There Are Cats, and Then There Are Cats

Rowan is busily polishing the counter, as if it had somehow offended him.

With a bright trill that is half meow and half purr, a small shape lands solidly before Rowan, directly in the middle of his freshly polished counter.

Rowan stops, and looks at the cat for a moment. "Are you going to stay there?" he eventually asks, the soul of highly restrained patience.

The cat's back arches, her nose lifts poignantly toward Rowan, her tail rises. "Mrrrt?" she demands.

Bryce walks in the front door, holding the door open for Justin. "So I really think a lighter oil would be better for the telescope," he saying to the Mage.

Rowan explains, patiently, "Because, you see, I was just getting to that spot." He waves absently at Bryce and Justin, but doesn't actually look away from the cat.

The cat sits down, puts her paws close together and *gazes* at Rowan.

Justin grunts, distracted, as he follows Bryce in. "We'll see," is all he says, before he suddenly waves furiously at absolutely nothing, as if trying to get rid of a flying insect. "Urg. Go -away-."

Rowan regards the cat for another moment or two. Then, he drapes the cloth over her head and goes to fetch another one.

Bryce looks amused in a sort of distressed fashion at Justin's antics. "Are you sure something didn't crawl into your ear or something?" he asks,
sounding dubious. He looks over at Rowan and Dali just in time to see the draping, and giggles. He waves cheerily.

The cat shakes herself vigorously to rid herself of this undignified ornamentation, licks her shoulder twice, and metamorphoses out of sheer feline indignation. By the time Rowan returns, there is a woman sitting on his counter, idly threading his washrag between her toes. "Hallo, all."

Justin gives Bryce an evil look, pulls out a chair, and slumps down into it. He then flinches backwards from the tabletop, swears in some interesting language, and swats the table.

Rowan starts cleaning around her. He misses no actual counterspace, getting quite close to her as he does so. He eventually even notices Justin. "Um?"

Bryce shrugs at Rowan, sitting down at the table across from Justin. He continues to watch Justin with an expression that waves between amusement and concern. "So what is it, anyway?"

Justin looks up, wiping the palm of his hand on his trousers, eyebrows arranged in a worried fashion. "Oh, hi, Rowan, Dali." He shakes his head at Bryce and crosses his arms across his chest.

Dali lifts her legs and scoots around to make sure Rowan can reach everything. "Justin, it's s'pposed to be cats that play with things that aren't there. You're honin' in on my turf. An' you don't even look like you're havin' fun with it, to boot."

Evenly, Rowan asks, "What are you slapping?" He casually wipes under Dali, around her, and then pushes downward on a shinbone when he's done.

Justin hunches down, shakes his head again. "Feel like the whole town is crawling with bugs," he mutters.

"See?" Bryce says, gesturing at Justin. "Bugs."

Dali says, "Bugs, hunh?"

Rowan removes his first cloth from Dali's toes. "I don' see any bugs."

"I don't either," Justin admits, waving away another unseen something.

Bryce's curiosity starts fading, replaced more and more by concern. "So what /do/ you see?" he asks now.

"If I came and stood real close to you," Dali suggests seriously, her toes
curling and attempting to retain the last corner of the rag, "could I feel them, too?"

Justin blinks at Dali. "I don't know. I suppose we could try. Or perhaps you could come to my house; Mrs Jameson and Miss Nat are convinced there's an infestation of rats."

Rowan tugs on the rag, though not very hard.

Dali tugs back with her toes. "I could come over to your place and stand very close to you?" she suggests.

Bryce turns to address Dali. "I've been walking next to him for a few minutes, but I haven't felt anything..." he trails off at Dali's next suggestion. He just stares at her in a manner that says he can't believe she just said that.

Rowan tugs in a slightly different direction, and apparently completely ignores the byplay.

Justin says, thoughtfully, "Maybe, but Bry--" and then he stops speaking, turns red, and eyes Dali, mouth quirking into almost a smile, but not quite.

With a small twist, Dali wraps her foot in the rag to give herself better purchase, giving Rowan less room to maintain his grip. "Well," she acknowledges, "if you already have Bryce standing right next to you, you probably don't need me as well."

