too.  They’re both cool.  Wonder what happened to you.  Anyway, if you guys don’t need anything else, I’d like to lock up soon and head out.  I already let the bartender go.”

“I’ll tell Iris to get her coat.  I’m sure she would like to get home after just having you to talk to.  She prefers intelligent conversation.”

“Yeah, we’re pretty much done.  I’ll grab my coffee and hit the van,” Wilbur said, while Gretchen turned to Patrick.

“Seriously, don’t worry about that picture.  Jules here understands and I’m his girlfriend, so I’m sure Maria will, too.  Oh, and tell her I said hi and sorry we missed her tonight.”

Patrick was not as certain, but he hoped that if he told Maria before she saw it, she’d only be irritated at Gretchen instead of Gretchen and him.  “Yeah.  All right.  Good night.”

While Patrick and Iris’ night wound down, Orion’s heated up.  He and April enjoyed each other’s company more and more, and wound up in her bedroom shortly after getting back to her place in the lofts.

She smoothed her hand over his chest and gave him an appreciative once-over.  “So, you really are green all over!  You’re definitely the most unique-looking guy I’ve ever met.”  It was obvious she meant it as a compliment, though, which made him feel both good and excited.

“You’re pretty memorable yourself.”  He traced the curve of her hip, enjoying the softness of her skin.  “And hot.”  It wasn’t the most suave line, but it was sincere, and she seemed to appreciate it.

She kissed the side of his neck and ran her fingers through his hair on one side.  “So, is it just those cute ears of yours that are pointy, or do you have other surprises?”

Orion grinned as her other hand wandered elsewhere.  “Go ahead and find out,” he said, then kissed her while indulging in a little exploring himself.

They spent the rest of the night together, and thanks to the energy boost from the Glow Goos, little of it was spent sleeping or, in Orion’s case, meditating.  April finally got sleepy about an hour before sunrise, and Orion lay there with her while she snoozed afterward, relaxed and contented.  He lapsed into only a light meditation, being a guest in someone else’s home, until April woke up later in the morning.

“Good morning,” he said as they got up and stretched.  “Kind of surprised you’re up this early.  We were up late.”

“Well, you did tire me out,” she replied with a sultry smirk.  “I could probably go back to bed after a trip to the bathroom, but since you’re up, I’ll stay up and have some coffee with you.  If you want some.”

“Sure.”  He paused.  “Is, uh, your boyfriend out there?”  He hadn’t been home last night when they came in, but Orion had heard someone up and about outside of the bedroom before April woke up.

“You don’t need to worry about him.  Really.  He’s cool.”

He didn’t sense any reason to doubt her, so he took it at face value, even if it felt weird.  He knew how he’d have felt if Tara would’ve come out of her bedroom like that with some other guy back when they were together, and “cool with it” would not have been it.  But that wasn’t the same situation as with April.  Orion supposed that was why he also wasn’t too bothered by the idea of her probably being back in her boyfriend’s arms again as soon as he left, even though things were so hot between them last night and were still good right now.  It was still strange to him, though.  “Okay.”  He paused.  “But while it’s still just us, I want to say I really enjoyed last night with you.”

“Me, too!  You were great.  In more ways than one,” she finished on a flirtatious note, leaning in close and circling an arm around his waist.

“Thanks.  Glad you, uh, had fun.”

“You’re adorable.”  She smooched him.  “Come on.  Let’s go get that coffee.”

Orion was surprised she didn’t wait to get fully dressed first, but he didn’t argue and followed her out into the hall in the little he had on.  They went down the stairs toward her kitchen, and passed by her boyfriend, who was also up, on the computer, and not dressed, either.  “Morning,” April greeted him cheerfully, as if it wasn’t at all awkward to bring your hook-up past your boyfriend and let them meet in their underwear.

“Hey,” he greeted them with equal nonchalance.  He paused his game and stood up while April introduced them.

“Adam, this is Orion Wainwright.  We met at the club last night.  Orion, this is my boyfriend, Adam Brandt.”

“Nice to meet you.”  Adam extended his hand and Orion shook it.

“You, too.”  He couldn’t help but sense Adam staring at him, but not because he was someone that came home with his girlfriend.  It was for the other obvious reason.  “Yeah, I’m green and my eyes and voice are weird.  Don’t worry.  It’s just a genetic thing.  It’s not contagious.”

Adam let out a tension-easing laugh.  “Sorry, man.  I didn’t mean to stare or be rude.  I just…”

“It’s fine,” Orion replied good-naturedly.  “No offense taken.  I’m used to it.  Been this way all my life.”

“So, your last name is Wainwright?  Is that any relation to the family that owns the lab here in town?”

“Yup.  That would be my parents, but I work there, too.  Part time while I’m working on my degree.”

“He told me last night they’re developing eco-friendly tech,” April interjected.  “Isn’t that cool?”

“Yeah!  That’s great.  April probably talked your ear off about it already, but we’re both pretty passionate about saving the environment.”

“Orion’s also got a plantsim sister I met last night.”

That really piqued Adam’s interest.  “Oh, really?”

“Settle down,” April joked.  “She’s still in high school.”

“It’d still be cool to meet her sometime.  I’ve never met a plantsim before, and gardening’s a big hobby of mine.  I’d love to grow a forbidden fruit someday.”  He paused as he remembered something.  “Hey, I wonder if she’s the one Tamara meant.  I was talking to our neighbor, Tamara Donner, when I got the mail yesterday—neat old lady, real friendly, I like her—and I was telling her how I ordered some seeds for when spring finally gets here.  We got talking about gardening and I mentioned I heard there were plantsims in Sunset Valley.  She said she only knew of one, who’s in the same class as her son and is the baby sister of one of her good friends that she lived with years ago, when she was my age.”

“Yup.  That’s Iris.  The friend would be my other sister, Blair.”

“Wow.  You’ve got some major age differences in your family, huh?”

“My parents are pretty old.  I came along after Blair was already grown up and married.  They had her young.  Like she was their surprise high school graduation gift young.  My family’s both big and odd.”

“Hey, I can’t throw stones.  Mine’s nowhere near that big, but my parents are characters, too.”  He motioned to the kitchen.  “The coffee’s fresh if you want any.  I just brewed it a little while ago.”

“Sounds great.”  April put a hand on each of them and gave them a playful nudge.  “Let’s go.”

After coffee, and a delicious breakfast of organic blueberry pancakes that April made for everyone, Orion got ready to head home.  Although he hadn’t known what to expect the morning after a night like that, meeting Adam wasn’t nearly as awkward as he feared.  He genuinely didn’t sense any jealousy from him, and Orion found him rather personable.  April hadn’t been wrong when she said the night before that she thought they’d like each other.  But even though Adam knew about it and seemed fine with it, it still felt strange to be so friendly with someone whose girlfriend he was sleeping with.  Or had slept with, at any rate.  He wasn’t sure what the deal with that was, either.

He decided to ask when they were alone together again, which was when she escorted him to the door.  April hadn’t bothered to get dressed yet.  She said she might crash for another nap in a while since, she finished with a wink, “I didn’t get that much sleep last night.”

“Well, I’d say I was sorry I kept you up, but…”  Orion met her eyes before taking on a more serious tone.  “What does happen next, anyway?  Is this it, or are we just friends, or are we…?  I don’t know.  Like I said last night, this kind of situation is totally new to me.”

“That’s up to you.  I like you.  You’re fun, you’re interesting, not to mention you’ve got a nice bod and you’re great in the sack.  So, yeah, I’d love to see you again sometime.  As a thing, as a friend, or something in between, whatever you’re comfortable with.  Just as long as it’s not going to bother you that I’m not a committing or settling down type, or that I’m with Adam and I’ll still see other guys, too.  I don’t want to hurt you or lead you on thinking that might change.”  She took his hand.  “But if that’s not something you can do for more than a night, I understand.  I know not everyone can.  I’d like to at least call you a friend, even if it’s strictly platonic from here on out, but if that’s too awkward, I get that, too.  I know some people have trouble keeping it un-complicated with someone they’ve been with.”

That all sounded fair, but in that moment, Orion wasn’t sure what he wanted, either.  Yes, he did want to get married, settle down, and have a family someday, but he didn’t have to do that right now.  And right now, he really liked the thought of seeing April again.  Why not at least see how things went for a while, since they liked each other, and it was all out on the table?  “I want to at least be friends, too.  But maybe, for now, we could also see if more works.  Because last night was a lot of fun,” he finished with a suggestive smile.

“It was, and I’d love that.”  They hugged, and then smooched.  “We’ll call or Plumchat later, and maybe hang out one night soon when we’re both free?”

“Sure.  Sounds great.”

“See you soon, then, tall, green, and mysterious,” she teased, leaning provocatively in the doorway as he headed down the sidewalk.  “Take care.”

He waved back, walking backward for a few steps while enjoying the view.  “See you soon.”

He was deep in thought about April, last night, and the whole situation as he went to his car, or rather, Iris’ car.  They had gone to the club in hers, since they couldn’t use the Galaxa to go to such a public place, and Iris wasn’t about to ride on the back of Orion’s motorcycle when she had a perfectly good, and warm, car.

He was about to get in when he spotted something out of the corner of his eye.  He looked up and saw a figure in the yard alongside the neighboring building.  A dark-haired figure in an outfit that looked an awful lot like…

A Golden Llama?!

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 117 Part One
« Reply #338 on: February 04, 2020, 05:33:39 PM »
Author's Note: This one was word count and image heavy, so I split it into two parts.

Chapter 117

Surprised and curious, Orion didn’t waste a second when he realized what and who he saw.  Although he could practically hear his father’s voice in his head lecturing him for doing it, Orion chased after the figure.  This was a rare opportunity to learn more about the Golden Llamas, and this time, he had the advantage since he was following them instead of vice versa.  Even if his parents would be upset if they found out, he did it anyway.  The Golden Llamas were spying on them, too, and it was for the good of the whole family to learn what he could about them.  Besides, he could handle himself.  He’d beaten the mummy that attacked him in Egypt, and even if this Golden Llama turned out to be more than he bargained for, he could always bio-drain him if it came to that.  If that could knock out an attacking werewolf, a vigilante wouldn’t be any problem. 

In his haste, Orion wasn’t stealthy enough, however, and the Golden Llama realized he was being followed.  He broke into a run and darted behind the neighboring building.  Orion chased, but the Golden Llama was just as fast as he was, and more used to running in the snow and ice.  Orion slipped twice, costing him precious seconds, and even though it was easy enough to follow the Golden Llama’s footprints in the snow, it didn’t do him any good when he rounded the corner of the building only to see him disappear around the other side.

As he approached, Orion heard the mechanical hum of a garage bay door—the Golden Llama had a remote, no doubt—but by the time he got there, the Golden Llama was gone, and it was already almost shut.

Does he live here, or is this their hideout?  Orion examined the door, now firmly closed and locked in place with no way short of brute force or a telekinetic lock pick to bust it open.  He didn’t want to go that far, however.  While he wanted to know more about them, he didn’t want to make enemies of them.  They were already suspicious of him and his family, even if he and Wilbur did have a sort of uneasy truce about it.  That wasn’t Wilbur he’d just chased, though.  This Golden Llama hadn’t been wearing a helmet and had shaggy dark hair, and he was shorter and lankier than Wilbur.

Orion looked up at the building, pondering.  This part of the loft complex was mostly commercial.  There was a pizza place and an electronics shop on the ground floor, and while he hadn’t ever gone inside, he wasn’t sure if there were any residential apartments in it.  If he remembered the signs outside right, there were offices upstairs for a real estate broker, an accountant, and a lawyer.  He also didn’t see any obvious residential parking, unless the garage was for an apartment.  But that didn’t mean that a vacant office wasn’t being used as an operations base for the Golden Llamas.  He wondered if Blair knew.  She was retired now, but she’d been on that case a long time.

He wasn’t going to ask her, though.  Not only would she tell their parents, and get him the long-winded lecture of a lifetime, but he didn’t want to get the cops involved.  There was no question that Blair would tell her SVPD friends who were still on the force, and even if Orion didn’t appreciate Wilbur spying on him and his family, he didn’t want to see him end up in jail.  Even if he was off the mark with his suspicions, he was a good guy, and he didn’t deserve that.  The Golden Llamas might be outlaws, but Orion respected what they stood for and what they wanted to do.  He also knew how much it would hurt Tara to see her brother go to jail, and he didn’t want any part of that, either.

So, he decided to wait and see if the Golden Llama would come back out.  If he didn’t live there, odds were that he’d try to get away from whoever was following him once he thought the coast was clear.  Orion figured the best way to get him to think that was to make it look like he left.  He went back to the car and drove off, but he only went down the road a block and parked at the hospital.  From there, he came back on foot and circled around to the back of the building.  The shops were only now opening, so there were no new footprints in the falling snow other than those of the employees going inside.  The Golden Llama hadn’t already left that way.

Orion crouched behind a bush not far from the garage behind the building after he didn’t see any footprints in the snow there, either.  If someone left out the back, he’d be able to see them from there, but he could also see if anyone came out front in that direction.  Hopefully, they wouldn’t know he was there and decide to leave in the one direction he couldn’t see.  The way the snow was falling, it would cover his own footprints soon enough.

He’d been waiting in the snowy cold for what felt like much longer than it was when someone came out on the opposite side of the garage, using the doors that opened up on the loft complex’s public pool.  Whoever it was wasn’t wearing a Golden Llama uniform, but he had the exact same build and haircut.


He didn’t seem to know he was there, so Orion stayed put until he was far enough ahead that he could pursue without being detected.

To Orion’s surprise, he hurried across the closed pool lot and not to a parked car or down the road, but straight to the other loft building.  He didn’t know he was being followed this time, so Orion was able to catch up undetected, and it was then that he realized two things about him.

One, he was just a kid.  A teenager.  Iris’ age.

He knew that, because two, now he recognized him, especially as he paused by the front doors of the building to unlock them and go inside.  He was one of Iris’ friends.

It was Alfonso Donner.

Well, that’s interesting.

Orion hardly knew what to make of that.  He was only acquainted with Alfonso, but he seemed like a nice enough kid the times they’d met.  He was the boyfriend of one of Iris’ friends, Rashida, and the son of Blair’s friends, one of whom was a cop still active on the force.  Orion wondered if they had any idea.  He suspected not, since most parents would blow a gasket at the thought of their teenager doing such a thing.  Boyd and Susan were not unique as far as that went.

He wondered how a kid like Alfonso could even get involved with something like the Golden Llamas.  He understood identifying with or admiring their ideals, because he did, too.  But even if Alfonso had met one by chance, why would they let him join?  Back when Orion confronted Wilbur, he dismissed him as a headstrong kid who didn’t know what he was doing and implied he was naïve for thinking he was any match for a Golden Llama.  What made Alfonso different, being even younger, even if it was to fight alongside them instead of against them?  Was it because his father, Parker Langerak, was a cop?  Now that Orion thought about it, Wilbur’s mother was retired SVPD, too.  Maybe Alfonso was useful to them because he could spy on his father?  And perhaps Alfonso agreed because he knew from growing up with a cop father that many criminals walked on technicalities, and that bothered him?  That kind of thing got to Blair, so it wasn’t hard to imagine that Parker might rant about it, too, and inspire a sense of justice in his son.  Plus, Alfonso didn’t live with his father.  He lived with his mother.  His not-a-cop mom wouldn’t notice things or comings and goings and suspect something the same way his cop dad might.  Wilbur hadn’t joined the Golden Llamas until after he moved out of his parents’ house, either.

