Hide And Seek


aura_icon.gif bf_cassandra_icon.gif wf_squeaks_icon4.gif

Scene Title Hide and Seek
Synopsis The ability to forget and just be children is a gift.
Date November 10, 2018

Cat's Crash Pad

She picked her way through the bedrolls, making sure not to step on anyone's special stuff. The little nook that was once a breakfast area was where her and mommy's sleeping bag was laid out. And she had just a little room there to keep her backpack. She fished her stuffed dog out of it and flumped back onto the sleeping bag to curl up there with a heavy sigh.

"I know, Bossum. I don't like it much here either. Ev'body's nice enough." She glances toward the main room, keeping her voice low. "Unca Kain's sad too. He a'ways looks like he's gonna cry. He don't even want to play wif radios." It, to her, is the biggest sign that something's wrong with Kain. "An' he said go 'way," she whispers to the stuffed dog, trying to not be sad. "He never telled me to go away before."

With space at a premium in the apartment that they’ve been deposited into, not exactly spacious or private, for the refugees from the war zone it's head and shoulders better than what they had before. Cassandra’s bed roll - an old red comforter that's been patched innumerable times with heavy twine and fishing string - had been placed near Elisabeth’s and Aurora’s, stuffed under the bar that originally separated the kitchen from the breakfast . Since jumping through a gate twice into alternate realities, the two of them were the only family that Cassie really had anymore, and dammit, she's going to keep up with them.

A soft knock on the door jamb heralds her appearance. “Hey there, Rory.” Cassandra’s voice swirls around as she peeks around the edge of the wall. “I know you wanted to go with your mom, but that’s grown up stuff.” Some places around here aren't a place for a little girl - even one as well-travelled as Rory. Cassandra steps over one bedroll, sidesteps another, and slides beneath the bar to sit, shaking the kinetic flashlight she had in her pack, the LED flaring to life, the little alcove warming a little from her presence. “How are you and Blossom holding up?” The little stuffed dog has been with the little girl through thick and thin, and is as much a part of the family as Cassandra is. “You want to talk?”

When she hears Cassandra coming, the little girl looks toward the footsteps. She scoots a little on the sleeping bag to sit back against the wall with her knees tucked to her chin to give Cass room to sit down with her. Blossom is held tightly in one arm where he dangles. Her little shoulders shrug up and then down just a little.

“Grown-ups get to do all the fun things.” Squeaks’ voice comes from somewhere in the dark and as a fake sulk. Mostly. This whole new world has all new things that need to be explored, but also it’s nice to have solid ground underfoot again. The boats are all wobbly with the ocean and her stomach still hasn’t decided if it likes the constant rolly feel or not. So laying in the dark, in a strange building, is the answer. At least for today.

The teenager, after speaking, sits up and squints at the flare of light. One hand lifts to dampen the glow until her eyes have adjusted. She’s really tucked herself away, crammed with a blanket in a little nest, well practiced habits that hold over from years of hiding. “Hi,” is offered to the pair, still kind of aliens in her mind, nice aliens and not the brain-eating kind, but then she’s an alien too now.

The mismatched shoe and boot Cassie has usually been found in since arrival are slipped off and placed near her bedroll, stocking feet padding quietly on the floor as she swivels and settles down next to Aurora, putting her arm affectionately around the six year old to give her a gentle squeeze. Squeaks’ silent arrival is noted, and Aurora can probably feel Cassie tense just a little before she realizes exactly who it is.

“Sometimes they do.” Cassandra agrees with squeaks, leaning over to tap the frosted cover of the LED partially closed, making the light a soft glow instead of a blazing beacon. “I'm sorry if we woke you up. Everyone’s off right now, and I thought it'd be best if I stayed here with you. Is that okay, Aurora?” She turns to the little girl, knowing Aurora had no choice in the matter, but likes to make her feel like she has some control.

“Grown ups don't always get to have fun - they also have to do scary things, and hard things. I know your mommy is going to do good things to help us get home safe.” Wherever that is.

In the softer light, Aurora looks at Cassandra, her little jaw firming up mutinously in a way that looks very much like her mother's. She hugs Blossom even tighter. Home is with Yggy and Unca Felix and Unca Lee. This place Mummy keeps saying we're going, where her daddy and grampa supposedly live, isn't home.