"I was gonna say," Bryce says slowly, getting his voice back. "That I haven't been all /that/ close to him." He eyes Justin with some trepedition.

Rowan says, wrapping the cloth around one finger to better secure it, "Why? Does he smell bad?"

Justin narrows his eyes at Dali and Rowan both, who are conveniently close enough to each other to manage it. "Well, you never know, Dali, you and

Bryce together might be much more helpful than Bryce alone," he says, sweetly.

Dali throws her head back, gurgling with laughter. "I don't know if Bryce would want to collaborate," she says, grinning. She attempts to grip Rowan's wrist between the toes of her other foot, though they won't quite reach.

Rowan, having as he does two hands, reaches his other hand out, one finger experimentally moving up Dali's sole. Ticklish?

Bryce, showing his reluctance to be involved in such a colaboration, actually scootches his chair in a direction away from both Justin and Dali. "No, he doesn't smell bad," he answers Rowan absently. "But I might get swatted, and I really just don't feel the /need/ to get that close to him."

Justin raises his eyebrows at the two shifters' behaviour. "Uhm, are we intruding?" he asks, delicately. He then smirks at Bryce. "I do hope not, unless there's something you really should be telling me."

Dali traps Rowan's finger firmly between her foot and his wrist. Ticklish. Almost certainly. To Bryce she says, "That's fair. I mean, if you feel a need, you'll know. Justin, seriously, what's up with the delerium tremens? You don't seem like the type."

Rowan, even while his hand is being trapped, looks blankly at Justin. "Huh?" He has, meanwhile, lost his grip on the cloth.

Bryce shakes his head at Justin and gets up, heading warily towards the kitchen. "Nah, you already know all of my dark secrets," he says, then sets about finding something to eat.

Justin shakes his head and waves at Rowan in a 'forget about it' fashion, rather than an 'oh my god bugs' fashion. Then he -does- wave in that latter fashion, ducking as if being dive-bombed by a hornet. "Dammit! Bloody things. I don't know, it's like things are scuttling around in corners."

Dali releases Rowan's hand, unwinds her foot, and pushes off from the counter, landing lightly on the ground. She stalks over to Justin and does, in fact, stand quite close, crouched so that her eyelevel is about even with his, but there is no flirtation in her manner now. "Is it seeing? Or feeling on your skin, or what?"

Contrary to his manner earlier, Rowan actually pays quite close attention to Justin now.

Justin meets Dali's eyes, and shakes his head again. "Not feeling, not in a touching sense. More as if I'm almost being touched. By something I don't want to touch." He grimaces. "And that there's things I can almost see, but only when I'm not looking at them. And they're...just..." Flexing his hands, he concludes, "-gross-."

Safi steps into the diner.
Safi has arrived.

Rowan frowns faintly, anstracted. After a moment, he says, "Fuckin' A, we got visitors close by."

Safi comes in twisting water out of her hair. "Visitors?" she asks.

"Hunh," Dali says, straightening up. "Well, maybe /getting/ drunk would help." She turns to look at Rowan. "You mean Safi? Or somethin' I should cue up the scary music for?"

Rowan says, tightly, "The scary music. There's been an increase in banes scouting the Umbra, and I /think/ we got a couple around here. I dunno, though, it's cutting in and out."

Bryce wanders back into the diner from outside with a glass of water in one hand and a sandwich in the other. Lord knows why he needed to go outside to complete his sandwich making, but he did, and he's back now. He once more waves cheerily at everyone. "What?" he asks brightly.

Safi shakes her head minutely. The girl's expression is uncharacteristically worried, dark with foreboding. "It is bad. The wild spirits, they are afraid."

Justin looks relieved when Safi arrives. "Rowan, what's a bane?"

Safi glances to Rowan as well, curious to hear his answer.

"That's ok, so'm I." Rowan has gone from surprisingly relaxed to alert and ready in just five seconds. "Bane's a spirit of Corruption. Umbral. Can you focus in on 'em, or are they just gonna keep pokin' at you?"