But without talking to Alfonso or reading him, there was no way to know, and now that he knew who he was, Orion wasn’t inclined to confront or expose him.  He was a nice kid and Orion didn’t want to see him get in trouble any more than he wanted to see Wilbur go to jail.  No, for now, he’d just keep what he learned to himself.  It might come in handy someday.

While Orion spent the morning with April and chasing Golden Llamas, Patrick slept in until nearly noon.  Maria got up before him but lounged around in her pajamas even after a leisurely breakfast.  “Oh, you’re finally up,” she remarked when she came in, rubbing her belly.  The baby was active, and her back was sore to boot.  “You sure got back late last night.”

“Yeah.  Tell me about it.”  Patrick yawned, shaking off the last of sleep as he went to the dresser.  “We were at the club until almost four.”

“So I heard.  Iris was up and chipper like usual this morning.”

Patrick chortled.  “She’s solar-powered and probably still half energized from the thrill of meeting her new boy toy.”

“Yes, she told me all about him.  Cameron Bloom, teenage Simstagram fitness guru.  She showed me his page.  I can see why she thinks he’s hot, but I hope for her sake he’s not one of those boring gym bros overly obsessed with it.  But she also said he was adorable, sweet, fun, a great dancer, and a fantastic kisser, so maybe not.”

“Ha, I heard some of that on the drive home, too.  Looks like she’s pretty into him.  I only met him for a minute, but he seemed all right.  How about Orion?  Did he come home with a big old smile on his face after leaving the club with that girl last night?”

“Oh, Orion isn’t back yet.  He never came home.  So I guess he had a very good night, wherever he spent it,” she said with a smirk.  “Though Boyd’s all worried, because he hasn’t answered any texts yet saying he’s okay.  We all tried telling him he’s fine because if something like an accident happened, we’d have gotten a call by now, but you know how he is.  Then he started going on about how just because Orion’s an adult now doesn’t mean he’s not going to worry about him, and the least he could do is answer his text and let him know he’s all right, blah blah.  Susan eventually convinced him to work on bot stuff downstairs with her to get his mind off it.”

Patrick shook his head, amused.  “Poor old Dad and his worrying.  Hopefully Orion won’t keep him hanging too long, for the sake of all our sanity.  But good for him getting lucky.  Maybe getting some action will get him out of that funk he’s been in lately.”

“Hopefully.  And what about you?” she asked with a dramatic pout.  “How was your long late night that left me all alone for most of it with a kicky baby and an aching back that could really use a nice rub?”

Patrick took the hint and massaged her.  “It was all right.  The event went well.  Nice turnout and a great reception from the crowd.  Your brother even stopped in for a bit, though I didn’t get a chance to talk to him.  But Gretchen and Julius were… themselves,” he said as Buddy strolled in to join them.

“Ooh.  Was there drama?  Do tell,” Buddy said while Maria sighed.

“Ugh.  So how bad were they?”

“Plum, be glad you missed it.  First of all, Gretchen whined herself out of most of setup saying she was sick from the greasy food truck tacos.  Whatever, but it’s awful funny how plum like that always happens when there’s boring or heavy work to be done.  When we had to break down, she was magically too ‘tired’ to do anything but move a few wires, but at least Julius picked up some slack for her and gave us a hand.  He wasn’t too bad, but he kept getting on my nerves with dumb llama snide comments.”

“Well, I wouldn’t expect any smart ones out of him, anyway.  He’s never been the sharpest knife in the drawer.”

“More like the butter knife.  Anyway, while we were wrapping up and I’m ready to just get the plum out of there since the show’s over and the club’s closing, Wilbur says hey the photographer wants to get one last promo picture.  Okay, whatever.  I’m tired, but let’s get it over with.”  He sighed irritably before continuing.  “So he gets us to pose and tells us to look sexy for the camera.  So I’m standing there giving it my hot rock star smile, and then freaking Gretchen jumps on me.”

Maria’s expression immediately twisted into a scowl.  “Jumps on you?  What do you mean by that?”

“Uh-oh…” said Buddy.

“Just like it sounds,” Patrick ranted.  “She hung all over me like a towel on a clothesline and wrapped her leg around me, pressing her crotch into my thigh and her boobs into my back, while somehow still managing to goose Wilbur so he wasn’t left out.  I didn’t even get a chance to say anything before the photographer was like, ‘Oh, wow, you guys have great chemistry!  Hold that,’ and took the picture.  Which he was thrilled with and is giving to Holly to use as a freaking promotional piece.”

Buddy snorted.  “Oh, I’ve got to see this.  Show me!”

Maria was significantly less amused.  “What did you do?  You’re not going to let them use that, are you?”

“It’s not up to me.  I mean, it’s actually not a bad picture as far as aesthetics go, but—”

“But if Gretchen was all over you like some hard-up groupie, aren’t people going to get the idea that you and her are—ugh!”  Maria was fuming.  “She’s such a little… So, what did you say to her?”

Patrick sighed, aggravated all over again.  “I told her I didn’t freaking appreciate it and reminded her that personal space is a thing.”  He rolled his eyes.  “Of course, you know how she is.  She made it out like I was being the llama and making a big deal out of nothing, and she was just doing what the photographer said, being sexy.”

“Hmph.  More like being trashy, not that that’s anything new for her.”  Maria pouted.  “Can I see it?”

“Yes!” Buddy agreed.  “Let’s see just how much trouble you’re in.”

“I’m not in the mood, Buddy,” Patrick groused before answering Maria.  “And no, I can’t show you because I don’t have a copy of it.  But you probably won’t have to wait long.  The photographer said it was going to Holly first thing, so it’ll be out there for the world to see soon.”

“I can’t believe she did that.  Well, actually, I can, but still.  What a tart!  You’re a married man and Wilbur’s still technically engaged to a good friend of hers!  And even if Julius is a jerk, it was rude of her to do that to him, too.”

“Oh, I know, but sex sells, or so she went on defending herself,” Patrick vented with her.  “And yeah, it does, but still.  She told me I was overreacting and even said you’d understand because you work in media.”

“Right, because Maria’s always a bastion of reason and understanding,” Buddy scoffed, while Maria, who luckily could not hear that, huffed.

“The nerve.  She just wanted an excuse to get attention, as usual.  And probably to test the waters to see if either of you would go there if she invited you.”  She glowered with disgust.  “Not that you would.  Unlike her, you have class and taste, and you’re faithful to your devoted loving wife.”

“Of course I am, baby.  I’ll always be.”  Patrick was glad he’d been right about her only being upset at Gretchen and not both of them by telling her before she saw it.  He drew her into an embrace.  “I love you and little baby Jessica in there more than anything.  You never have to worry about me cheating on you.”

“I know,” Maria admitted.  “I just hate that she tries that stuff.  That she dares to even think she could steal you from me if she wanted to, or that it’s okay to use you to get attention and fluff her giant ego.”

“Don’t let her get to you.  Like you said, it’s just for attention.  She’s always been like that.”  He kissed her.  “At least it was a good picture, even if her antics did tarnish my sexy smile.”

“I’d rather you just save that smile for me instead of the camera anyway.  Besides, unlike some people, you don’t need to ham it up to look good.”

“I’m glad you think so.  And I’ll give you my super-sexy smile anytime you want,” he said on a flirtatious note.

“Mmm, I’ll hold you to that,” Maria murmured, enjoying the close moment.  “But first, you need a shower.  No offense, but you still smell like juice and the club, and besides, I want you to scrub Gretchen off.  Wouldn’t want either of us to catch anything.”

“No problem.  That was where I was headed when you came up here anyway.”

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 117 Part Two
« Reply #339 on: February 04, 2020, 05:34:33 PM »

When the picture got back to the band management, Holly, Stiles, and Pauline all liked it.  They decided to use it for promotional posters and blogs for the band’s upcoming performances that would be highlighting the new album they just finished.  The album art itself was a more abstract design that Patrick liked, and on that, the band and management deferred to him and Holly since they were the art aficionados of the group.

Maria wasn’t thrilled when she finally saw the picture, and had a few more choice words about Gretchen, but she didn’t hold it against Patrick.  In fact, Patrick was the one who ranted more about Gretchen in the following weeks.  Not long after the DJ event, Gretchen learned that she was pregnant.  Julius proposed to her shortly after, and Patrick was happy for her as a friend and glad she was happy with the surprise baby and her new engagement.  But unfortunately, pregnancy gave her the perfect excuse to do even less work when it came to setup and breakdown for shows, because she had lifting restrictions and was always saying she felt tired or sick or bloated, unless of course it was time to sing on stage and be the star.  That left Patrick and Wilbur to do whatever the roadies weren’t available to take care of, and while he did it, it wasn’t without a lot of eye rolling and griping when Gretchen sat out the heavy and tedious stuff and still whined about how hard she had it.

Still, Maria was happy that Patrick’s band was so successful, and wrote several glowing reviews in her arts and entertainment blog.  He made sure she had prime seats for every show she attended and reviewed, getting her there early and telling the roadies to get her whatever she needed and to make sure she was comfortable.  Mostly that was just to not deal with Gretchen, who infuriated her when she made a remark about how Maria must be having twins with a belly that big, because hers never got so huge when she had Darren.  Maria huffed later to one of the roadies, Sara, a new part-time university student hire who they later found out knew Orion, that Gretchen was in denial about her own need for maternity clothes with how tight her band outfit was getting, and she wasn’t even out of her first trimester yet.

Patrick also took Maria to the spa at least once a week on their days off.  Maria liked being pampered, and the professional massages helped her frequent pregnancy-induced back aches.  Morgana gently suggested that they might not be so bad if she got a bit of light exercise like walking or yoga, but Maria brushed that off saying she was too busy or tired.  Patrick didn’t mind taking her to the spa anyway.  It wasn’t like they couldn’t afford it, and sometimes he enjoyed the peace, quiet, and relaxation of a mud bath or sauna aromatherapy session, too.  Especially after a long stint of work nights full of rehearsals and energetic performances.

After getting home safe and sound, much to Boyd’s relief even if he didn’t know about the Golden Llama chasing, Orion continued seeing April.  They enjoyed spending time together, and even though they didn’t have any major interests in common, both liked trying new things.  She was good at pool and taught Orion how to play, and for a while they became semi-regulars at Mick’s, which was right across the street from where April lived.  Often it was just the two of them, but sometimes Adam joined them, either with or without a date or friend of his own.  Orion didn’t mind that, though, since he also liked Adam.  Even though their situation was unconventional, he and Adam became friends as well.

Orion also introduced April to martial arts.  Although she had never tried it before, she was curious about it, and impressed with the way Orion could break stone boards.

“I’d love to be able to do bad llama stuff like that.  Do you think you could teach me?”

“Sure.  It’ll take a while, though.  I’ve been training a long time.  You’ll need to work with the training dummy and master the basic moves before you try breaking even the foam boards.  But I think you’ll do fine.  The only one I ever saw completely defeated by a training dummy was Patrick,” he told her with a smile when he took her to the new dojo that had opened in Sunset Valley.  The classes offered at the gym for years had proven so popular that there was now a demand from the more advanced students for a place where they could take their training to the next level.

The first time he went there, Orion had the bittersweet thought that Tara would be thrilled whenever she came back to Sunset Valley, and she might have even learned enough in Shang Simla to become an instructor there herself.  Thinking about her too much still got to him, though, so he tried not to, even though it was hard not to remember his own newbie days training and improving with Tara while he taught the basics to April.

They grew close emotionally as well as physically, and he became quite fond of her, enough that he would say he loved her, and he was elated that she felt the same way about him.  It was nice having someone care about him like that again, and even though he knew that what they had would never go beyond a certain point, sometimes he wondered what it might be like if it did.

But that was nothing more than a pipe dream.  April loved him, but she also loved Adam, and her romantically free lifestyle.  When Orion could sense her thoughts and feelings, they mirrored that.  But because of all that, he also knew he couldn’t tell her his alien secret.  While he believed April would still love and accept him and even understand his keeping it from her if she knew, it was just too risky for a relationship like theirs that would ultimately end one day when one of them moved on.  So, Orion was careful in the bedroom—an unplanned alien baby would give him no choice but to tell her—and cautious with his heart.  He hoped that whenever their time together did come to an end, they would part as friends on good terms.  And until then, he’d enjoy being with her in the here and now.

Keeping his alien secret from her didn’t mean he kept his relationship with her from his family, though.  Although it was obvious that they didn’t really get it, they didn’t criticize or naysay it to him or April, either.  Orion knew they had their doubts and concerns, but aside from Patrick asking him privately if he was really okay with the whole open relationship thing and not just going along with it because he really liked her or something, none of them said anything about it.  Orion knew it came from a place of concern, though, and while he appreciated that, he was also glad they didn’t make a big deal out of it even if they did have doubts.

They were welcoming and friendly to April, though.  One evening when she was over, she and Orion made dinner for everyone.  He had never learned to cook beyond reading the directions on waffle mix and macaroni and cheese boxes, since Susan was the household gourmet and Patrick could also whip up a decent meal if he was inclined, but cooking was one of April’s passions.  She enjoyed showing him the basics in the kitchen as much as he liked teaching her martial arts.  Everyone loved her homemade organic shrimp pasta in deliciously rich alfredo sauce paired with one of their premium French nectars from the cellar.

Iris had Cameron over the same night and invited him to stay for dinner as well, and Boyd and Susan enjoyed the opportunity to get to know their youngest children’s current flames a bit better.  “I’m stuffed!  That was so good,” Cameron enthused after they finished eating and Plumboptimus cleaned up the empty plates.  “And the shrimp are a great source of lean protein.  Not so much the pie and pasta, but that’s cool.  That was worth a little extra cardio on the treadmill.”

Susan had the wry thought that no pie or pasta was that good, but she and Boyd, Patrick, and Maria, who’d all had similar thoughts, had the grace to keep that sentiment to themselves while April responded.

“Wish I could take the credit for the pie, but I bought that at the diner before coming over so I’d have time to show Orion the magic of how to make pasta.  When I’m back at work, though, I’ll let Guillermo know how much you liked his pecan pie recipe.  He said it was his mom’s, and Molly French was an absolute legend in the kitchen.”

“So, does this mean you’ll be making us pasta from scratch from here on out?” Boyd asked Orion.  “I could get used to that.”

“So could I,” Susan added from the other end of the table.  “It’s delicious, but so much work.  There’s a reason I never bothered more than once.”

Orion chortled.  “Sorry.  She’s the cook.  Not me.  I need a few more lessons before I graduate past boxed mac and cheese.”

“Your mom’s right.  It is a lot of work,” April agreed.  “I’m just a snob for fresh pasta and the grocery store doesn’t carry any of the good organic brands.  Oh, and thanks for the nectar, Mrs. Wainwright.  It was the perfect pairing.”

“You’re welcome, sweetie.  What good’s having a full nectar rack if you don’t break a bottle out to enjoy every once in a while?”

Despite not sharing his enthusiasm for fitness and finding him to be somewhat less intellectual than the sort of partner they would seek, the Wainwrights also liked Cameron.  Although Iris moved on with new romances more frequently than they were inclined, they were glad she found someone that made her happy and treated her well.

Nature buff that she was, she loved that he didn’t mind taking long walks on the beach or outside even in winter with her, and also enjoyed it himself.  Both Lane and Lester had been certifiable couch potatoes, and while Iris didn’t mind nights in watching movies and some low key time spent together, it was a nice change to be with someone who didn’t complain about doing something a little more active every so often.  Cameron didn’t know much about plants or fishing or nature, but he was happy to keep her company and listen while she enthused about a rare plant or seashell or rock they found.  He also had no problem tugging stubborn roots or lifting heavier rocks and didn’t mind carrying whatever they found on the walk back home.