Hazel eyes swivel to where Squeaks emerges. She waves a little bit. Squeaks has been fun to play with when she's about. She's real good at hide-and-seek.

The hand that casts a shadow across her face relaxes as the light dims and she uses it instead to waggle her fingers at Aurora. She doesn’t add to Cassandra’s opinion — observation? — of how grown-ups are involved. At least she doesn’t say anything. Her face shows some thoughts of disagreement. They might do scary or hard things too, but they don’t always tell the younger parts of the group much either. And it’s hard to not know things.

Since that’s sort of a sore subject, and Aurora looks just as argumentative as the teenagers feels, she changes the subject. “I found new hiding places.” She turns, to motion in a general direction away from the sleeping area. She’ll probably not show off the best places, those need to stay secret right now, but the simpler ones are still really good. “Also there’s a whole lot to explore here still.”

Just like her mother. Cassandra has seen that look on Elisabeth’s face more times than she can count since falling in with her. Anything from being shorted in change at the market on the corner in Manhattan to being standing off-stage before one of her performances could trigger that determined expression. “I wish I had the answers to all your questions, kiddo, but you know I can just see the past and guess the future. She blows out a breath, looking over.

“The thing with Grown-ups…” Cassandra shifts to squeeze Aurora, pulling the reticent six old into her lap if she’s allowed, moving into a more conversational tone, her voice quiet, the lavender muting into a deeper violet - the one Aurora is used to when she tells stories. “Grown ups want to be…grown up. In charge. Most of the time they want to be the person who solves the problems. A helper, like Mr. Rogers said, remember?” She nudges Aurora, hearkening back to the times they spent on the carpet in Elisabeth’s New York apartment, watching PBS on her grainy black and white TV.

“It’s hard for grown ups to say that they can’t do something, and it’s even harder to say to someone that they love very much or want to protect.” She brushes fingertips through Aurora’s hair. “They don’t tell those people those things because it’s easier to just..not tell. Shh, to keep a secret.” She lifts a finger to her lips, making the universal *shhh* sound. “Grown ups are trying to keep those people from the hard things they’re having to face. And that’s why your mommy and Uncle Magnes and all those people who came with us through the portal are working so hard at what they’re doing. Even me. It’s why I talk with you and tell you what I know when I can.”

Cassandra sighs. “And I know I’m just talking, Rory…I hope I’m making a little sense.” she bends slightly, Aurora getting a tiny kiss on the crown of her head, the woman looking up to where squeaks is, giving her a nod. She does glance toward the pile of pillows opposite them in case the young woman would like to join the pair of them. “Can you tell us about them? Anything cool, like a window looking out underwater?”

Aurora allows herself to be tugged and settled into the proffered lap — it's a lap that's been hers since she was born. And Blossom gets tucked right down into her lap too, secure in her death grip on his somewhat woefully floppy body. Cassie can't see the effect of her words, but Aurora has a look on her face Squeaks probably knows well — she's listening, but it's clear she's more or less not buying it. For all that she's been exceedingly adaptable, she's still a really little girl. "Unca Kain isn't workin'," she tells Cassandra sadly. "He's sad alla time. And when I brought him a radio, he said go 'way."

Squeaks talking about hiding places, though, does draw the little girl's attention. "Are they good for hide and seek?" She's excited about that. "Are they high up?" That question sounds a little skeptical — she's kind of small for her age, and she's not real thrilled when they get too high above the ocean and peer down. That kinda freaked her out last time.

The look that meets the six-year-old makes it clear that Squeaks doesn’t buy it either. She doesn’t say so, wisely keeping her opinions to herself, but she doesn’t believe a lot of the reasons explaining why grown-ups don’t share information. Even in her world she ran into that wall of forced ignorance a lot, being told only so much as other people decided was necessary for survival. She complained then, too, but here — at least for now — she leaves it in just the shared look.

“Not high like last time.” She liked the thrill of leaning out over the ocean. After falling out of the sky and into the water, having her feet on solid ground and looking down doesn’t seem so scary to her anymore. But the teenager didn’t want to scare Aurora either, that was an accident. “I didn’t go down yet, it makes weird noises and it’s distracting. But there’s a place up… where you can get behind a wall. It’s real good for hiding.”