Justin blinks at Rowan, then up at Safi. "Spirits. Well, I'm not the spirit expert here, but." He leans down to whip open his backpack and start rooting around like a dog after a favorite bone.

Bryce frowns a little, walking slowly back over to Justin's table, though he doesn't sit down. "Spirits? Ephemeral emenations? Have they materialized into physical form at all? I'm no DS expert, but Grandpa told me a few things about 'em."

Rowan says, tightly, "DS?"

Dali steps away from Justin, and, apparently without thought, slides up into her near-human form, as though in a parallel to hackles rising. She prowls through the room, touching things here and there, listening to this conversation.

Anderja has arrived.
Miklos has arrived.

"Dimensional Science," Bryce explains to Rowan. "Lets you see things in other dimensions, I guess. Or go there."

Safi glances toward the door, and then steps back toward it; she opens it as if to look around outside, and then draws back swiftly. Her eyes are vague, before they manage to focus again.

Rowan regards Bryce as if examining something uncomfortable, and then shakes his head. "Haven't manifested. Hence why Justin's got the non-DT's."

Justin comes out with a clean white candle and an old-fashioned brass candleholder, the kind with a loop for your finger. He draws his knife and starts delicately carving something into the candle with its tip, concentrating on this to the exclusion of all else for a few moments.

Through the open door behind Safi, two pale figures emerge. "I beg your pardon," says a velvety baritone familiar, at least, to Rowan. "Are we intruding?"

Rowan remains tense. But he says, affably enough, "Nah, come on in, set yourself down."

Safi takes several steps back from the stranger, eyeing them guardedly as she moves aside. Her eyes are veiled, and in an unusual shift, her expression reveals little.

Bryce looks up at the voice and the people who have come in. He tenses a bit when he recognizes Miklos, but he nods and waves politely at him and his companion nonetheless. He doesn't speak, though.

The two men step across the lintel of the doorway and into the warm light of the Diner. The first, elegant in burgundy and black, is a head taller than the frail and beautiful boy who trails in behind him.

Miki follows his brother into the cafe, looking around at the faces of the people in the Diner; something about the way he holds himself, perhaps the familiar grip of his fingers on the doorframe, suggests that he's been in here a few times before. His eyes flick to Dali first, as the most familiar figure. When he sees Bryce, Justin, and Safi, his eyes widen, just a bit, and he steps a little closer to Anderja, slightly effacing himself.

Justin glances up, peers at the two pale young men. "There's two of you," he observes, bemused. "Hello." Finished with his carving, he wipes wax crumbles off his blade and off the candle's surface, and fits it into the candleholder. The knife goes back into its sheath.

Dali looks over sharply at the two new arrivals, her too-large eyes lamp-like in their scrutiny.

The Dancer says, "Make y'self at home," to both of them. "Pay when y'can,
as y'can. I," he adds, with a slightly predatory gleam to his eye, "Will be back in a bit." That said, he disappears into the curtained off room. Which has a mirror in it.

Bryce just keeps eating his sandwich, not saying anything. He peers curiously after Rowan when the man leaves and looks at Dali, hoping for an explanation.

"Mirrror," Dali tells Bryce, her slightly mis-shaped mouth putting a cat's complaint into the word. She shrugs her narrow, supple shoulder.

Safi steps over to Dali, keeping a wary eye on the strangers as she does.

The older of the two smiles and inclines his head to Rowan at his combined invitation and leavetaking. Then he turns his pale eyes to the assorted occupants of the room. "How do you do," he says. "Two of us. Yes. Does that mean you have met my brother?" He rests his hand on Miklos's shoulder without looking around at the boy.

Miki glances up at Anderja at the touch of his brother's hand, then drops his gaze again. His long-fingered hands, usually so still, absently fiddle with one of the ties on his vest.

"Yes, we've met," Justin replies, with a faint and distracted smile in return for Anderjas and his brother. "He's quite a good exorcist." For a change, he actually digs out a matchbook and strikes one of the matches, lighting his candle. "Forgive me, but I need to--" As the wick catches and the flickering little light rises in intensity, he glances around, eyes widening. "Oh. Dear."