Sometimes she went to the gym with him, but she was in nowhere near the excellent physical shape he was.  As a plantsim, Iris had been blessed with a unique physique and her natural figure was appealing with little effort put into honing it.  She wasn’t as averse to activity as some members of her family, but when she went to a gym it was usually as a buddy with a friend looking to shape up, and she spent more time checking out the hot guys from a stroll on the treadmill than training hard.

Cameron still had some tips for her, though, and he put together a strength training routine to help boost her energy and make things like digging in the garden or carrying heavy bushels of produce a little easier.  It was harder than she expected, though, and Cameron didn’t cut her much slack.  “You’ve got to go heavy to get the best results.  Trust me.  You can do it.”

“You’ve got more confidence in me than I do.  I’m a string bean compared to you!”  She struggled and finished her set, which was at the level of do-able, but challenging.  “Phew.  I guess telling myself I was in the second-best shape in the house was setting the bar kind of low when my parents think walking to the greenhouse in the snow is exercise, and Patrick’s idea of a workout is moving equipment and playing guitar on stage.”  She figured that was probably the only reason he didn’t have a juice gut by now, because both he and Maria disliked hitting the gym as much as her parents and Cycl0n3.  Before getting pregnant, Maria maintained her figure by doing fad diets and juice cleanses whenever she felt her clothes getting too tight.

Iris’ effort in the gym paid off, though, and soon carrying heavy bushels of produce was a little bit easier.  She brought in their most recent harvest from the greenhouse, passing Patrick, who was sculpting some ice on his evening off.  “Hey!  What are you making?”

“An ice lion.  I was talking to Chris last night about how I wanted to do another ice sculpture and he said I should make a big ice cat.  So I thought why not go regal and make it a lion?  If it turns out well enough, I’ll give it to him for a last hurrah of winter lawn decoration.  It’s not supposed to get warm enough to melt for at least a few days.”

“Neat!  But how long do you think it’ll be before his strays climb all over it?”

“That’s his problem.  Besides, I’ll be impressed if his and Tad’s clumsy plumbobs don’t manage to break it just setting it out.”  He set his chainsaw down and checked out what Iris brought in.  “Nice haul!  Did you get all that today?”

“Yup!  The plants are growing like crazy.  They love my little encouraging sweet talks.”  She grinned proudly.  “What can I say?  When you’re good, you’re good.”

“Hey now, don’t let all that fertilizer go to your head,” Patrick teased.  “Do you need a hand carrying that to the garage?”  That was where the Wainwrights stored whatever produce they didn’t eat or cook with themselves.  Some got taken to the lab to be utilized in botany experiments while other choice specimens were sold locally.  “I’m surprised you didn’t get Plumboptimus to do that for you.  He’s just doing laundry.  Hey, Plumboptimus,” he shouted loud enough for the plumbot to hear in the laundry room.  “Can you come give Iris a hand carrying these?”

Plumboptimus strolled in a moment later.  “I am happy to assist.  What do you require me to carry and to what destination?”

“This stuff here, but it’s just going to the garage, Plum.  If you’re busy, you don’t have to.  I can do it.  Cameron’s workouts have made my string bean arms tough little stalks.”  She flexed.  “He could probably make a routine for you, too, Patrick.  Maybe then you won’t need Plumboptimus to carry your heavy stuff,” she quipped with a smirk, while Patrick scoffed.

“Cute.  I can do manual labor; I just choose not to when I have a bot that doesn’t mind doing it for me.  Especially with how Gretchen’s been giving me and Wilbur her share at work now that she’s pregnant.”

Plumboptimus picked up both containers with ease.  “Do they go in the same place that the other harvestables are stored?”

“Yup.  I’ll show you.  I could’ve done it, unlike my wimpy brother, but since you’ve already got them, you can go ahead.  Thanks, Plumboptimus.”

“Yeah, thanks.  And definitely don’t accidentally drop any on her.  Her ego’s getting as swollen as her viney little arms and we wouldn’t want to risk anything else swelling.”

Iris responded by maturely blowing a raspberry at him before she and Plumboptimus left, while Patrick resumed work on his ice sculpture.

He sculpted for the next couple of hours and chatted on and off with Boyd when he joined him in the study to play a computer game.  Boyd might have been the oldest man in Sunset Valley at that point, but unlike stereotypical grouchy old people, neither he nor Susan ever turned into the types that hated new technology.  Quite the opposite, they still had and learned the newest computers and systems whenever they came out.  It was one of the things that kept them going.  Boyd no longer had the patience for online games like he did back in the days when he and Cycl0n3 played TarzWar, but that was because he didn’t want to deal with the social drama aspects.  He still enjoyed a good single player RPG with cutting edge graphics, however, and was playing a newly released one.

But their hobby time ended abruptly when a panicked Maria came in, wincing between breaths.  “Patrick!  I think it’s baby time.”

He immediately switched off the chainsaw.  “Did you just say—?”

“I’ve been having contractions for a while and they’re really starting to hurt!”

“Okay, baby.  Hang in there a second and let me read over what Morgana said last night.”  He tried to stay calm while he pulled out his phone and re-read a log from the night before where they had asked if Maria was in labor because she’d been having contractions.  Morgana told them from the timing it was probably a false alarm, which proved true, but she also gave them some specific “get to the hospital now” things to watch for.  Boyd overheard and saved and closed his game, shouting for Susan, while Patrick asked Maria for specifics about her contractions.  “How long are they and about how far apart?”

“Long enough!  I already timed them, and I’m serious, they feel like they’re ripping me inside or something!”  She clutched her abdomen, nearly in tears.  “They hurt a lot!  I really think it’s time!”

“Okay, okay!  We’ll get you to the hospital.”

Worried, Boyd started to panic also, and he came over with Susan now behind him.  “So she is in labor?  You’re sure?  Oh, no!  No, no, no!  Why now?  The roads are so icy!  It’s been sleeting and snowing all afternoon and I don’t even know if the salt trucks have stayed on top of it!”

“Well, tell that to Jessica, then!” Patrick snapped, then turned to Maria.  “Don’t worry.  I’ll get you there.  You’ll be okay, baby.  We’ll make it.”  He sighed.  “Figures Orion’s out.  He could get her there in about two minutes with the Galaxa.”

“I can’t climb that ladder to the roof, and I can’t go to the hospital in a spaceship!”

Susan was the calmest one in the room and did her best to reassure her.  “You don’t need a Galaxa to make it there in time.  Just practice your deep breathing.”  She pulled out her phone.  “I’ll call your mother, and Patrick will drive you to the hospital.  Patrick, get the car started.  Boyd, go get their coats.”

Maria doubled over as she was hit with another contraction that nearly took her breath away.  “What if we don’t make it?!”

“Yeah, what if they don’t make it?” a freaked-out Boyd echoed.  “Patrick, did you read about how to deliver a baby if you have to in any of those baby books?”

“No!  I need a doctor!  Owwww!  It hurts so much!”

“You’ll make it to the hospital just fine,” Susan assured her.  “First babies are notorious for being long labors.  I was in labor with Blair for sixteen hours.”

“SIXTEEN HOURS OF THIS?!”  Maria’s horrified howl was almost werewolf-quality despite not being transformed.

“But Patrick took about a quarter of that before they admitted you for that emergency C-section, and this is his baby, not Blair’s!”

“Boyd, just go get the coats!” Susan ordered on a note of exasperation.  She knew he was worried, but that was not what Maria needed to hear.  As luck had it, though, Maria had another painful contraction, and if she heard Boyd, it didn’t register.

He followed Patrick out into the hall.  “Please be careful in the ice!  I know it’s urgent, but don’t drive like… like Blair did in that snowstorm when she had Travis.”  He groaned as he shuffled to the coat closet.  “Oh, why did I have to remember that?  And you don’t even have a siren to tell everyone to get the plum out of your way!”

But thankfully, Maria made it to the hospital on time.  The roads were nowhere near as bad as Boyd feared—having the mayor for a neighbor had its perks when it came to road crew diligence—and Maria was admitted to the hospital upon arrival.  She received a timely epidural and was soon out of pain and under the care of Sacred Spleen’s top-notch medical team.  She delivered a healthy baby girl with no complications.

Patrick and Maria were now proud parents, and newborn Jessica Wainwright was officially the newest member of the family.

Offline deedee_828

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #340 on: February 05, 2020, 04:25:28 PM »
Great chapters! I'm sure I'm not the only reader who's been waiting for the birth of Patrick and Maria's baby! And now for the moment of truth. Does little Jessica carry the werewolf genetics?! I await your next chapters with eager anticipation.

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 118 Part One
« Reply #341 on: February 14, 2020, 12:15:06 AM »
Great chapters! I'm sure I'm not the only reader who's been waiting for the birth of Patrick and Maria's baby! And now for the moment of truth. Does little Jessica carry the werewolf genetics?! I await your next chapters with eager anticipation.

Thank you! You'll find out the answer about Jessica in this chapter.

Author's Note: This was image-heavy, so I split it into two posts.

Chapter 118

Maria and baby Jessica didn’t have to stay in the hospital long.  Despite the discomfort of labor and delivery, it went well with no complications for either of them.  Maria hated having the werewolf gene, but it gave her a hearty constitution that healed quickly, and Jessica was a healthy baby with a strong pair of lungs.  “I think she got your singing voice,” Patrick joked when she let out a loud squealing coo on the way out.

“And here I was about to say she made me think of you when you get fired up and loud.”

“We’ll just say she takes after both of us, then.”

“Yes.”  Maria tucked the blanket around Jessica a little more tightly as they stepped out into the wet snow.  It was nearly spring, with the first day of the season officially starting after midnight, but apparently the weather hadn’t gotten the memo yet.  She brushed a snowflake off the newborn’s nose, unable to help marveling at how tiny and adorable she was.  “She’s definitely got both of our good looks.”

Patrick grinned and preened playfully as he twirled his keys.  He was going to get the car and drive back to the front doors to pick up Maria and the baby so they didn’t have to walk in the cold.  “Well, how could she not?  I mean, her mother’s hot and I like to think I’m not too bad myself.”

“No, not bad at all,” Maria agreed, smooching Patrick before he dashed out to the parking lot to get the car.

Parenthood was more of an adjustment than either expected, but they embraced it.  Both had thought their experience taking care of their youngest siblings during their teenage years had prepared them well enough for what to expect, but it turned out that babysitting was a lot different than being a parent.  Maria never had to stay up all night with Caleb back when he was a fussy baby, and Patrick’s diaper experience had mostly been Iris in her late toddler years.  As a plantsim, she’d been more likely to rip or dirty the outside of her clothes playing and crawling in the dirt than make a mess on the inside.

Maria was even more thankful now for Susan’s super-comfy rocking chair than she had been when she was pregnant, because while Jessica liked the swing, she quieted down and slept much faster being held and rocked.  Patrick was caught off guard by the first diaper bomb from his daughter that he had to clean, but he managed.  Jessica liked the bubbles in in the baby bath and while a wet soapy baby got squiggly, it was nothing he couldn’t handle.  “Yeah, we need you to leave those disasters for Plumboptimus since he doesn’t have a sense of smell,” he teased as he played with her in the bubbles.  “Or maybe Uncle Orion or Auntie Iris.  Or ooh, even better, save a big one for jolly old Uncle Cycl0n3!  He’s got years of experience being full of it!”

“Her being full of it must come from Maria’s side of the family since Cycl0n3’s not a blood relative then,” Buddy quipped.

“Hey!  Don’t be a llama, Uncle Buddy.”

“Oh, chill out.  It’s not like she can even hear me.  Neither can Jessica.”

“It was still rude.  You know I love Maria.  Stop talking plum about her.”

“Fine, Dad,” Buddy said sarcastically.  “Sorry.  And you might want to clean up your language around Jessica’s tender ears.  She might not be able to hear me, but she can hear you.”

That wasn’t to say Patrick and Maria didn’t have help caring for baby Jessica from the rest of the household.  They all adored her, too.  Susan and Boyd were delighted with their new granddaughter and doted over her every bit as much as they had Chris and Travis when they were babies.  Blair’s boys had never lived with them, though, so they enjoyed being able to spend time with Jessica while they could.  They were well aware of how old they were, and while they had no plans of kicking the bucket anytime soon, they also knew that without artificially prolonging their lives even more, they would be lucky to still be around when Jessica would be old enough to remember them.

The nanny chip they designed for Plumboptimus worked wonderfully.  Not only was he able to feed, change, and bathe Jessica if necessary, his A.I. adapted to attempting to anticipate her emotional needs as well.  His metallic plumbot body couldn’t match the soft touch of human skin, but he spoke comforting words to her and tried to cuddle and snuggle her when she cried.

Everyone also wanted to find out for certain if Jessica was a werewolf like her mother, so Boyd and Susan ran the test as soon as they could.  Fortunately, they had all the equipment they needed in their home lab, so they didn’t have to take her out to do it.  Maria was especially glad of that, because she didn’t want anyone to know.  While she knew Susan and Boyd would keep it confidential, if it was done at the lab, there was a possibility that someone could accidentally come across it and wonder why such a test was being run.  Even if Jessica wasn’t a werewolf, that could still out her, and the thought of anyone other than those who already knew finding out was mortifying to her.

When the results were in, they called Patrick and Maria into the lab.  “Little Jessica handled the sampling like a champ,” Susan said first.  “She barely even cried at the needle.”

“Aw, I’m glad to hear that.  That’s my tough girl,” said Patrick.

“Your tough girl who I’m sure you’ll be relieved to hear isn’t a werewolf,” Boyd told them.  “She didn’t inherit the gene.  You don’t need to worry about it.  She’s all Patrick on that marker.”

“So she’s normal, then?”  Maria was relieved, because she didn’t want her daughter to ever have to feel like she did.  But unfortunately, the news also reminded her that she still wasn’t normal, and never would be.

Patrick was also relieved.  He wouldn’t have loved Jessica any less if she was a werewolf, but knowing how Maria felt about it, how Thornton and his father both had issues with it, and years of watching Orion struggle with being different and keeping his alien heritage a secret made him glad that Jessica wouldn’t have to go through anything like that.  “She’s as normal as I am, anyway,” he said with a smile.  “And now we won’t have to worry about her trying to understand or struggling with it as a kid.”

“I wouldn’t even know how to help with that, since I was normal then.  At least it’ll just be me that has to hide out from the civilized world every time the moon is full instead of both of us.”  Maria paused.  “I hope she understands when I have to disappear and explain it to her.  But it’s still better than having to explain why she’s getting furry and beastly and out of control.  I’ll just have to tell her why I do.”

“Oh, sweetie, that’s a long way down the road.  Try not to worry too much about that now.  You’ll do just fine,” Susan reassured her, while Boyd nodded with her.

“And she’ll grow up knowing about Orion and with a plantsim aunt, too.  Her family being a little different won’t be weird to her.”

“Right.  I’ll just be one more,” she stopped herself before saying anything that would be insulting to Orion or Iris because she genuinely didn’t mean anything bad about them personally, or to imply she thought they were freaks like she felt she was.  She couldn’t keep the bitterness out of her tone, however.  “One more someone different.”

Boyd frowned.  “Maria, I didn’t mean—”

“I know.  I just… it sucks being like this, okay?  I’m glad Jessica’s not, I really am, but I wish I could be normal again, too!”  She turned and left, done with the conversation, while Patrick took Jessica from Susan.

“I’ll go talk to her.  It’s still a pretty sore subject.  Thanks for running the tests, though.  We are both glad little Jess here won’t have to deal with that.”

“Sure,” Boyd said.  “And I’m sorry.  All I meant was that Jessica won’t think anything’s wrong with it because Maria’s her mom and she’ll love her, werewolf or not.”

“Yeah, I know.  She knows that, too.  Like I said, it’s just a sore subject.”