There's no explaining things adequately at this point. Cassandra knows what she wants to say, but it's not coming out right and the audience isn't very receptive. Uncle Kain isn't mentioned, but Aurora gets another hug at that. “Kain still loves you, peanut. He's just having to work through things.” She doesn't elaborate on Kain’s depression or the reason for it. Better to quit while you're ahead and not undo any talking she and her mother went through. And seeing Squeaks’ expression cements that view.

“You'll have to show her where it is, Squeaks. More hiding places are good for hiding and seeking. I'm too big to get to the good spots anymore.”

Aura looks a little worried but the reassurance that it's not like last time is good. "Squeaks finds the bestest hiding places," she says. "Even ones that big people can fit, Cassie!" She is earnest in her assurances — Cassie can't be left out of hide and seek! She tells stories too good to be left out! And then she pauses. "What kinda noises?" There is definite suspicion in the tone.

“Creaky noises.” Squeaks scoots forward a little, but doesn’t leave her place in the room. “And noises like when you stick your head under water.” She doesn’t seem that concerned, not for the sounds themselves. But the creaking and muffled sounds of ocean make it difficult for her ability to be used. Like trying to shout into a crowd, the extra noises are distracting. “I don’t think it’s bad stuff, just different.”

One of the things that Cassandra has noticed in her time between the planes is how well put together Squeaks actually is. And this isn’t meant as an insult in the least - the way that Squeaks is able to take care of herself, from her Bright point of view, is something to me lauded and commended, even though it’s just self-preservation to the extreme. “Try not to get too wet when you go exploring.” Cassandra warns with a smile. “The Tylenol I have only goes so far, after all, and I wouldn’t want to chance a cold in this place.”

She looks out over the darkened room with a soft sigh, playing with Rory’s hair idly as she thinks. “Some hide and seek would be refreshing. Getting out somewhere and stretching my legs. One thing that could be said about where we came from - at least we could run.” She misses running, and the rooftop course, as it’s generously called, barely lets her get up to a trot before she has to slow down to avoid the solar panels installed on the roof. “I’d love it if you could show us around sometimes, Squeaks. Seeing some of those out-of-the-way places might give us some access to things we might not normally have. Find us something to barter with.”

Creaking noises and underwater noises don't sound so bad. Aurora's learned to be very leery of things like scratching sounds. She investigated such a sound one time when they first got to the last place. She does not like rats! Mommy screamed almost louder than Aurora did that time, cuz mommy later told Aunt Izzy, 'Honest to God, it tried to mug us!' She has no idea what that means, but Aunt Izzy laughed a lot. She purses her lips and nods decisively.

"Okay. As long as no scritching." She clambers up out of Cassandra's lap to go tuck her beloved 'Bossum' into her backpack, and the dusts her hands off.

“I’ll kick the scritching things,” Squeaks promises. She leans back on her elbows to show just the kind of goal-punting kick she means, too. A good swift kick! If there are any rats, they’re going to know what it’s like to fall through open air and into the ocean.

Sitting up again, the teenager looks at Cassandra and Aurora. “Alright, Cassie can count this time and me and Aurora will go hide first. But.” She stands and holds a hand out to the littler girl. “We have to stay on this floor. No going other places right now.”

Cassandra laughs quietly as she pushes herself to her feet, running her hands through her hair and pulling it back over her shoulders. She uses her strip of flag that normally acts as her blindfold to tie it back out of the way, clapping her hands twice once she’s finished. “I like that rule. Can in add no getting inside things that might lock and get you stuck. I don’t want a repeat of when you were four.” She winks. No refrigerators especially.

Cassandra turns to look at the wall of the breakfast nook behind them, a faded poster advertising Paris hanging haphazardly from its nail. “I'll count to…twenty?” She glances over her shoulder expectantly. “That should be enough time to hide, right?”

Aurora reaches out and takes Squeaks' hand, holding tight to the teen while she nods solemnly to Cassandra. She remembers that — she was very scared. And then she grins, excited. "C'mon!" Bouncing on her toes, she is ready to bolt as soon as the counting starts.

“At least,” Squeaks answers. She’s already gently tugging Aurora along with her. Outside the door, she moves on tiptoes, directing the smaller girl down the hallway and away from the apartment. No need to give away their direction with slapping, stamping feet.