Safi glances worriedly to Justin. She seems a little off-balance, her eyes strange and touched with wildness.

Bryce just looks more confused at Dali's answer, but just shakes his head and turns back to Anderja. "I don't know if you could say we've been properly introduced, but I've certainly encountered him a few times," he says, all polite cheer. "My name is Bryce." His attention is quickly taken by Justin's comments. "Uh, what is it, man?"

"Magic?" asks Miki in a low voice, his eyes wide and interested. He leans a little forward, clearly unwilling to move from under his brother's hand, but still wanting a better view of whatever Justin is doing.

Anderja's fine white brows lift. He moves to one side slightly, allowing Miki to stand before him, closer to the spectacle of the mage and the candle. "Spheres," he says softly. ", I think. Am I right, sir?" he asks, raising his voice only by a fraction.

Justin rises slowly, candleholder in hand, lifting it so its light can reach a maximum radius. "Yes," he murmurs, eyes still wide, gaze jumping from one spot in the room to another. "Yes, you're correct. I can see spirits this way, although I can't do much more." He shakes his head in wonderment. "Look at them all. There must be five or six in this room alone."

"Apparrrrently," the cat-like woman says, almost sounding disgusted, "there's *thingsss* all around us. Isn't that suppowsed to be your field?" she adds to Miki.

Bryce's widen and he carefully sets down his drink and sandwich and gets to his feet. "Uh, they can't really do anything to us, can they?" he asks anxiously, and looks around the room.

"They are... mostly creatures of madness," Safi says softly. "Small ones. There is... they are all moving. Places to go. They have not done /much/ harm, but..." Her eyes are downcast, unfocused, and she stands with both arms wrapped around herself, a thoughtful frown darkening the usually open features.

Miki looks at the cat-woman with no small amount of alarm. "Um," he says. "There /aren't/ any ghosts in the room. Some other things, yes, but..."

"But," Anderja says in mild surprise, "why do you worry about this room so particularly? They are everywhere in this area, you know. The little not ghosts? They are not truly present," he adds reassuringly. "Not in this world."

Justin suddenly laughs, startled. "Rowan's chasing them around, too." He sits back down, moving slowly, and occasionally flinching at something. "I don't," he tells Anderja. "I've been twitchy all day, and so have the folks I'm living with. I'm not any good at dealing with spirits; you've just seen about the extent of my repertoire. If you say they're everywhere, I'm not surprised. Where the hell did they come from?"

Miklos bites the knuckle of one finger thoughtfully, perhaps pondering Justin's question. A few locks of his hair fall into his face, but he ignores them, his gaze flicking around the room like a cat's, watching invisibles.

Bryce looks relieved at the news that the...things, can't get to him, and
amused that Rowan is on the job, but he's still got an underlying tension to him. He sits carefully back down and resumes eating.

"Come, Miki," Anderja says softly, and he tugs out a chair for his brother. Pulling out a second for himself, he sits down at the table adjacent to Justin's, and regards the man seriously. "Does the town have enemies?" he asks simply.

Safi slants a look over to Justin. "Maybe the bad place," she murmurs. "The Hive."

Dali snorts, but offers no actual information. She returns to prowling the room.

Justin blows out his candle, then sighs in relief when he can no longer see the things. Then, of course, he has to restrain himself from shooing one of them away. "From what I understand, we do," he replies softly. "But I can't give you much more than that. Dali?"

Safi, too, look over to the woman. Her eyes are still touched with strangeness, intense.

Bryce looks between Dali and Justin and Safi. "Uh, Hive?"

Sitting down obediently, Miki still seems somewhat distracted, if not by the invisible presences, then by the visible ones. He fixes his attention on Justin as the least threatening and the most likely to convey information.

Dali hitches herself up onto the edge of a table, drawing her legs up beneath her. "I'm sowrry," she merls, eyeing the two pale newcomers without any evidence of rapport. "Who did you say you arre?" There is a definite note of irony in her voice, even beyond what the cat-like vowels can account for.