“Anyway, we’re glad we could help.  We love all three of you,” Susan added.

Patrick nodded back.  “Love you guys, too.  Thanks.”

Everyone in Blair’s household came over to visit little Jessica shortly after she came home from the hospital.  Although Blair had stopped into Sacred Spleen while she and Maria were still there, this was Cycl0n3, Travis, and Cybelle’s first time meeting her.  “Hello there, cutie!  It’s Auntie Blair!  I can’t wait to pick up my favorite adorable baby niece!”  She squealed with delight as she snuggled her.  “Oh, Captain, she’s just so cute!”

“She’s been waiting years to play doting aunt,” Cycl0n3 informed them.  “She never thought she’d get grandchildren before nieces and nephews.”  He smiled at little Jessica as Blair lowered him so he could see her.  He put out his finger and she curled her tiny ones around it.

“Hey, no ‘pull my finger’ jokes with the baby, Cycl0n3,” Patrick quipped.  “And Chris cheated.  Tad adopted Esme while he was just starting Sims U.  They also conveniently skipped the diaper stage on both her and Hilda.”

“Don’t be bitter that my son’s a better strategist than you,” Cycl0n3 replied dryly.  “Maybe you should’ve played more D&D with him and done less band geeking back in high school.”

“You’re a fine one to talk about geeking of any type, and after what Chris did to my bard with that band of orcs, screw that game and his rule technicalities.  And those plum dice that let him die impaled with his lute up his—”

“Argue nicely, you two,” Blair admonished playfully.  “Cycl0n3, stop trolling the Captain, and Captain, stop firing up grumpy old Uncle Cycl0n3.”

“Grumpy old Cycl0n3?  Whose side are you on, dear wife?”

Orion snickered.  “She’s not wrong.  Where do you think Travis gets it from?”

“You raise two smart llama teenage boys and tell me how cheery you are in twenty years, Uncle Chief Engineer.  Heck, look at what it’s done to your poor old father and mother.  I remember when they had color in their hair and only seemed kind of old.”

Susan rolled her eyes, not so much insulted or offended as she was merely unimpressed.  “Ah, Cycl0n3, I’d tell you not to change, but I’m certain by now you never will, so it’d just be redundant.”

“That’s okay.  I know you two love me just the way I am.”

“We do, the Watcher help us.”

“Yes,” Boyd added wryly.  “You prepared us well for the smart llama sons you said aged us so, but in doing so rolled the proverbial one on your own karma for avoiding it yourself.”

Cycl0n3 snickered.  “See, Captain?  Now your dad here could probably have survived one of Chris’ D&D campaigns without spectacularly dying on his own lute.”

“Well, there was an incident in a game way back in my youth where my mage accidentally set his own mount on fire while riding it, but, uh, let’s just say I don’t want to admit how many years ago that was and that I still remember it in such detail, lest I be considered a bigger geek than you.  Because I’m pretty sure you weren’t even born yet.”

“Just saying it happened in your youth pretty much solidifies it as ancient history.  Sorry, Space.”  Cycl0n3 chortled and Boyd chuckled with him.

“You know, just because it’s true doesn’t mean you need to rub it in.”

Travis came over to chat with Boyd after meeting his baby cousin.  “So, Mom told me that you and Grandma ran a test and found out she’s not a werewolf?”

“Yup.  She doesn’t have the gene.”

“That’s… good if she’s like Maria and doesn’t want it, I guess.  I think having powers like that would be cool, though.”

Maria passed by and overheard.  “It’s not cool.  Trust me on that.  It’s horrible!  Do you seriously think it’s like that movie I Was a Teenage Werewolf and all laughs or something?”

“No.”  He sighed.  “But I know how nice it’d be to have super strength and move fast and sense things around me that others can’t.  Not to mention put some unholy fear into a couple of llamas at school who seem to exist just to make my life miserable.”

Boyd raised an eyebrow.  “I understand the temptation, but using werewolf powers like that is a little dark side, don’t you think?”

“I wouldn’t actually hurt anyone.  Just make them crap their pants thinking I could if I wanted.  You know.  Kind of like how Orion just has to tell people he’s a blue belt in martial arts and they won’t mess with him.”

“Martial arts philosophy also says you should use violence as a last resort,” Orion chimed in when he overheard his name, and Blair also heard and put in her two simoleons.

“Yes.  Orion doesn’t go around intimidating people with his martial arts.  He knows better than that.  So should you.  Bullies suck, but turning into one yourself just lowers you to their level.  I know you’re better than that.”

Travis sighed again, while Cycl0n3 gave him a sympathetic but sarcastic tsk-tsk out of Blair’s eyesight that implied that he understood, but he should’ve known better than to say that where she could hear it.  “I know, Mom.  I was just saying it’d be a handy power to have in theory.”

“Ooh.  You got St. Blair going,” Iris teased Travis after the conversation moved on and she caught him out of everyone’s earshot.  “Shame, shame.”

“Yeah, it’s a shame I didn’t realize she wasn’t too preoccupied cooing over the baby to hear me.  So, what’s new with you?”

“Not much.  Just the usual, hanging out with friends, going out and stuff.  Cameron and I went down to Recurve Strand the other day and found some cool shells and a little meteorite.  Which I let Orion have since they’re just neat looking rocks to me, and Mom and Dad said it wasn’t all that rare a type so he might as well use it to rejuvenate with.”

“Cool.  Wish that worked for me.  Though I did try this cool red elixir from the shop that worked pretty well.  But they don’t always stock it, and Mom doesn’t want me having them often.  She says I need to make sure I get enough rest and not stay up too late, and I shouldn’t rely on caffeine or energy potions.  This from the cop who had gold customer status at the coffee shop before she retired.  Dad uses them sometimes too, but she says she doesn’t bother lecturing him since she knows he won’t listen.  But I’m her son and I have to.  Mom Logic.”  He rolled his eyes.   

Iris snickered.  “Yeah, I hear that llama load parent logic a lot, too.  I swear, when you get ancient like them, it must be like you can’t help spouting all that old fogey stuff or something!  Like they get convinced something horrible will happen if I’m out a minute past curfew or how they side-eye me every time Cameron’s over and we hang out in my room.  Honestly, sometimes I’m thinking like should I remind you guys that you were close to my age when sweet old St. Blair came along?  But Mom would turn colors if I actually said that, and I’m sure Dad would get all huffy, too.”

“Haha, yeah.  I bet.  Mom and Dad do that kind of plum to me, too.  They either make dumb comments or Mom reminds me to leave the door open when Starla’s over.  The worst was when Dad muttered something about how Bunch genetics were prolific, so he hoped I’d be careful if we got up to any frisky business.”  He made a face.  “What the plum.  Shut.  Up.”

“Oh, my Watcher!  I’d have wanted to die.  And kick his plumbob.  Did Starla hear that?”

“No, thankfully.  But seriously, if I did have those werewolf powers, I’d have been tempted to go full howler on him.”

Cybelle came along with Blair, Cycl0n3, and Travis to meet Jessica, but since she didn’t have the nanny chip that Plumboptimus did, she could only observe the baby and talk to her.  Her programming did not allow her to pick up or handle any child under five years old for safety reasons.  After Cybelle greeted the baby to become familiar with her, Plumboptimus brought her to the basement lab to tune her up.  The plumbots could tune up and run diagnostics on each other, something Boyd and Susan built into them so they could function indefinitely without them maintaining them after they were gone.  Although everyone in the Wainwright and Sw0rd households knew the basics of plumbot maintenance, other than Boyd and Susan, only Orion was proficient enough at it to design basic chips or repair existing ones.  If one of the plumbots had a major malfunction, Boyd and Susan wanted to ensure that Plumboptimus and Cybelle could repair each other if necessary.

That was especially useful now that Plumboptimus had a new chip that allowed him to learn skills without a chip specific to them.  It had meant replacing his gardening and fishing chips, since they would be redundant, but now that spring was here and Iris enjoyed both of those activities, it was a good opportunity to re-equip his solar powered chip and see what Plumboptimus could learn on his own.  Iris could instruct him up to an intermediate level, and Boyd and Susan could teach both him and her any more advanced techniques that she didn’t know yet herself.

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 118 Part Two
« Reply #342 on: February 14, 2020, 12:18:26 AM »

Shortly after Jessica was born, Maria and Patrick brought her over to Morgana’s to introduce her to that branch of the family.  Although Morgana, Chris, and Tad met baby Jessica at the hospital almost as soon as she was born—two being on staff there and Tad being the son of one and married to the other—the children were at school when that visit took place.

“There’s my sweet baby angel!”  Morgana grinned from ear to ear as she bounced Jessica.  “I could swear you’ve gotten bigger just since getting home.”

“I don’t think she’s growing that fast, Mom.  Even if she does keep us up feeding her every couple of hours.”

“Well, that’s pretty normal.”

“And you’ve got a plumbot helping out and letting you sleep.  That would’ve been nice back when Caleb was a baby,” Tad remarked.

“Hey!  I was a good baby.  Mom always said so.”

“You were,” Morgana assured him.  “And Tad loved babysitting you.  Don’t let him fool you.”

“Never said I didn’t.  Just that he didn’t let us sleep that much sometimes.”

“Maybe Great Grandma and Grandpa could make us a plumbot next,” Hilda suggested.  “We don’t have any babies to change, but it could clean our rooms for us.”

“Yeah, and Diddy’s litter box, too,” Esmeralda chimed in.

“I’m all for that.”  Caleb pinched his nose.  “I got stuck with that last night.”

“I’d have rather had that than the stupid dishes,” Hilda pointed out.  “Diddy doesn’t poop that much, and I had to scrub that pot the macaroni was burned in.  Which wasn’t even fair because I wasn’t the one who burned it.”

“Is too fair, because that was your chore for the night,” Tad argued, defensive as the party guilty of said macaroni incineration.

“But you burned it!”

“Look, chores are good for building character, anyway, so you should thank me.  Or so my father always told me.”

Maria scoffed knowingly.  “Yeah, and you always listened to Dad.”

Tad muttered something about how she should talk, while Morgana turned to Maria.  “Speaking of your father, has he been by to see Jessica yet?”  While she knew how Thornton felt about children in general, he loved Maria and Tad and she couldn’t imagine that he wouldn’t want to at least meet his newborn granddaughter.  He accepted Tad’s adopted daughters as family and cared about them even though he came across as standoffish at times, and he’d set up college funds for each of them.  Morgana had hoped that meant he’d finally gotten over the worst of his issues from his childhood and upbringing.

But the look on Maria’s face answered before she could.  “No, he… well, he said he would when he could, but didn’t have the time yet.  Then he got a cold and said he didn’t want to give it to the baby.  He did say he was happy for us and liked the pictures I sent him, though.  And that my grandmother would’ve been proud to know she was named after her.”  She paused.  “He also said he was glad she wasn’t, you know, like me.  A werewolf I mean.”

Morgana wanted to believe that was just poorly considered phrasing on her ex-husband’s part, and that he wasn’t making excuses about not seeing their daughter’s first child, but she’d known him long enough that she couldn’t be sure without talking to him herself.  Thornton could still be rather insensitive and cold at times, even if he didn’t necessarily intend to be hurtful.  “Well, hopefully he’ll get over that cold soon and visit.”  She smiled at Jessica, unable to comprehend how anyone could not prioritize meeting their grandchild for the first time.

“He said he would.  I’m going to call him again later now that it’s been a couple of days.  I thought about maybe dropping by there, but I know he doesn’t like being surprised like that.  If he’s even home and not at some business meeting or something.”

“I would call first,” Morgana agreed.  “But I’m sure he’ll be delighted when he finally gets to see her.  How could he not?”  She smiled fondly at the baby and then Maria.  “She’s an absolute little doll.”

Chris chatted with Patrick after giving his baby cousin a playful tickle.  “So, how are you liking the dad life, Uncle Paddy-Cakes?”

“Enough that I won’t kick your plumbob for calling me that this time.  But don’t let it happen again.  Maria has exclusive rights to that.”

He snickered.  “Okay.  Far be it from me to commit copyright infringement.”

“Uh-huh.  So, got any advice on dad jokes?  You seem to be a font of them.”

“Yeah.  Use my material and not my dad’s.  Or Grandpa’s.  Unless you want Jessica to figure out what a huge dork you are before I get the chance to tell her.”

Patrick scoffed back at him.  “You’re just bitter that your own dorkiness is so obvious that I never had to spell it out to Esme or Hilda or Caleb.  They all caught on without any help.”

“But I can ground Hilda and Esme if they get too uppity about it, so they know to keep their erroneous conclusions to themselves,” Chris replied with a grin.  “And Caleb’s just a little brother-in-law, and Dad taught me with you how seriously anyone should take those.”

“You’re using the Cycl0n3 defense?  It’s a good thing you’re a doctor and not a lawyer.  You’d be out of a job in no time.”

At that, Chris laughed.  “Okay, you win that one.  I have no comeback.  Congratulations and welcome to the dad joke club.”

When they got home, Patrick and Maria chatted in the study.  “Think we should set Jess up on the mat in here, or put her in the swing?  Mom and Dad are out there watching TV, but I was thinking of doing some painting if we’re not doing anything else.  Did you call your dad yet?  You said in the car you might invite him over.”

“I did, but he didn’t answer, so I left him a message.  He hasn’t called back yet, though.”

“Oh.  You want me to hold off changing into painting clothes until we hear back from him, then?”

She sighed.  “Maybe a few minutes in case he was just driving or something and that’s why he didn’t answer.  But we can set her up in here.  If he doesn’t come over, I’ll work on my novel while you paint.”

Thornton had been on another call when Maria called, but he called her back after he was finished.  He was on his way out to a business lunch meeting with the associate he’d just gotten off the phone with.  “Hi, Maria.  You called?”

“Hi!”  She was on her way back to the study after grabbing a snack when Thornton called.  She and Patrick had already settled Jessica in the play mat, and she’d been almost ready to tell Patrick, now chit-chatting with Orion, to go ahead and paint since it didn’t look like she’d hear back from him, but she was pleasantly surprised.  “You sound better.  Are you over your cold?”

“Yes, for the most part.”

“That’s great.  I’m glad to hear it.  Because I was really hoping you could come over and see Jessica today since it’s the weekend and you’re not working, right?  We’re all here, and we took her to Mom’s earlier and they all got to finally meet her.  You’re the only one she hasn’t met yet, Grandpa Wolff.  I thought maybe we could have lunch here.  We’ve got some of those great steaks that Boyd and Susan grow fresh off the vines last night, and you know Susan keeps great nectar to pair with it.”

“Ah.  Thank you, that sounds nice, but I’m afraid I can’t today.  I’ll come see you and your daughter soon now that I’m better, but I’ve got urgent business to take care of this afternoon.”

Maria was more hurt by that than she wanted to admit.  She couldn’t help but think of all the times growing up that his business had trumped her and Tad in importance, and she struggled not to cry.  “Business.  You can’t come over and meet your baby granddaughter because of business, on the weekend.”

Thornton sighed when he heard her tone.  “I’m sorry, Maria, but it’s very important.  I’m meeting with an associate from Bridgeport who’s only in town until tomorrow morning who has prior commitments this evening.  This is part of a major account that Tad could also tell you is extremely important to the company.  I can’t reschedule.”

“Tad would also tell you that your granddaughter ought to rank a little higher than company business,” she snapped back as hot tears sprang to her eyes.  “He not only came to the hospital to see us the day after she was born, but so did Mom and Chris, who works double shifts several times a week.”

“At the hospital,” Thornton pointed out, but Maria cut him off.