There’s plenty of places to hide that can be seen, but they seem kind of obvious. Little hollows between hallways and space beneath furniture that definitely work for small bodies but not really for grown-ups. But all of these are things the teenager passes up until they’ve gone pretty far from the apartment. With a finger to her lips, she points Aurora to a ground level spot, tucked into a corner where some old debris is stacked. There’s something there.

Letting Aurora uncover the hiding place on her own, Squeaks moves not very far away. The opposite side of the hall has some old cloth draped haphazardly over a wall of box-looking things, masking another hole tucked back behind everything.

The thought of hide and seek, of playing in a flooded world strikes Cassandra as oddly normal. The laughter and footsteps that trail off into silence as Squeaks and Aurora go to find their hiding places could be any house, in any part of the world back home. Here, it’s unique. Special. A memory to treasure of simplicity in the middle of the most complicated world she’s known.

Turning to face the wall, Cassandra starts to silently count, raising her voice so it can be heard when it gets closer to the end. “Eighteen…nineteen…twenty! Here I come!”

Pivoting on the ball of her foot, Cassandra turns to survey the halls leading off into the distance. With the caveat of ‘nothing that can close and lock,’ finding the pair should be easy, but knowing Aurora, and having a good idea of Squeaks, she thinks that assumption will be fairly difficult. A quick run through of the apartment’s hiding places - what few there are - turn up nothing. Every bit of floor space and even some counter and table-top space has been dedicated to sleeping areas. Some of their group are asleep here already, two of the rooms doors closed, a hanger on each one requesting to not be disturbed. The travellers were given one of the smaller apartments in the building - thankfully they’re able to all be together, albeit in confined circumstances. They’ve been through so much that it’s nice to have a familiar face to wake up to, even if it’s only a foot away from you with morning breath.

Leaving the apartment, Cassandra starts down the hall, her footsteps light. “I’m coming…~” She calls in a sing-song voice. “I’m going to fiiinddd you…” She giggles as she creeps along the hall, peering behind, beneath, glancing down halls for movement, stopping if something seems out-of-place or moving when no-one was seen there. She’s good at this…

She's six. Aura is not exactly the quietest kid when it comes to things that excite her, but hide and seek is all about quiet! And well… Wasteland definitely turned the little girl a good bit more solemn and willing to sit very still and hide when the need arises. She is smothering her giggles behind her hand as they tippy toe. She likes Squeaks very much! Tippy toe, tippy toe, waaaaay far from the apartment. Farther than Aura's allowed to go by herself, but she goes with Squeaks a lot. Still, even she hasn't seen this hiding spot before.

She drops to the floor level when Squeaks points and crawls over to it, peeking into the place to see what's there before she scurries in and secrets herself in a little ball in there, knees pulled to her chin and shifted to where she can just barely peep out to see when Cassandra comes.

If there’s one thing Squeaks will ever claim to be good at, it’s hiding. It’s what she did most of her life, mostly for fun but also good practice for the times it was for reals. She’s not a ninja like her brother, who cheats with his ability to make all noises silent, but she’s pretty quiet when she moves too all on her own. Once she sees Aurora find her way into the little nook, she squirrels herself away with barely a flap of the drapery thing.

Cassandra’s calls make her smirk and grin. Those tricks never work. The teen’s head tilts slightly at the voice, and a look bounces in Aurora’s direction and away again. She can’t see where the littler girl is hiding, but the motion focuses her listening that way for just that instant. If she could, she’d remind the six year old to be very still and silent. Her eyes focus again on the way way into her hiding place, she stays very still and quiet, ears straining to listen for approaching footsteps.

Those tricks may not work on someone as practiced as Squeaks, but they might just work on Aurora, who’s certainly giggling in her nook with hands covering her mouth. Cassandra has caught her many times like that, covering her mouth to muffle her breathing. The only thing that gave her a clue on where she was were the little things - bulges in curtains, a toe sticking out from beneath a bed, or a bit of skirt or shirt showing where it wouldn’t normally be. And it’s these things that she’s looking for now as she makes her way through the floor of the building they’re on.