Miki gives Anderja a quick ironic sideways glance, a single spark of knowing rapport.

"Hive," Anderja repeats, understanding. He shakes his head regretfully. "I am sorry to hear that." He lifts his eyes, focusing on the Nunda again. "Majlath Anderja," he says politely. "But perhaps that does not truly answer your question. Certainly, we have no intention to pry, if these matters are- private."

Safi looks to Miklos. "And you?" she asks. "You deal with--ghosts? Someone said?"

Justin keeps his silence, letting others deal with things for the moment, and listening and watching intently.

Bryce immitates Justin, just sitting and listening. His attention is focussed, on the conversation if not on any one person.

"We both do," Miki says proudly. "We, um, we call ghosts out to cease haunting. We work together," he adds, with an oddly subdued note to his voice.

Dali closes her mouth over her sharp little teeth, and lets Safi carry the conversational ball this time.

Anderja inclines his head, a small corroboration of his brother's explanation.

Safi purses her lips slightly, and tips her head. "But you see spirits, also, yes?" Her odd accent is a little different from their own.

Miki twines his fingers together into a tight ball on the table, and bends his head to look down at them. A few locks of hair fall forward, but not enough to hide his face-- his mouth is tight with holding something back. He does not look at his brother at all. "Yes... yes, I can see other spirits. But they are not, you know, usually my business. And they are... fainter than ghosts."

Safi frowns, studying Miklos silently with those strange eyes.

Miki looks up at Safi, his eyes widening, and essays a smile. "Many people can see spirits," he says. "It is not a gift... unique to myself."

Anderja watches his brother, and only after Miklos has found his way through his own answers does he add, lightly, "Miki has a great many talents."

"Like becoming a bug-magnet?" Bryce speaks up suddenly. His voice is very
carefully sarcasm-free.

Safi answers the expression, her own smile a slightly unpracticed expression.

"Fft." The noise Dali makes is so soft, it may be missed entirely. "And you? You got tarlents, too?"

Anderja smiles at Bryce, an expression like cool sunlight breaking through winter clouds. "He surprised you, perhaps." To Dali's question he pays no attention at all.

Unlatching his hands, Miki examines his fingers carefully. "I can... call things. Not *just* grasshoppers." The tone is light and playful, as is the smile he tosses to Safi.

Bryce smirks at Anderja. "Damn right he surprised me. Though if I may be so smug, I think my surprise was the better one."

Anderja's eyes widen ever so slightly. He looks at Miklos, then back at Bryce. "Why, how marvelous," he says sincerely.

Safi chews on her lower lip, nervously. "What did you do, Bryce?"

Miki gives Anderja a slightly shocked look and shakes his head slightly.

Bryce frowns now and scratches his chin. "I tried to keep something a secret, and was rather enthusiastically found out by Rex. He was kind of upset when I disagreed with him on the origins of my shifting ability." He looks kind of embarrassed for having brought it up in the first place, now.

"Ah," Anderja says, and aroused interest and comprehension makes the single word almost a purr. He slides to his feet, and steps toward Bryce, pale eyes alight with curiosity. "May I?" He reaches out one hand toward the younger man.

Miki draws a few circles on the table with his fingers and adds, in his light, rather sweet voice, "He also got upset about the gun."

Bryce shies away from Anderja, looking suspiciously at the man now. "May you what?" he asks bluntly. At Miki's reminder, he once again looks embarrassed. "That was an unfortunate mistake on my part."

Justin could not, apparently, be happier than to sit there and watch the interplay. His arms are folded loosely across his chest and his eyebrows look interested.

Dali growls softly but audibly in the back of her throat, a pointed reminder of just how unfortunate a mistake that truly was.

Safi steps back slightly, leaning against the wall. She, too, watches with those odd eyes of hers.

"May I see," Anderja says lightly, and he sinks to one knee beside Bryce's chair, giving away whatever advantage height might bring him. "It will not hurt a bit," he adds, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth, his tone almost teasing. His eyes are half-lidded, dimming the intensity of their interest. Resting one long, white hand on the arm of Bryce's chair, he looks up at him, waiting - hoping - for some kind of permission.