“Yes, but Boyd and Susan and Orion and Iris and Blair don’t.  They all came, and Patrick’s super-busy too, but he managed to be there almost the whole time despite that.  Because even Stiles, who still goes to see Caleb whenever he can despite probably working as much as you do still, understands that some things are a little more important!”

“I’m not going to speculate on the differences between corporate accounts and musicians’ professional obligations, but I can assure you that this account is absolutely vital to Doo Peas, which both you and your brother benefit greatly from with your family stock options,” he replied bluntly.  “There’s no reason we can’t do this any other day this week.”

“Fine.  Let me know when you can squeeze us in around all the other important business you have, then,” she huffed sarcastically, angry and hurt.

As upsetting as the conversation was to Maria, it was equally draining to her father.  Thornton had always found her dramatics frustrating, and while he understood that she was disappointed, he didn’t understand why she was making such a big deal out of it when he could just as easily visit her and Jessica tomorrow, or later in the week.  “Maria, please.  I….”

Thornton’s voice caught in his throat as his heart started to pound and he felt himself go weak and stumble.  What was happening?  Was he that stressed?  Maria overreacting was nothing new.  Maybe he was just still run down from his cold, he thought, as he took another step forward and suddenly, the world around him seemed to swim and go light.

At first, Maria thought he was just at a loss for words and smugly thought she’d finally gotten through to him, but when she heard the choking rasp in his voice and the clatter of his phone hitting the driveway, that smugness changed to fear.  Something was wrong, terribly wrong.  “Dad?  Dad?!  Are you there?”

There was no answer.

“Dad?  Are you okay?  Dad?!  Oh no, please answer…”

When she got no response but silence, she panicked.  “Patrick!  Oh, Watcher!  Patrick!”  She ran over to him and Orion.  “Something’s wrong with Dad!  Call an ambulance!  I think he fell or collapsed or something!” she sobbed, all of her previous ire at him forgotten.  “Oh, no, please be okay…”

“I’m calling now.”  Patrick grabbed his phone and dialed emergency services while Orion had another idea.

“Hey, I can get us over there in the Galaxa in like a minute.  We can all fit if we squeeze.  It won’t be comfy, but—”

“I don’t care!  Let’s go!”  Maria led the charge up the stairs to the roof.  Boyd, Susan, Iris, and Plumboptimus were all home, so Jessica would be fine.  Maria, Patrick, and Orion just hoped that Thornton would be, too.

Offline karlissa

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #343 on: February 14, 2020, 08:03:25 AM »
Wow that's quite the timing for Thornton to go. I wonder if anyone will spot the Galaxa mid-flight.
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Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 119 Part One
« Reply #344 on: February 22, 2020, 11:13:53 PM »
Wow that's quite the timing for Thornton to go. I wonder if anyone will spot the Galaxa mid-flight.

It was! I felt bad for Maria as I was writing it.

Author's Note: The word count on this chapter is high, so I had to split it into two posts.

Chapter 119

Although they feared the worst as they rushed to Thornton’s house in the Galaxa, none of them were prepared for what they discovered when they arrived.  Thornton Wolff, Maria’s father, had died.  Later, they would find out that it was a sudden heart attack caused by old age that killed him.  Right then, however, what they saw was a dark figure beside and the ghostly white outline of Thornton for just a moment before both vanished, leaving only Thornton’s lifeless remains on the driveway in the cold spring rain.

Maria noticed a stifling scent hanging in the air where the shadow had been, something like a mixture of old smoke, decay, and dried fall leaves.  She realized, horrified, that what she smelled was death.  The Grim Reaper himself.  It reminded her of a similarly unsettling scent, one she’d caught a whiff of back in that pyramid in Egypt when Orion released the mummy.  She hadn’t known it was her werewolf senses then, and she realized that the others probably couldn’t smell it now, either.  It was overwhelming to her, though, and even more upsetting knowing it had come for her father.  “He’s gone,” she choked out in a sob.  “We didn’t…”

“It’s not your fault,” Patrick assured her as she broke down.  “You did what you could.”  They could hear the ambulance sirens in the background, and Orion cloaked the Galaxa by remote.

“I’m so sorry, Maria.”  He had also briefly sensed more of Grim’s presence and Thornton’s spirit than what they saw, but not in the same way Maria had.  His alien psychic powers picked up on a startled but accepting sense from Thornton, and a stern, unyielding, and sinister feeling radiating from the entity known as the Grim Reaper.  Thornton hadn’t had any inkling that his time had been so near, but he moved on to his fate peacefully, content with the life he’d lived.

“Dad… oh, Dad!”  Maria fell apart, crying hard.  “Oh, Watcher!  I’m sorry!  I was so awful on the phone with him.  I just wanted him to come and see us and meet Jessica, and he said he had to do business.  And I got so mad and I was hateful and yelling at him and I didn’t really mean—”

Patrick pulled her into his arms.  “Hey, hey, baby.  Don’t blame yourself.  You didn’t do this to him.  It was just his time.”

“But I was so mean!  The last things I said…”

“It’s okay.  He knows you love him.  That’s why you were so upset, because you love him and wanted to see him and for him to meet Jessica.  Don’t feel like he died thinking you hated him or anything.”

She cried hard into his shoulder.  “He never got to see her.  And I never told him…”

“Oh, baby.”  He hugged her tightly, unsure of what to say.  Maria’s relationship with her father had always been difficult, but she loved him despite their conflicts.  “It’s all right.  Just let it out.  I’ve got you.”

“I’ll talk to the EMTs and tell them what happened,” Orion volunteered.  “And call Tad if you want.”

Maria sniffled and straightened.  “Wait.  Let me call Tad and Mom.  They should hear it from me.”

“Okay.  Want me to call home and let them know, or do you want to be the one to tell them, too?”

“You can tell them.”  She swallowed.  “They ought to know we won’t be back for a while.”

“All right.”  Orion paused for a moment, gauging Maria’s feelings, and decided to share what he’d picked up on.  “Maria, just so you know, I could sense him before he… fully crossed over.  He didn’t suffer.  It was sudden, but he wasn’t in pain.  And he was at peace with it.  I think he felt he had a good life.  Not a lot of regrets.”

Maria brushed tears from her eyes.  “Even though we were fighting?  Even though he never got to meet Jessica?”

“Actually, I think that was probably one of the only ones.  I only got a sense, not like a sentence you’d say out loud or anything, but more like, just, wistful.  About you and the baby and Tad, too.  Like there were a couple things he wished he might’ve said or done, but I don’t know what specifically.  But it wasn’t bad or unkind.  I think maybe he was just never all that great at expressing how he felt, deep down.  Even to himself, if that makes sense.”

She let out a hollow chortle.  “Mom said more than once he could’ve used some therapy.  Oh, Dad.”  She cried again.  “I knew he was old, but I just never imagined, never expected…”

Patrick took her hand and tried not to think about how his own parents were much older than Thornton.  “I know.  I’m so sorry.”

“I could smell him, you know.  Not just Dad.  The Reaper.  The werewolf thing makes it so I can smell Death himself.  How crazy is it that I find that out when my dad who passed that onto me died?”  She sniffled.  “But he never knew what that was like, either.  And by the Watcher, it’s awful.  You’re lucky you can’t.  I hope I never have to smell it again.”

She looked at her father’s lifeless form one last time as the EMTs approached and Orion spoke with them, while Patrick remained with Maria.  “Goodbye, Dad.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean… I just… I love you.  And I know you’ll be proud of Jessica if you can see her where you are.  She’s such a sweet little baby.”  Her voice wavered.  “I know you didn’t like being around kids and babies, but she really is.  I know you’d have loved her.  I’m sorry you never got to meet her.”  Maria dissolved into tears once more, and Patrick just stayed with her, silent and loving, letting her grieve as much as she needed.

Tad took the news as hard as his sister.  After getting off the phone with Maria, who spoke first with him and then Morgana, he broke down, holding onto Chris.  “Dad… I can’t believe he’s really gone.”  Like Maria, he’d had major issues with his father over the years and still harbored hurt and resentment from his childhood that would never fully heal.  But he still loved him, and in recent years, they had gotten along better.  As Tad showed more maturity and responsibility, Thornton became less critical and gave him the praise that he ultimately craved far more than he ever had his father’s money.  He liked that, too, and never turned down his financial help even when it came with a heaping side of criticism, but for the most part, it hadn’t in the last few years.  Chris just held Tad, sympathetic and also sorry about Thornton’s passing.  He wasn’t close with his father-in-law and never liked how harsh he could be with Tad, but he knew what he meant to him.

Morgana grieved the loss of her ex-husband as well.  Although they divorced a long time ago, she still cared about him.  Thornton was the father of two of her children and she would always love him as family.  Difficult family at times, but family nonetheless.  She had known him better than most and regretted that he was gone, and that he never got to meet their baby granddaughter named for his mother.

Esmeralda and Hilda were also saddened by the news.  Even if it had been a contentious family issue at the time, Esmeralda would always be grateful that Thornton took her in temporarily when her natural parents died and Gator left her with him, because that was how she found her home with Tad, Chris, and Morgana.  On the rare occasions she’d seen Thornton afterward, he’d always been kind enough to her, even if not overly warm or affectionate.  Hilda hardly knew him, and had only met him a few times, but he’d been cordial to her when he did.

Caleb wasn’t technically related to Thornton Wolff, but he had known him all his life as Tad and Maria’s father.  Like with the girls, Thornton had never been terribly warm toward him, but he’d never been mean, either.  He was sad to hear that old Mr. Wolff had died, too.

It was a cold and rainy spring day when they held the funeral.  There was a large turnout for the service, with condolences offered from many of Sunset Valley’s residents, several of his business associates and co-workers, as well as some of Thornton’s relatives in Moonlight Falls, including his distant cousins Gator, Wilhemina, and Waylon Wolff.  Tad noticed a former lover of his father’s, Kaylynn Bunch, in the crowd, as well as his most recent ex-girlfriend, Ayesha Ansari.

After the funeral, Maria and Tad went to his grave to say a final goodbye despite the weather.  Patrick bundled up little Jessica and brought her along, and Chris and Morgana came with Tad while Stiles took Esmeralda, Hilda, and Caleb home.

Maria broke down at the sight of Patrick holding Jessica by her father’s grave, overcome again at the thought that her daughter would never get to meet her grandfather and that she would never see him again.  “It’s not fair!  I know he was old, but, oh, I wish I’d gone over there without waiting to call him.  Maybe then…”

“There wasn’t any way you could’ve known,” Morgana said gently.

“And you know how Dad hated surprises like that.  He’d have probably been all grouchy about you showing up with the baby unannounced.”

“At least then he would’ve met her.”

“And been annoyed by it.”  Tad’s voice was shaky.  “You wouldn’t have wanted it that way, either.”

“No, I guess not.”

“You wouldn’t,” Patrick assured her.  “And now when Jessica asks someday about her Grandpa Wolff, you can tell her the truth.  He died when she was newborn before he got a chance to see her, but he told you he wanted to.”

“That’s a… pretty optimistic spin.”

“It’s not a lie, though,” said Chris.

“And he did love her,” Tad added.  “He already set up a trust fund for her like he did Esme and Hilda.  Probably had it ready to go as soon as he knew her name and signed the papers when she was born.”  He let out a dark half-laugh.  “And you know how important he considered financial security, so if he got her set up that fast…”

Morgana smiled wistfully.  “Thornton always wanted you both to be secure and successful.  It was how he was brought up, and how his father showed him love.  It wouldn’t surprise me if he got started on that when he first heard you were having the baby, Maria.”

“With all the money the Wainwrights have, I’m surprised he was worried,” Maria mused with a sniffle.  “He sure brought it up often enough when Patrick and I were dating.  That it was a good thing he came from money because hardly anyone makes it as an artist or in show business.”  She let out a bitter laugh, then felt guilty.  “Not to speak ill of the dead like that.  Sorry.”

“It’s not speaking ill when it’s the truth,” Tad remarked on an understanding note.  “But he liked you, Patrick.  He’d have made it crystal clear if he didn’t.”

“Yeah, I know.  And I know how he was and what he thought of my guitarist aspirations, but whatever.  Thornton and I had our disagreements, but we were okay, and besides, I enjoyed proving him wrong.  He liked to say success speaks for itself, so… now he can kick back on the other side and listen up.”

“Speaking of listening, did his lawyer call you yet?” Tad asked Maria.  “He went over some of the will with me.  That’s how I knew about Jessica’s trust fund.  Dad also left you some company stock, and his house.”

Maria was surprised.  “He left me the house?”

“He wanted to split his assets between us, and I know the business better, so I got the lion’s share of his stocks and his car while you got the house.  Guess he knew there was no way Chris and I would want a one-bedroom house with our kids, and with me taking over the business and my family obligations, I wouldn’t have much time to try and sell it.  Maybe he thought you’d want it for a scenic oceanside writing studio or a rental property.  Or as somewhere private you could go to be alone on the full moon, if you wanted?  I don’t know.  I just know he left it to you.  But if you don’t want it, maybe Orion or Iris might when they’re ready to move out and you can sell or give it to them.”   

“I don’t know.”  She stared at her father’s gravestone, wondering what his reasons had been.  She couldn’t help but wonder if he cynically suspected her marriage to Patrick wouldn’t last, because his marriage hadn’t, and he wanted her to have somewhere to go if didn’t work out.  But there was no way know that for sure, and it hurt to think about, so she chose to believe it was for one of the reasons Tad suggested.  “I guess I’ll have to think about what to do with it.”

After some time to come to terms with losing her father, Maria and Patrick went to the house he left her to try and decide what to do with it.  It was harder than she thought.  She had once lived there, as a baby, but she didn’t remember it.  Her family moved to the beachside house that she’d grown up in back while she was still in nursery school and Tad was barely a year old.  After the divorce, her father moved back into his old house, which he’d never sold.  He’d kept it as a rental property during the time their family all lived together in the other house.

“Hard to believe this office was once my and Tad’s nursery.”  If she hadn’t seen the old pictures, she never would have believed it, looking at it now.  Her father kept very few personal mementos around his house.  No family photographs adorned the walls, and there were few pictures anywhere of her or Tad.  He had one album containing some, but it was tucked away on a bookshelf, and she had trouble imagining he ever looked at it much.  She found the copy of her novel that she gave him on a shelf near one of his desks.  She was glad he kept that, at least, even if it was one of the only things that might clue someone in that he even had a daughter.  She didn’t see anything of Tad’s either, although his name was all over Thornton’s business paperwork.  In one of the halls hung a painting that her mother had made years ago, before Maria was born, and she wondered why he kept that.  Was it out of some feeling of obligation or respect to her, or had he actually liked it?  Thornton always said he never had much use for art, but he conceded on occasion that both Maria and her mother had talent at it, even if he didn’t think it was a terribly useful skill.

Patrick couldn’t help but appreciate the spectacular views of the ocean, beaches, and landscape afforded by the two large picture windows in the room.  “The view’s amazing.  Did your mom ever paint in here?”

“I don’t know.”  Maria went to one of the windows to look out while Patrick followed.  “Probably not when it was our nursery, but maybe before.  Mom never said a whole lot about day to day living here and it’s always just been Dad’s house to me.  And that was never something that felt inspiring or creative.  The only vibe I get is in here is Dad sitting at one of those desks paying bills or talking business.”

“Guess that means you’re not thinking of keeping this place for a writing or art studio, then?”

Maria sighed.  “I don’t know.  I’m not sure I could write here, even if we redecorate.  At least not right now.  Maybe someday.  The house probably could make a nice art gallery or studio if we wanted to do that, but I think Dad would spin in his grave at the thought.”

Patrick half-smiled.  “Even if it was profitable, be it as somewhere you could produce amazing stuff, or for showcasing it for sale?”