Those usual bits that she looks for are absent, though, or very hard to find. This place is so lived in, so she changes tactics and looks for other things - scuffs on the floor, little tracks and the like. This place also has the advantage of only being a single floor, with a flow of traffic as people go from here to there, up to the libraries or down to the docks on the lower floors, so anything out of place that way might be best. She slows at the corridor that Squeaks and Aurora are down - of course she doesn’t know it - but slows, peering down there for anything that may be out of place, visibly pausing and listening before stepping out of sight around the corner…

Squeezed into the tiny little spot, Aurora does in fact have her hands both covering her mouth. But Squeaks found her a great spot, and nothing is sticking out this time. It's only the subtle shift of her weight on her knees where she crouches and rests on them that might give her away. Or a squeak of sound that she fails to stifle properly.

Shifting her weight is a precarious thing of easing from one side to the other. It’s moving slower than a glacier to keep from upsetting drapes or brushing against noisy things. Bare feet make the task easier, the sounds are subtle, but they don’t give Squeaks a better view than before. This isn’t the best of hiding places, especially if you want to make it back to the apartment without getting caught.

Her eyes focus on the spot where the drapes meet the floor. It’s a hard stare, like she might be able to see through the objects and know where Cassandra stands. Or what Aurora is doing. Or maybe an idea for a diversion… She could flick something down the hall — if she could find something.

Squeaks’ instincts are correct. After Cassandra went past the hallway she doubled back, along the hall she was walking down, to see if she could catch the pair escaping. Squeaks, being responsible, would have kept Aurora with her, and that narrowed the particular hiding spots down pretty well. Squeaks sees Cassandra rove by a second time, giving a look down the hall in particular - a hard look a the spot where Aurora is crouched, holding it there, before she calls out again. “Come out, come out, wherever you are!”

The little girl is all excited about the fact that Cassandra missed them! She went by! Ooooh! She's kind of vibrating in place now, waiting to jump out and yell 'surprise!' at Cassandra. Because… she might not quite have the hang of how this game is really played. Unca Felix always told her jump out and scare Unca Lee when he was It! Aurora peeks out — not very stealthily to be sure — to see if Cassandra has spotted them and freezes in place when Cass is looking her way! Statue! Gotta be a statue! But she can't contain the little squeak of a giggle.

Pressing her hands against the floor, Squeaks slinks backward with the careful movements of someone used to hiding. She’s usually way more patient in waiting, especially hearing those uneven footfalls with Cassandra’s mismatching shoes. But this is a safe place, it doesn’t have the drones buzzing around like the Wasteland, and that makes her feel comfortable enough to move more than she would have before. But she still tries to make as little noise as she can.

The teenager eases against the wall and makes small backward nudging movements. That drape is more in the way than good for hiding. She needs to peek out somehow. Her efforts pause when Aurora giggles — oh no! — and she flattens to try to snake her head out for a quick look. Maybe Cassandra’s too far away to hear it?

It wouldn’t be fair if Cassandra used all of her facilities to play hide and seek. After all, you don’t have people get better unless you give them a nudge towards success, now and again. Of course, she’s not going to let Squeaks and Aurora win if she can help it, but she’s certainly going to make them work for it. She can’t help but smile when Aurora takes the bait, more or less, when she peeks out and freezes. It’s enough for Cassandra to recognize that all-too-familiar face peering out from behind her pile of stuff.

“Uh oh!” Cassandra pivots on her booted foot, down the hall. “I think I see someone. Let me go and check right now just to be extra sure!”

The hall isn’t a blocked off hall either - plenty of room for Aurora and Squeaks to flee into the building beyond.

Uh-oh! Both hands clamped hard over mouth, the tiny girl has great big anime eyes as she looks toward Squeaks, absolutely giving away where the older girl hides as well. And then Cassie's going the other way! Whew! She didn't see us! Only when her former babysitter steps down the hall does she scramble out and stage whisper, "She din't see us! Run!"

Bright blue eyes follow Cassie’s disappearance then swivel to find the littler girl. Squeaks meets Aurora’s look with fake fear. That was way too close. When she’s whispered at, that makes her squirm free of her hiding place and shoot an excited look after the retreating woman then back to the six-year-old. “Shh,” she warns before she gently pushes Aurora to running. “Not too loud! Hurry, before she catches up!” Once the smaller legs are moving, she sets her own to running — well mostly. She stays just a step behind Aurora to urge her faster. Can’t let anyone get caught!