Miki watches this scene with great interest and perhaps a small smile at one corner of his mouth.

Justin glances at Bryce with an encouraging 'go on' sort of expression.

Bryce still looks confused as to what exactly Anderja wants, and grows more uncomfortable as the man gets closer to him. At first he shies away more, but then starts looking annoyed. "You," he says carefully. "May back off. Just a few feet, that's all I need." He takes a deep breath, getting ahold of himself, then says more politely. "Maybe you're not familiar with the concept of personal space, but I'd appreciate if you didn't get so close to me. And no, you can't see. I'm only supposed to change if it's life or death."

Miki's eyes get very wide and he looks from Bryce to Anderja, gauging reactions.

Safi blinks at Bryce's strong reaction, and watches carefully.

"Oh, I would never ask you to change," Anderja says in that velvet voice. And a moment later - how, exactly, is not at all clear - he is, precisely, a few feet away from Bryce. Certainly, he did not stand up and walk there. Light dances in those clear-water eyes. "Miki," he says, without looking away from Bryce. "Go home. There is business for you there. I think you know what it is."

Justin is mildly disappointed that Bryce won't submit to being experimented upon, but the little Technocrat's reaction is almost as entertaining. Fun for the whole family.

"Anderja," says Miki protestingly, getting to his feet in an awkward rush. "I--"

Dali sldes off the table and takes a step or two toward the intense little tableau, lips skinning back from her teeth.

"Ssshhh," Anderja says, as though soothing a child. "All will be well, little one. Go. Now."

Safi's eyes narrow at the exhibition of authority; her attention turns to Miklos, to watch his reaction.

Bryce blinks at his request being so suddenly granted. "Uh, thanks," he says quietly, watching the strange little scene between the brothers with wide eyed wariness. He glances at Justin as if to make sure that he's seeing it too.

Justin does indeed see it, and shares a glance to that effect with Bryce.

"But--" says Miki mutinously, then looks at his brother and visibly loses courage. "Yes, Anderja." He miserably turns and makes his way out of the Diner. Although his footsteps are silent within the building-- as they are habitually-- a scuffling sound just before the door closes suggests that some of his emotion is being dealt with in a typically adolescent fashion.

Safi follows him out, swift and resolute.

(Outside: Miklos scuffs one boot moodily along the ground, his face oddly calm for all the tense lines of emotion strung through his body. After a moment, seemingly unaware of Safi following him, he tosses his long hair back and says, "Well? Do I have to *walk?*" The answer to that is swift and immediate: he vanishes.)

With Miklos out of the way, Anderja turns the full force of his attention back on Bryce. It is unnerving for most people to be stared at by anyone. A stare from this exquisitely sculpted face with its ice-colored eyes would be difficult for almost anyone to endure for long. There is no apparent malice in it. Indeed, there is no emotion in it apparent at all.

It doesn't take long at all for Bryce to become /really/ unnerved. Oddly enough, this time he seems to respond by relaxing more, slumping down into his chair. He looks up at Anderja with a kind of lazy grin. "I just wonder, Mister Anderja, if you have any idea how creepy you are? You're /really/ good at it."

Anderja's eyelids droops with amusement. "Oh, yes," he says softly. He holds one long-fingered hand outspread toward Bryce, and then he swings it slowly away from him. In the next empty chair beside Bryce, a shimmering begins. "Oh, yes," he says again.

Bryce sits up when Anderja makes his gesture, his feigned good humor disappearing. He bolts up from his chair when he sees the shimmering begin. Curiosity wins out over fear and anger though, and he throws Anderja a glare before returning his attention to the empty chair to see what's going to happen next.

Justin sits quite upright, his back and broad shoulders tense, snapped out of his slouch by the appearing shimmer. He snatches his staff from where it leans against the wall and draws a breath, but winds up holding it without speaking, watching both the chair and Anderja to see what will happen.