“Maybe if it made enough money.  That he’d be proud of.  ‘My daughter made a fortune at something most people who try it fail at.  I’m proud of her.  I thought she’d fail, too,’” she finished in a deep-voiced imitation of him, and then frowned, feeling guilty.  “Sorry.  I shouldn’t have said that.  He probably wouldn’t have been that mean about it, even if he would’ve thought it.  Honestly, if he really thought I’d be irresponsible with his house or ruin it, he wouldn’t have left it to me.  Or Tad his business.  He’d have just left it to the company board or something.  To someone he respected.  So I guess that was his way of saying he actually was proud of us and respected us.”

“Yeah, I believe he did.”  Patrick embraced her.  “But it still would’ve been nice if he could’ve said so to you while he was still alive.”

Maria sniffled as tears sprang to her eyes.  “It would’ve.”

“For what it’s worth, I promise that you and Jessica won’t ever have to wonder if I love you or if I’m proud of you.  I’ll make sure you always know.”

“I know.”  She leaned into him, holding him tightly.  “I love you.  Thanks for being here with me.”

“I wouldn’t be anywhere else.”

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 119 Part Two
« Reply #345 on: February 22, 2020, 11:14:54 PM »

While Patrick helped Maria get through her father’s death and sort out her inheritance, Iris helped Plumboptimus re-learn the basics of gardening and fishing that he lost when his skill-specific chips were replaced with the A.I. chip that let him learn any skill.  It was still too early in the spring to fish in most of Sunset Valley’s icy and half-frozen fresh water, so they focused on gardening first.  “Mom and Dad don’t always do this, I know because the plants tell me, but we’ve got some really social ones in here that love it when you talk to them.  So when you come out to water or weed or harvest, just take a minute to tell them how awesome they’re all doing.”  She smiled at the crop in front of her.  “See, guys?  Just like I promised.  He’s not a plantsim like me, but he’s learning and trying hard.  He wants you to grow big and fruitful as much as I do.”

Plumboptimus picked up the megaphone they kept in the greenhouse.  “Iris is correct!  I am glad to weed, water, and fertilize you, and maintain your harvests.  I am eager to be your friend.  Please grow prolifically for me!  I will provide you with ample high nutrient fertilizer, fresh water free of contaminants, efficient temperature regulation, and additional artificial sunlight when you require it.”

Iris looked over at their heirloom flame fruit vine and giggled.  “Yes.  He does talk even nerdier than my old Dad that’s been harvesting you for generations,” she agreed before turning back to Plumboptimus.  “That’s our oldest special variety.  It seeded in the lawn way back in their old house before they won the lottery and before I was grown in here.  They saved and cultivated it and replanted it every growth cycle after it’s died back since.  It’s very proud of its heritage and how it’s been here the longest.  Think of it kind of like the Goth or Landgraab family of the plant town that’s our greenhouse.”

“Hello, flame fruit!  I am pleased to meet you and continue to care for you.”

Iris smiled at the plant.  “It says it’s glad to meet you officially and thanked you for introducing yourself.  It also says to please go easy on its tender leaves.  Sometimes in the past you tugged a little too hard.”

Plumboptimus beeped.  “I accept and appreciate your feedback.  I will moderate my pressure handling your foliage in the future.”

Between sessions of teaching Plumboptimus and keeping up with school, Iris still managed to get in her social time.  One rainy spring afternoon, she met up with some friends at the diner.  April was working that day, and when she saw Iris, she brought out their orders herself.  “Here you go.  One strawberry cream cheese French toast, one fried peanut butter and banana sandwich, and one deluxe chocolate stuffed brownie, with extra frosting because I know that’s how you roll, Iris.”

“Yes, I do!  Thanks!”

“No problem.  Enjoy, ladies.  Have a nice afternoon.”

“We will.  And I’ll be sure and let Orion know that you took good care of us.”

She gave a thumbs-up and returned to the kitchen, while Iris and her friends dug in.

She was hanging out with Rashida and Kristal.  They were all on good terms again, although Iris and Kristal still weren’t as close as they’d been before the drama with Lester.  “So that’s your brother’s girlfriend, huh?  She seems nice,” Rashida remarked.  “That’s so wild he’s in an open relationship, though.  He never struck me as the type.”

“Yeah, he was with Tara for ages,” Kristal added.  “He doesn’t get jealous at all?”

“Not from what I can tell.  They all seem cool with it.  He even hangs out with her and Adam, her other boyfriend, sometimes.  I met him once.  He’s nice.  Cute, too, and he likes gardening.  If he wasn’t too old for me and I wasn’t with Cameron, I’d probably go for him, at least for a date or two,” she said with a smirk.

Rashida raised an eyebrow.  “Hey, do you think he and April and Orion ever all…”

Kristal snickered into her sandwich.  “Oh, my Watcher, Rashida.”

“Yeah, really,” Iris echoed with a laugh after almost choking on her brownie.  “You almost made me snort frosting!  No, I really don’t think so.  As far as I know, he’s not even into guys that way, and I don’t think he’s gone out with any other girls while he’s been with her, either, even though he’s allowed.  Which I don’t get why, since everyone’s cool with it.  I mean, he might as well.  Why not?”

“Wait.  Are you saying you’d do that if Cameron wanted to?” Rashida asked, surprised.

“Whoa, no.  What I meant was if they all agreed to that situation, why not take advantage of the perks and have some fun with it?  But I don’t think I could do it, at least not for very long.  Cool as it would be to have a harem of hot guys at my beck and call, I know I’d end up jealous of their other girlfriends.”  She wondered right after she said that if she should’ve, given the history between all of them, but to her relief, it didn’t seem to bother them.

It had touched a nerve with Kristal, but not the one she was worried about.  “Most people would.  But at least they aren’t sneaking around and lying about it.  My dad should’ve taken a cue from them,” she said bitterly.  “And Mario.  I’m ninety nine percent sure he’s cheating on Rachelle and I’m not misunderstanding or reading too much into things, but whatever.  She won’t listen to me, even though I’ve gotten pretty good at spotting the signs after all the cheating I’ve seen going around.”

Iris suspected that last bit was a subtle dig at least in part at her, but since it was a fair one and she didn’t want to dredge up old drama now that they were friends again, she let it go.  Especially since Kristal had good reason to be bitter.  While the stuff with Lester was in the past, right now, her parents were going through a nasty divorce.  After decades of seemingly happy marriage, it came out that her father was having an affair with Kaylynn Bunch.  Enraged and hurt, Madison had told Christopher to get out, and he’d left, moving in with Kaylynn, who was also getting divorced.  She had moved into a new place, and now Christopher was living with her.  Kristal was devastated by it all, and furious at her father for betraying her mother and their family like that.  She’d had no idea her parents’ marriage was even in trouble.  Even worse, neither had Madison.  She found out from her friend Tori, Mario’s mother, after she spotted Christopher and Kaylynn out together on a night he’d told Madison he was working late.  When Madison confronted Christopher, he confessed, and that was when it all hit the fan in a vicious argument that Kristal had the misfortune of witnessing.

“Of course she doesn’t want to believe Mario’s cheating,” Rashida said.  “They’re engaged and she just found out she’s pregnant.  Who wouldn’t hope it’s not true?  Especially with all the stuff with your dad going on.”  She gave her a sympathetic look.  “And it sucks he seems to have his head almost as far up his plumbob as mine lately.  But at least I’m used to that.  Your dad always seemed so cool and nice and like he loved your mom.”  She, too, was going through a rough time at home.  Although her parents had never married, Jared and Emma’s relationship hit a breaking point and Emma could no longer stand to be under the same roof as him anymore, even sleeping in separate bedrooms.  But since they were in “his plum house,” Jared had said if she didn’t like how he was, she could go and take the girls with her.  He’d rather live alone anyway and he was tired of all their stupid drama.  While he wasn’t always so cruel and hurtful, and at times could be quite warm and affectionate, when he got into a mood, he could be downright abusive.  After years of it, Emma finally reached her limit, especially of him lashing out at their daughters as well as her.  So she did exactly what he said, and left him, using her savings to buy the house Morgana, Tad, Chris, and their kids used to live in for her, Rashida, and Edna.

Iris felt for both of her friends.  She knew she was lucky that her parents, even if they were decidedly old and nerdy and sometimes cringeworthy, very obviously loved each other and their family.  “Yeah, you guys have really had plum luck lately.”

“Well, at least my new house is nice, and Edna and I each have our own rooms now.  It’s nice not having Mom and Dad arguing all the time, too.  But I do miss him.  I know he can be a real llama sometimes, but he’s still my dad and I miss the weekend brunches and playing with the dog in the yard with him and stuff.  It’s not like it was always bad being with him.  Just when he’s in a nasty mood.”

Kristal nodded.  “I know what you mean.  I don’t hate my dad or anything, I just hate how he lied and hurt Mom.  I hate that he thought it was worth wrecking our family over some stupid fling with another woman who was also married, which just makes it worse.”  She set her sandwich down.  “But in a weird way, something good came out of it, I guess.”

“Oh?  What do you mean?” asked Iris.

Both Kristal and Rashida looked at her as Kristal elaborated.  “I… well, part of why I wanted to hang out today was to tell you this myself, Iris.  Considering everything that happened.”  She paused.  “Lester and I got back together.  We’re even going to prom together.”

“Second time hopefully the charm,” Rashida added dryly.

That caught Iris completely by surprise, although she supposed it shouldn’t have.  Lester and Kristal had been on friendly terms again for a while now, even back while they were still together.  He and Kristal were in art club together and Iris knew they worked on projects with each other.  Now that he was unattached, why wouldn’t he maybe rekindle an old flame if there was still something there?  He had always regretted hurting Kristal and said he cared about her even after he’d fallen in love with Iris.  But maybe now that things were over between them, things had changed between him and Kristal, too.  “Wow.  I had no idea.  That’s… that’s great.”  It was sincere, even if it hurt a little to hear.  But she had also moved on.  She was happy with Cameron and didn’t have any hard feelings.  Just a few regrets about how everything played out.

“I’m glad you’re not upset,” said Kristal.  “I admit, it’s kind of weird.  Part of me feels like it’s crazy to trust him again, especially since Dad just proved that even after decades of things being good, it doesn’t mean someone can’t ever cheat on you.  But when we were talking and I told him about my parents getting divorced and how much it sucks and hurts, he was really sweet to me about it.  He said he understood, and how sorry he was that he hurt me the way he did when we broke up.  He said he wished he’d done things differently and realized now how lucky he was with me and he was sorry he threw it away.  Then we talked some more and ended up kissing and… long story short, I decided to give him another chance, as long as he promised not to ever cheat or go behind my back or lie to me again.  And he did.”

That sounded typical of Lester, even if it made Iris a bit wistful knowing he’d asked essentially the same of her, and she hadn’t been able to convincingly commit to that.  But the truth was she and Lester weren’t suited to each other long term anyway, and him and Kristal getting back together eased her guilt about her part in breaking them up in the first place.  “Hey, I get it.  Things happen.  And no, I’m not upset.  You should be with someone who makes you happy, and if that’s him, then go for it.  It is what it is.  I’m with Cameron now and way over Lester, so I hope it works out for you guys.  Honestly, it kind of makes me feel better about the, uh,” she let out an awkward chuckle, “in-between stuff.  Which I’m still sorry about, too.  It was a plum thing to do to a friend.”

Kristal nodded.  “Thanks.  Besides we’ve all moved past all that bad stuff from last prom, so, let’s just say it’ll be a much better one this time.  I take it you’re bringing Cameron?”

“Oh, you bet!  I’m going to show my hot Simstagram model man off to the whole school.”  She looked at Rashida.  “And you’re going with Alfonso again?”

“Yeah.  And this time there aren’t any dirty little secrets to come out.  At least not from me.  Hopefully not from him, either, but I don’t think so.  I love him, but he’s like the opposite of a player.”

Iris raised her drink.  “Then here’s to our upcoming senior prom.  I’d say may it be a million times better, but since I’m pretty sure that factor is negative or a zero and I know how math works, I’ll just say it’s going to be awesome and leave it at that.”

Back at home, Boyd and Susan chatted over afternoon coffee.  Although they were technically retired, workaholic Susan never fully gave up her habits and still checked in on the lab almost every day.  Boyd went in a few times a week to keep tabs on his favorite experiments, too, and he still had several side projects at home he tinkered with, including some ongoing botany experiments in the greenhouse.  “I got a call from the bistro earlier.  They want some of our best plant steaks for some new vegetarian specialties they want to add to their menu.  Did we ever get the official okay from legal to sell those?”

“Not yet, but I’ll rattle their cage again.  Last I heard they were waiting for the rubber stamp from the health department.”

“All right.  I think the next crop will be higher quality anyway, so for now I’ll just send over a couple samples for their chefs to experiment with.”

“Sounds good.  Oh, speaking of legal, that reminds me.  Our lawyer emailed me this morning to say they finished setting up Jessica’s trust fund.  She’s good to go.  Between us and what Thornton left her, she’s pretty well set at the ripe old age of baby.”

“That’s great.  It’s too bad he never got to see her before old Grim got him.  Poor Thornton.  A heart attack out of the blue like that.”

“I know.  It was so sudden.  And I know he wasn’t young, but he was still so much younger than us.”  She chortled.  “Though our son-in-law would quickly point out that everyone is at this point.”

“That’s all right.  He’ll feel his own age once Travis graduates in a couple of years.”

“Oh, did I tell you that Blair told me he’s going to his first prom with Starla soon, and that our grouchy little grandson actually complained less than both Cycl0n3 and Chris about having to wear a tuxedo and formal shoes?  Kind of funny considering how bent out of shape he was about it back at Patrick’s wedding.”

“Heh, well, at the age he was then, I wasn’t thrilled about wearing fancy clothes when my parents forced me, either.  But now he’s got someone he’s sweet on to impress.”  He chuckled.  “As for Chris, hasn’t he lost the deposit on every tux he ever rented because he had some kind of mishap while wearing it?  The punch stain on one prom one, falling into the mud in the other…”

“Don’t forget when he accidentally leaned into the chocolate fountain at Patrick’s wedding buffet.  Pretty sure he ended up buying that chocolate dipped tux.”

“Maybe we should set up an extra accident fund for him in our wills,” Boyd said dryly.

“I think we’ve got him covered well enough with the general one,” she joked back.  “But since you mentioned funds, I just remembered.  We got a letter in the mail today from the future planning fund coordinator thanking us for our generous donations in previous years and politely hinting they’d like us to toss some more their way this year.  We did really well last quarter, so I was thinking we could up it a little this time and maybe inspire them to get a few more projects underway while getting a bigger tax write-off.  What do you think?”

“That sounds fine to me, honey.  Do you want to just mail them a check, or do you want to take it there in person?”

“I’d rather go in person.  I’m not too humble to admit I enjoy the grateful looks on their faces when they see the number.”

“Well, you earn them.  You’re very generous, and I’m sure they appreciate it.”  Boyd stood and smooched her on the cheek.  “You want to go today?  It looks like the rain’s giving us a break, and I wouldn’t mind getting out of the house for a bit.”

“Sure.  Let me grab my checkbook and my coat.”

The trip to city hall didn’t take long, and the future planning fund office was thrilled to receive the Wainwrights’ generous donation.  “I think that clerk wanted to kiss you when he saw that check,” Boyd remarked as they came back out, both in great moods.  “Luckily for him, I’m not the jealous type.”

“Don’t kid yourself.  I’m sure he’d have kissed you for that amount, too,” Susan replied wryly.

“Speaking of kissing, looks like they’re setting up the spring festival.”  Boyd gestured across the road to the park where workers were putting up the attractions, including the popular kissing booths that inspired the comment.  Neither had ever patronized those, since they had each other for smooching, but they did enjoy the seasonal festivals.  “Remember when we pegged the love tester to the maximum limit?”

Susan smiled.  “We’ve always had a way of sweet-talking electronics as well as each other.  Remember that year we entered the dance contest?”

“Ah, yeah.  Wasn’t that the same year Patrick ditched us to hang out with Maria as soon as they ran into each other?  They started dating a little while after that.”

“To be fair, I’d have ditched my parents and brother to hang out with a boy I liked at that age, too.  Not that I had them around very long after I was old enough for that, but you know what I mean.”  Her expression turned wistful, but not exactly sad.  “You remember what Jonathan was like, though.  He’d have razzed me endlessly.”

“I’m sure.  I recall being the subject of a razzing or two myself, as the ‘even dorkier boyfriend’ of his ‘dorky little sister’ as he so nicely put it.  But that’s just how older siblings are.  Patrick and Chris and Orion are just as bad.  Even Blair gets her occasional tease in on the younger set, and Iris rolls it right on down to Travis.”

“Well, she’s not the youngest when he’s around.”  Susan chortled.  “No wonder poor Travis is so cheery.  Good thing he gives as good as he gets.”

“If not better.  Cycl0n3 taught him well.”

“Don’t tell him that, though, Grandpa.  We wouldn’t want to encourage it,” Susan teased, taking Boyd’s hand as they strolled to the car.

When they got home, they planned to relax in front of the TV and watch the newest episode of one of their favorite shows.  Boyd had just turned it on to check the weather first, an old habit that he never gave up even though his phone app gave him regular updates, but before he got a chance to even see the forecast, both his and Susan’s phones sounded with an alert they hadn’t heard in a long time.  A very long time.

“Oh, my Watcher!” Boyd gasped, excited, while Susan squealed with delight.

“Our time app!  It’s Emit!  He’s trying to contact us!”  Long ago, after one of their first visits to Oasis Landing, the Wainwrights created an application that synced to the time portal and the time almanac Emit gave them.  It had been years since they heard from him, and they’d been through countless new upgraded phones since, but they still kept it updated and loaded on their phones hoping that Emit would be true to his word and that one day they would see him again.  Iris was still in diapers the last time, when he took them to Oasis Landing for what they wondered later might’ve been their final trip there after all.  So much time had passed that they wondered if Emit changed his mind or if he or they had inadvertently done something to the timeline preventing him from returning without catastrophic consequences. 

They were thrilled that wasn’t the case.  Even if they were very old now and had to wait a long time, Emit had finally come through.

“I guess that old 8-ball on the table was right after all.  He didn’t forget about us.”  Boyd smiled.  “I didn’t want to give up hope, but…”

“I know!  It’s been so long.  I’d hardly thought about him in ages, aside from whenever we’d donate to the fund or something like that reminded me.  But I was really starting to think something must’ve changed, or that maybe we just got too old to make it through the portal without having a heart attack ourselves.”

“The portal’s a wild trip, but I’d like to think we’re not that decrepit yet.  Assuming he’s not just popping up to update us and not inviting us to go back.  I hope he is.  I’d love to see it again.”

“Me, too.  I really want to know how we might’ve changed the future since the last time we were there.  And how our descendants are doing, if we even have the same ones still.”

“There’s only one way to find out.  Let’s hustle down there and see what he’s got to say.”

Author’s Note: The way I wrote Thornton’s death wasn’t too far off from how it happened in game. I got the notification that he wasn’t going to be around much longer, so I planned to have Maria invite him over that day.  She got up kind of late, and I went through her routine filling her needs with a shower and eating, and by then it was early afternoon, so I had her call Thornton hoping he wouldn’t die until after the visit.  He declined the invitation with the “Sorry, I don’t feel like coming over right now” popup, and I was thinking, nice, you’re dying and you still don’t want to visit your daughter.  They didn’t have a high relationship, but it was a small bit into the green, so still positive.  Okay, then, I’ll send Maria over to visit you.  I checked the map to make sure he’s home, got ready to have her grab Jessica and go, and then I got a popup that he died.  I guess Grim showed up right at or after the same time she called, and I should’ve had her skip the morning shower and go or try earlier.  D’oh!

Offline Supermanfan

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #346 on: February 25, 2020, 10:59:00 AM »
Great story, I’m really enjoying it. It took me about a week or so to finish it. I really like all your characters and the way you write their personalities so well. It was sad that Thornton died before he could meet Jessica though. I am looking forward to Boyd and Susan’s trip to the future, I enjoy those parts. Also, I really think Iris should marry Cameron, then her name would be Iris Bloom.

FYI, my name isn't really Brandon Taylor, it is just a name I used for one of my favorite Sims.

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 120
« Reply #347 on: March 21, 2020, 10:50:35 PM »
Great story, I’m really enjoying it. It took me about a week or so to finish it. I really like all your characters and the way you write their personalities so well. It was sad that Thornton died before he could meet Jessica though. I am looking forward to Boyd and Susan’s trip to the future, I enjoy those parts. Also, I really think Iris should marry Cameron, then her name would be Iris Bloom.

Thank you for the nice comments, and for the ones my blog as well!

Author’s Note: Sorry it was so long between chapters! With all that’s been going on in the world with Coronavirus, it’s been hard to focus as much on playing or writing, especially since I’m still working because I work in a healthcare related field.  I and my family are all fine so far, and I hope all of you reading are and remain safe and healthy as well.

Chapter 120

Hustling was a relative term for the Wainwrights at their age, but they were excited, and they hurried to the basement as fast as they could.  The portal was active, but Emit wasn’t there in person.  A holographic image of him was there instead.  “Boyd!  Susan!  Nice to see you again!”

“Yeah!  It’s been a long time.  Hi, Emit!”  Susan smiled as she greeted him, while Boyd nodded with her.

“It’s great to hear from you!  We weren’t sure we’d—”

“Still be around by the time I got back to you?” he guessed, looking them over.  “Oh.  I can see why.  Wow.  I know what year I was here last and what year it is now, but I didn’t really think about the math of how long that was in between for you.  Guess you are kind of getting up there, huh?”  He smiled sheepishly, but remained upbeat.  “But there was no need to worry.  Even if I plum forgot what year you died, it’s a simple matter to just go back to the right one.  Advantages of being a time traveler.  I can always make it there on time, even when I run late, so to speak.  Just doesn’t feel like it on your end.”

“We didn’t think you’d be back right away, but we figured it’d be before now,” said Boyd.  “Why did you wait so long?”

“Were you waiting for us to do something specific or was there something else going on?”

“Yes, and yes.  Doing what I do, there’s always stuff going on.  The unexpected is to be expected as a general rule.  But there were things I had to wait for you to do.  Build Plumboptimus, for one.  Great job on him and Cybelle, by the way.  That’s quite the robotic family you’ve got started.  A pity I won’t get to meet them in your here and now, but this virtual time travel only lets me go so far past the portal or almanac.  You also had a couple of lab projects it was best to let you finish without any accidental influence from me.  And, of course, all that alien-werewolf drama.  One wrong word about that and Maria might’ve never been abducted.”

Susan raised an eyebrow.  “You wanted that to happen?  Like Boyd with Orion?”

“It needed to happen.  She had to have that gene switched back on because some future werewolves down the line would suffer greatly without her alien-tinkered gene getting tossed into the pool.  You can tell her that someday, whenever you tell them all about me and what I’ve shown you, if it’ll make her feel better.”

“Maybe someday, but she’s still pretty angry and resentful about it now,” Boyd said.  “While I’m sure she’ll be glad it helped someone, it’s a cold comfort when you’re going through something that affects your life so profoundly.  Speaking from experience.  I love Orion and I don’t regret having or raising him, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still have nightmares about my abduction or wish I never had to go through that.  Or worry about him the way I always will because of who and what he is.”

Susan had another question.  “So, are you saying that Patrick and Maria have descendants that are werewolves?  We checked, and Jessica doesn’t have the marker.  Will they have more children, then?  We had the impression they might not because of the werewolf risk.”

“Maybe they change their minds at some point, or maybe they get surprised?” Boyd theorized.

“Remember that werewolves don’t only propagate their condition by passing it on to their children.”  Emit made an exaggerated snarling face and scratching motion.  “Not that I’m saying Maria ever loses it and goes around biting and scratching and making a pack or anything, but just for the sake of argument… All it takes is her to pass it on once that way before that werewolf can pass it to another, and so on.  Without Jessica being born with the gene, or Maria having any more children.  You know I can’t say too much about anyone in your lives now without jeopardizing the timeline, but I can say, without spoilers, that specific gene spreads and it traces directly back to her.”

“Wow.  That’s… surprising considering how she feels about it.”  Susan wondered if Maria would someday have a change of heart and accept and embrace being a werewolf, or if she would accidentally pass it on… and who might be the recipient.

Boyd wondered the same thing, although it was clear that was all Emit was willing to tell them about it.  “Yeah.  So, what can you tell us?  Or are you here to take us back to Oasis Landing so we can see for ourselves?”

Emit grinned.  “I knew you’d want to go back, and there’s stuff that’s changed that I know you’ll want to see.  The portal’s already set and ready to go whenever you are.”

Susan paused.  “Think we should change first?  We still have our old clothes from the earlier trips.  Assuming they still fit.”  She looked at Boyd.  “Yours might not.  You’ve lost almost, what, about ten pounds since back then?”

“Something like that.”  Although it hadn’t been intentional, Boyd’s appetite diminished whenever his back ached since both the pain and the medicine he took for it tended to upset his stomach, and that happened with increasing frequency the older he got.  Between that and how he often forgot to eat whenever he was caught up in a project, along with his sedentary habits, he’d lost some musculature over the years.

“And I’m about an inch shorter than I used to be,” Susan groused.  She’d lost height in her advancing age and, like Boyd, wasn’t terribly active so her muscles had also deteriorated some.

“Don’t worry about it.  We can set you up with some snazzy new ones when you get there.  Hop on through, and I’ll see you on the other side.”

After noting the exact time so they could return to right when they left, Boyd and Susan stepped into the bright light of the portal.  The trip was more disorienting than they remembered, and they held each other’s hands the whole way through, but they made it out just fine.

Oasis Landing looked just like they remembered it, and they supposed that was because there it was around the same time as it was when they’d last visited.  It felt strange since they were so much older themselves, and so much time had passed on their end.

“Things still look the same, but Emit said things changed,” mused Susan.  “Think it’s just our descendants, or is there more?”

“I don’t know.  Do you think that Plumboptimus or Cybelle could still be around?  We designed them to last indefinitely and take care of themselves.”

“In theory, I suppose.  But there’s a big difference between fifty or a hundred years and over three hundred.  Even if they took care of themselves without any issues, there was the wasteland disaster that could’ve destroyed a by-then ancient plumbot, and who knows what kind of people they might’ve run into after we were gone, especially if they got separated from family.  Or what our family was like in the generations between us and our kids and grandkids and Emit and Pl4sm4.”

“Yeah, I know the odds are against it.  Too bad.  I’d be curious to see if their A.I. would still remember or recognize us, or if it deteriorates and corrupts or loses data over such a long time.”

Almost immediately, a plumbot tailor greeted the Wainwrights and escorted them to a private room in the community center.  “Welcome, time traveling guests!  Emit Relevart tasked me with providing you with new attire for your visit.  Please follow me.”

She took their measurements and inquired as to their color and design preferences, and using some templates she had ready, fabricated customized outfits for each of them.  She gave each of them a final scan when she finished.  “Your fit appears to be optimal.  Is the comfort level as desired?”

“Perfect,” Boyd said.

“It’s great.  Thank you very much.  Our daughter would love you,” Susan remarked.  “She’d probably buy a whole new wardrobe.”

“I am not permitted to time travel, but I appreciate your positive feedback.  I would be happy to offer my services to your daughter if she joins you in Oasis Landing.  It has been a pleasure to serve you.  Have a pleasant evening and enjoy your stay.”  She beeped goodbye and left.

Emit met up with them in the hallway.  “Hey, look at you two!  Outfitted up and ready to hit the town.  It’s great having you both here again.”  He hugged each of them.

“Thanks.  It’s nice being back.  You look young as ever, I see.”

“Yeah, wish we could say the same,” Boyd joked.

“Well, you could, if you really wanted.  That experimental compound of yours is only still experimental at this point because you’ve chosen to keep it that way, and not make a marketable version of it or use it on yourselves.”

“Which I think you knew we’d do,” Boyd said.  “That we wouldn’t want to risk bending the laws of nature so far that they break.”

“You told us that in the alternate timeline where Landgraab Industries kept the rights to the formula that they just used it for wrinkle cream that generated low-risk extreme profit.  We wanted to do more and advance medicine with it, and we did that a point, but…”

“But while you applied it toward medical advances and disease-curing therapies, you didn’t want to mass-market a potion for immortality, either.  Because you know how dangerous that would be in the wrong hands.  Just like the vampires and fairies and even the rare witches and chefs who can make life-extending alchemy brews and ambrosia.”

“There’s a line from a movie back in our time about how you either die a hero or live long enough to become the villain.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no hurry to kick off and not arrogant enough to think I’m hero material, but… I also know myself well enough to know I could go dark side if I let myself go far enough down the rabbit hole,” Boyd admitted.  “And I don’t want that, to become some mad scientist who went too mad over time and eventually went full super-villain.”

“Boyd, you’d be the most neurotic super-villain ever,” Susan quipped before continuing on a serious note.  “But I feel the same way.  Neither of us want to wind up so old and jaded that we’re disconnected from reality or those around us that we care about.  We don’t want to be able to brush off our family and friends dying or life’s major events in a ‘been there, done that’ kind of way because we’ve been around so long that it doesn’t affect us anymore.  Or pick and choose who gets to join us in that extra-long life and who doesn’t, who lives or dies.  It’s not who either of us want to be.”

Emit nodded.  “It’s not easy living that way.  There are things you two have that someone like me never will.  I don’t have a family or children, or even lovers to speak of.  I’m one of your descendants, but my particular line?  It ends with me, whenever that happens.  Hopefully not for a long time, but someday.  And ideally, I’ll leave it a better world and timeline than I came into.”

“I’m sure you will,” Susan said.

“So, what all has changed?” asked Boyd.  “You said there was a lot and you knew we’d want to see it.  Just looking around, things look like we remember them.  Is it our descendants?”

“The ones we met last time, are they…?”

“They’re not the same,” Emit confirmed.

“More pieces to a puzzle that no longer exists,” Susan mused, remembering Emit’s analogy.

“There are memorials for them, if you want to see them.  I know how you felt last time, so I had that done for you before I brought you back.”

“Thanks.  We appreciate that.”

Boyd nodded with Susan.  “There were so many more this time.  The first time, it was just Donovan and Benjamin, and Leilani being someone totally different.  This time it’s not just Helena and Penny, but Orion and Iris’ descendants, too.  The aliens who kept their Sixam blood strong by marrying other hybrids, and those cute kids who looked so much like Orion at that age except for the hair, who liked our old tech.  And Iris’ plantsim line that lasted so many generations looking almost exactly like her until the one who re-engineered her condition to be more human-like, who had the grandson and great-grandson we met.”

Susan smiled fondly at the memory.  “Cheerful little Jarret, who liked both sunlight and sweets.”

“Remember, they do still exist.  Just not in this timeline.  They’re fine in theirs.  It’s just no longer ours.”