Anderja's hand sweeps on in a slow arc. In the next chair, a new shimmer begins, and then the next. By the time the fourth starts, around the table and now on the other side of Bryce's chair, the first shimmer has attained a clear form. A figure sits in the chair that is unmistakably Bryce...and yet not. The hair is thicker, longer, the features sharper, the joints looser. Beside it, the second shimmering form, across from where Bryce was sitting, has started to take on form, like a body made of reflections from water, vast, hulking a glimpse of a nightmare seen through cobwebs and mist.

Bryce's eyes first widen and then narrow as he realizes what's going on. "Cute," he says, clearly thinking the trick is anything but. He folds his arms across his chest, looking defiant. "So finish it. Go on," he says to Anderja without turning to look at him.

Justin, realizing what's going on, turns to Anderja and begins to speak--but stops when Bryce does. He casts a puzzled glance at Bryce, then looks back at Anderja, and finally stands leaning on his staff, watching. If Bryce is going to let the man do it, he's not going to waste it.

Anderja drops his hand and turns his eyes back to Bryce. "It finishes," he says. And so it does. Between the shimmering war form and the empty chair, a vast cat-like shape crouches, heavy jawed, shaggy, full of gray-lit, transparent menace. Beside it, in the last empty chair before Bryce's own, a silver-shadowed cougar shape is crouched, its head turned as though to look at Bryce. The forms are still, unalive, just images, and as soon as the fourth comes into full detail, the first begins to fade. Soon there is no more than a trickle of distant light, pooling, evaporating...gone.

Bryce watches until the last of the images fade. "Nice," he says at last. "You make me look even creepier than I really am." He finally turns around to face this creepy fellow. "But even though I said no, you did it anyway, so not only are you creepy, you're rude, too."

Justin is utterly entranced by the different forms of Bryce as they appear. The massive warform and sabre-tooth get small and subtle shudders out of him, but they're just illusions, and he keeps watching. When the images fade away he sits back down, slowly, his eyes unfocused. He also absently waves away a nonexistant pest.

Anderja straightens up. "I apologise," he says smoothly. "You refused to shift for me, and you asked for space. I thought I had granted you your desires." He turns away, meticulously replacing both his chair and his brother's as they were before he entered.

Bryce frowns with annoyance. "Did I somehow communicate to you a subconscious desire to have illusions of my other forms, two of which I can't actually change into, spread around the diner here? Because I sure as hell didn't /think/ that's what my desires were."

Justin adds lowly, "It was intrusive, sir." He looks up at Anderja over the tops of his glasses; for the moment, he's avoiding looking at Bryce.

"I do beg your pardon sir," Anderja says. Slowly he turns his head and lifts utterly unreprentant clear-cold eyes to meet Bryce's. Far, far in the back of those eyes there is a glimmer of something which might be amusement. "I must have made a mistake," he says steadily.

Bryce returns Anderja's look with a dubious one of his own. "Uh-huh," he says in a tone to match. He holds the look for a moment more, then breaks it off to look at Justin. "I'm not hungry anymore. I think I'm going to go for a run. I'll see you later." His curt farewell given, he strides out of the diner without another look at Anderja, but his posture is clearly tense and angry as he walks. Once outside, the sound of his running footsteps can be heard disappearing quickly down the street.

Justin rises again as Bryce leaves, as if he might call him back, but doesn't. He turns to Anderja, brow furrowed in a deep frown. "Unkind," he says, stiffly. "Why did you do that? The boy has a right to his privacy."

Anderja drifts a step closer to the mage. "Was it unkind?"

Justin lifts his head, gaze on Anderja's face, eyes gaining a glint of steel. "You know very well it was. You have not answered my question."

Anderja dips his eyes, then raises them again. "Perhaps," he says with light repentence. "Perhaps it was. Perhaps," and his eyes catch Justin's again, "perhaps I need to learn better what it is to be kind."

Justin's mouth thins, and he flushes. Slowly, but it happens. He turns away abruptly from Anderja. "Perhaps." He picks up his backpack, slinging it over one shoulder. "Fare ye well. I'm sure we'll see each other again."

"I'm sure," Anderja says softly. And he watches Justin until the mage is out of sight.