“I’m curious what the new ones are like, but I can’t help but wonder what we did to change them,” Susan said.  “The first time, you said it was because of how we won the lottery and bought the lab.  How that Patrick grew up into someone so different than the one in the timeline where that never happened and all the other things, like Iris never existing, Orion dying young and Boyd not long after him, did.  And that Donovan and Benjamin were that Patrick’s descendants.  That made sense.  But this time, there weren’t such dramatic changes.  We live in the same place, and we still own the lab.  As far as I know, we’ve been doing our projects like we always have, and at least to me, it seems like Patrick’s been on the same path since then, too.  Yes, he’s grown now, and he went to university and has a career and a child, but he’s still who he’s always been.  Bright, a bit impulsive and temperamental at times, a passionate musician and artist, and even still in love with Maria.  I know she took his name, so I can see why they might not be named Wolff anymore, but that seems like a minor change.  Is it the werewolf thing?”

“That’s part of it.  I suspected it could change his personal timeline when it happened, since the descendants you saw last time reflected only the most likely scenario relative to that time.  At that point, Patrick and Maria were still teenagers.  They hadn’t left home or had some of the life experiences they eventually did.  But they could’ve had a different story and outlook on life if, say, one or the other hadn’t gone to university or a different one, leading the abduction to happen on a different night in a different place, or if Patrick had taken a different job offer afterward, or if maybe Maria had decided to write only as a hobby and focus on art as her career, even if they stayed together.  I can project and predict all day, but it never accounts for everything.”  Emit chortled sheepishly.  “It’s almost embarrassing how many times I’ve had to go back and tweak timeline changes because I missed something.  And don’t even ask how many times I nearly negated myself out of existence over the years.”

“So, that’s why Orion and Iris don’t have the same descendants, either?” asked Boyd.  “Because they were even younger and there were things that could’ve happened in any number of different ways without affecting the greater timeline?”

Emit pulled out his almanac.  “Remember, Iris herself was a total surprise to me when you grew her.  But since she and her descendants didn’t impact my overall timeline project, I didn’t need to intervene if her line changed, especially if it wasn’t for the worse.  And Orion, all I needed was for him to survive long enough to have descendants and be who you raised him to be, a positive example of a Sixam hybrid that the world would remember.  Whether that’s as a genius scientist and engineer who carried on your legacy, or a crime-fighter, or a world traveler and explorer who dispelled ignorant stereotypes across the world, or even just as someone who used his alien powers to help others and made the world a better place in his own way.  Or any combination of the above.  The path itself wasn’t as important as the fact that he took it, so the details didn’t affect the big picture.  But they do affect his.”

“And what we saw last time was based on how they were then, not now, when any number of those details could’ve changed,” Boyd guessed.

“Something like who and when Orion chose to share the secret of who he really is to someone other than family would do it.  I just needed him to do it at some point, but when didn’t matter so much, as long as the results this far down the line were the same.  And Iris, well, she was influenced by all of you, including her older siblings, who all made small choices here and there that affected those closest to them.”

“So they could change again after we go back,” said Susan.  “You’re the only one who never seems to change.  Blair’s line, through either Chris or Travis.”

“And you still can’t tell us which, or what happened to the descendants of the other.”

Emit chortled.  “Like I said, I’ve learned to be careful about that.  I’m sure you have your theories anyway.  I just can’t confirm or deny them.  And you’ve got a fifty percent chance of being right.”

Susan exchanged a look with Boyd before turning back to Emit.  “Regardless, I think we’d like to meet the new descendants anyway.  Or at least see how they changed and how they’re living and doing.”

“I imagine they must be doing at least as well as the last ones, right?  We’ve only made more money and advancements since then, more for our family to inherit and benefit from.”  Boyd paused as that reminded him of their plumbots.  “Speaking of which, what about Plumboptimus and Cybelle?  Are they still around?”

“We designed them to last indefinitely, so…”

“No.  I’m afraid not.”  Emit loaded up a file for a quick reference, then closed it when he noticed Boyd and Susan peeking over at the almanac.  “Hey!  There are spoilers in here I can’t let you see.  But without saying too much, they did stay with your family for quite some time.  Several generations.  But not this many.”

Boyd had caught a glimpse of the screen, which had their children’s and some of their grandchildren’s names on it as well as the plumbots and some names he didn’t immediately recognize.  “They didn’t go… rogue or bad or anything, did they?”

“Nothing like that.  Just time and circumstances.  Be proud of them.  They served your family loyally and faithfully until the end, and they were loved and appreciated by all of them.”

“I’m glad to hear that.  They are like family to us, you know.  Our robot children,” Susan said with a smile.

“I know.  But that brings me to another important change that I brought you here for.”  Emit loaded up another file on his almanac and grinned at Susan.  “You, Susan Wainwright and my great-to-the-eighth grandma, are now ensconced in history with a legacy statue.  You are known as the Great Philanthropist of your time, a generous visionary who donated a fortune to ensure that the future would be a better place to live.”

Susan gasped.  “I have a legacy statue?”

“Yup!  It’s right over in the park.  After I verified it wasn’t a blip and it was there to stay, I knew it was time to come and get you.”

She was almost giddy with excitement.  “Wow!  They made a statue of me, Boyd!  Can you believe it?”

“That’s great, honey!  You deserve it.  I’m so happy for you.  And proud, too.”

“I’m honored!”  Her heart pounded with excitement.  “But what about Boyd?  Not that I’m complaining, but it was his money, too, and all we’ve done, we’ve pretty much done together.”

“You signed the checks, you got the credit.”  Emit looked at Boyd.  “Sorry.  If it helps, your name is on the plaque with hers, at least.”

Boyd smiled.  “She makes a prettier statue anyway.  I’m fine with a notation.”  He was just glad they got the credit and not someone else entirely, like Emit told them happened in the original timeline with the Landgraabs.  He and Susan had always been a team anyway, and that kind of recognition meant far more to her than it did to him.  If only one of them could be the statue, he was glad it was Susan.  He squeezed her hand.  “Congratulations.  When can we go see it?”

“I’d recommend tomorrow, so you can see it in full sunlight and after a good night’s sleep in a dream pod.”  He paused, and then added, “Which I’d recommend, even if you’re not tired.  Your original anti-radiation treatment has long since worn off, and if you’re not going to get a new one while you’re here… well, at your age, the less time spent here, the better for your health’s sake.  You’ll be all right for a day or two, but I wouldn’t push it beyond that, even if you do stay well rested, nourished, and out of the wasteland, which I’m sure I don’t have to remind you would be a bad idea to go anywhere near.”

“Wasn’t planning to, even if there are a lot of fascinating wild nanites and other specimens out there,” Boyd agreed.

“The bot emporium always has nanites and such up for sale anyway.  And you can find them around here, too.  There are a few colonies right out by the solar farm.”

“We’re staying off the windcarvers and jet packs, too,” Susan added with a knowing look at Boyd.  “Right?”

“Maybe just one little spin on a jet pack.”


“We could do it together.  One last joyride.  We’ll stay close to each other and stay low.”

“You don’t even use the packs we took home, Boyd.”

“That’s because I don’t want the kids seeing it.  You think I want Orion zipping all over town in one of those trying fancy maneuvers when it’s hard enough to get him to not drive his motorcycle in bad weather?  At least the Galaxa has safety features.  And you know Patrick and Iris would have to show off, too.  Maria might not, but, oh, I don’t even want to think about how Chris or Tad might hurt themselves if they heard about it and tried.  They’re both clumsier than a herd of llamas in a china shop, even if they probably wouldn’t do it in front of their kids and inspire them to try, too.  Travis has a little more grace than his brother, but he does like one-upping him and Iris.  Blair and Cycl0n3 might be sensible about it, but then again, Blair does tend to think she’s invincible and Cycl0n3 might think it’s worth a calculated risk even being as old and out of shape as he is because, you know, a jet pack is really cool…”

“Speaking of old and out of shape, remember that you have a bad back that absolutely can’t take another fall, no matter how cool a jet pack is,” Susan pointed out firmly.  “I’d probably break something if I crashed, too.  No, Boyd.”

He sighed.  “That’s why we won’t go high.”

“You do realize your own rules should apply to you, too, right?  What if I was the one insisting on doing this and you were worried about me?”

“I know better than to think I can stop you when you insist on doing something, so I’d join you to help ensure your safety.  But I also know you’re a brilliant woman and have good judgment—”

“Then you should listen to me now.”

“—most of the time.”

Susan raised an eyebrow.  “Most of the time?”

“Everything has a slight margin of error that can result in the occasional miscalculation.”


Emit was amused by their playful argument.  “Well, I’ll leave you two to hash out the great jetpack debate, and I’ll see you in the morning.  Though I will say on a note of irony considering your age, that if you put it on youth settings, it’s pretty hard to hurt yourself.”  He waved.  “Good night.”

Boyd and Susan retired to the room Emit reserved for them in the community center, but while Susan had a sonic shower and changed for bed, Boyd got on the holo-computer instead of getting ready to turn in himself.  “What are you doing?” she asked after coming out of the bathroom in her new nightgown.

“Just looking up a couple of things before bed.”

“Let me guess.  Some of those names in Emit’s almanac?”

“Simwave was one of the plumbot names we considered when we were building Cybelle.  You saw it, too, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” Susan admitted.  “And Raul Wolff.  And probably, like you, I wondered if he’s someone Esme or Hilda might end up marrying someday.  But I didn’t see any more than that, and I’m assuming you didn’t, either, if that’s what you’re looking up.  Which I doubt Emit wants us doing given what he said out there about spoilers from our timeline.”

“Careful as he is?  If it was that big a deal, he’d have made sure we couldn’t find anything that significant on their holo-web before giving us access to it first.  He knows us pretty well.”  Boyd frowned.  “Besides, any detailed genealogy database with information that old is apparently all behind paywalls you need an account for that I, uh, haven’t quite worked out how to make without legitimate credentials from this time yet.  So, no.”

“Which I’m sure he was counting on if that information is on there,” Susan remarked dryly.  “He knows us indeed.  What are you looking up, then?”

“I know I probably shouldn’t, and it might be asking for trouble, but… when he talked about Orion, and how it didn’t matter what path he took as long as he took it—”

“Boyd!  You are not trying to find Orion or any of our kids on there?”  She groaned.  “You know that’s exactly the kind of thing Emit explicitly warned us against!”

“I know.  Ordinarily I wouldn’t, and I’m not looking for anything major, but…”

“But what?  No!  Stop!”

It was Boyd’s turn to sigh, and he closed the screen, looking back at Susan with a combination of guilt and anxiety.  “Why did he say ‘crime-fighter’ as one of those options?  Along with engineer and world traveler or explorer?  A thousand different hypothetical scenarios and he had to mention that one?”  Boyd’s brow furrowed more deeply.  “Orion’s not studying to go into law enforcement.  Or the military, and I hope he stays as far away from government jobs and databases as he can, forever.  But if that’s not what Emit meant, then I can’t help but worry… Susan, you know how he’s always had this idealized view of those crazy Golden Llamas, even after what they did to Blair.  Saying things like he knows they’re vigilantes but trying to do the right thing.  And you know how he is.  So I can’t help but wonder, and worry…”

“Whoa, Boyd.  Calm down.  Orion’s not going to run off and join the Golden Llamas.”

“Are you sure?  Because I’m not.  Think about it.  He’s got that same stubborn honorable streak Blair does, and while I’m the first to say it’s a credit to their character, it’s not when either of them get caught up in that something-to-prove attitude, which Orion has in spades.  And he thinks he’s invincible to boot.  Remember the mummy?”

“As if either of us are going to forget that,” Susan said on a mildly frustrated note.  “But I think you’re panicking over something Emit probably just said as a hypothetical what-if.  He’s seen tons of predictions and varied timelines that did or didn’t happen.  Yes, Orion might’ve done that in some timeline, but that doesn’t mean he’ll do it in ours.  Besides, Orion told us himself he wants to help run the lab after we’re gone, and that was the very first scenario Emit mentioned, him being a scientist and engineer who carries on our legacy.  But he never said which scenario would happen, and he certainly didn’t say anything about Orion being a Golden Llama.”

“No,” Boyd agreed.  “Maybe you’re right and I’m just overthinking it.”

“Since you already looked, did you find anything?  You might as well tell me if you did, so we can both deal with it.”

“All I saw was some general stuff we already knew or could’ve guessed.  Orion was the first Sixam hybrid known to the world as such.  I didn’t get to any specifics on how he came to be known that way.”  He chortled.  “You stopped me before I got past the most basic future Simpedia style article.”

She smiled at him.  “It’s probably for the best.  Though I’ll admit a part of me wishes I’d let you get away with it a few minutes longer, so we could’ve learned just a tidbit or two of forbidden knowledge.  Because then I could just blame you and be innocent of it myself.”

“Letting me do the dirty work, huh?  I see how it is,” he teased.

“I’m the Great Philanthropist.  I can’t have any stains on my reputation,” she replied wryly, and took his hands.  “But now let’s go to bed before either of us cave in to temptation and try to look up anything else we shouldn’t, okay?”

“Okay.”  He squeezed her hands back.

“And I’m guessing you didn’t get a chance to run any searches on Patrick or Iris or any of the grandkids?”

“Those would’ve been next, once I assured myself I wouldn’t have to worry about Orion turning into a Golden Llama after we’re gone,” Boyd admitted.

“Again, probably for the best.  And if I’m wrong and Orion does do that at some point, feel free to blip back from the other side and haunt him with a lecture about his reckless life choices.”  She smooched him.  “Now go and brush your teeth and change for bed.”

“Yes, dear.”

Once they were settled into the dream pod, Susan turned to Boyd.  “So, what should we dream about?  Do you want to dream together, or try solo dreams?”

“Let’s do one together for our first night back.  After a day here tomorrow, we’ll probably be inspired in slightly different directions anyway.”

“Sounds good to me.”  They looked over the list.  “So many choices.”

“Yeah, but a few I can do without.”  Boyd pointed to the option to dream about working out.  “That sounds more like a nightmare to me.”

“I don’t even want to do that awake,” Susan agreed with a chuckle.  “What about this one?”  She pointed out an option about dreaming about advanced technology.  “We could program a dream where we get to try all the stuff Emit doesn’t want us to.  Looking up our family, peeking in his almanac…”

“Toss in that jetpack flight you don’t want me taking, and you’ve got a deal.”

“All right then.”  Susan input the settings and kissed Boyd good night.  “Sweet dreams.”

“You too, honey.  See you soon in dreamland,” Boyd replied as they settled in, the capsule closed over them, and they began their dream together.

Offline Sonshine

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #348 on: April 18, 2020, 07:02:31 PM »
This is a little off topic, but I feel is still interesting:

This is for Cheezey and anybody else who will find this VERY interesting. I was reading an article about some cures for this COVID virus and one of the companies working on this is actually named H. C. Wainwright!!! When I saw that, I was thinking oh my word! There is actually a REAL scientific lab named Wainwright!! :)

If anybody is interested, here is the article.

Offline Cheezey

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #349 on: April 30, 2020, 03:58:14 PM »
This is a little off topic, but I feel is still interesting:

This is for Cheezey and anybody else who will find this VERY interesting. I was reading an article about some cures for this COVID virus and one of the companies working on this is actually named H. C. Wainwright!!! When I saw that, I was thinking oh my word! There is actually a REAL scientific lab named Wainwright!! :)

If anybody is interested, here is the article.

Normally I prefer to wait until I have an update to comment, but this made my day! :D

Sorry I only saw it now.  I know it's been a while since I updated, but the day to day stress of the virus situation and working during it has sapped a lot of my creative energy the past month or so. Thankfully my family and I are all fine, and we don't live in a hotspot area here in the US.  As for the story, I have been working on the next chapter and it will be coming, though, I promise. I haven't given up on the story.  Coming back and seeing this was a bit of a kick to the old inspiration, so thank you! Stay safe and healthy out there, everyone.