It's almost like a scooby doo episode, with the villain turning and looking down one direction while the heroes flee in the other, seemingly oblivious to whispers or footsteps. Cassandra knows, though - how can she not - and at the sound of whispers and footsteps she turns with the most surprised expression on her face. It's mainly for Aurora, of course!

“There you are! I'm going to get you…!” She calls with a laugh, moving down the hall that Squeaks and Aurora escaped down.

The squeal of delighted laughter as Aurora and Squeaks runs down the hallway the other direction is probably well worth the effort, bubbling as it does with genuine childish thrill of the chase. The little girl knows how this works! If they hide again or get 'home' before Cassie catches them, they win! "Run, run!" she urges Squeaks faster.

“Faster!” Squeaks’ own excitement isn’t faked at all. Playing like this only happened sometimes in the Wasteland, and she rarely missed the opportunity. She shoots a look over her shoulder to gauge at how close Cassandra is, then nudges Aurora ahead of her again. “Go! I’ll lead her away and you find that place.” The first place she showed the littler girl that was perfect for hiding that’s just outside the apartment place.

The teen slows a half step, but doesn’t stop. Aurora needs more space to get to that hiding place. She looks back at the woman just before hanging a hard right into an open, sort of empty room.

Cassie is close to the pair, but isn’t breathing down the girls necks close. A corner or two behind, though. Hearing that delighted squeal and laughter coming from her prey sends a surge of relief through her body, the tightness in her shoulders going down a notch or two. Everything’s been so damn serious for so long that hearing play - real play - happening, is just a godsend, and it’s probably a relief for the girls, too, not having to run from hunter-killer robots or Vanguard partisans looking to put evolved heads on pikes as warnings to others.

Stocking feet on well-worn and clean concrete floors don’t provide much traction, but Cassandra keeps up as best she can in a kind of shuffling gait, sliding around a corner and catching sight of Squeaks passing the hall where Aurora went. Logically, Aurora would be in front of Squeaks, so Cassandra keeps chasing the older girl, leaving Aurora in her hide completely safe!

Aurora nodnodnodnodnods to Squeaks and peels off down the other hallway, scampering quick. She's a little bitty girl, and the hidey hole is just Aurora-sized. She wedges her little body in there and peeps out, clapping a hand over her mouth and holding her breath when Cassandra goes right on past her. Hurry, Squeaks, hurry! she thinks, bouncing in her hiding her place. Aaaaaahhhhhhh! It's too exciting!

Bare feet do have a small advantage over those wearing socks, Squeaks’ feet don't slide and her toes offer a little bit of grip for fast turns. It all feels good and free to sprint and hear her traveling friends laugh. Now she's going to turn the tables and give Aurora a chance to get to the base! In the new room she pivots to press herself hard against the wall behind the door. Inside there's plenty of other places to hide, but this one means she can lead a merry chase and give her tiny partner in crime the signal to run all over again.

Down one hallway, over a hole in the floor, down the next, Cassandra runs with wild abandon. Sure, she’s watching out for people and obstacles as well as trying to keep her ears open for Squeaks, but it’s not working out nearly as well as she would have hoped. She does catch a flutter as the door to one apartment closes and quickly closes, bursting in with the twist of the old door knob, jogging to a stop to stand in the room with her back to the door, not looking behind, just scanning around. If Squeaks hurries, she’ll easily get out the door and down the hall - plenty of time to get home before Cassandra can catch her. Aurora, on the other hand, has a clear and easy path to victory.

Aurora, peeping out into the hallway to where she knows Squeaks is hiding this time, she waits until the bigger girl waves her out. And then at the same time Squeaks moves, the smaller child explodes out of her hiding space, heading straight back for their original position — home base! The giggles bubble out of her and float down the hall as she hollers, "SAFE! Hurry, Squeaks, hurry!"

As Cassandra passes her, Squeaks wastes no time in slipping around the door and back into the hall. “Run, run, run!” she calls after Aurora when the littler girl bolts from that hiding place, her own feet padding loudly as she runs after. She dares a quick look over her shoulder, knowing Cassie’s going to be fast behind in a matter of seconds. But her sprint is taking her straight for the home base. “I’m coming!”

Squeaks is fast. That’s one of those understatements that gets thrown out there, like saying ‘wow, that’s such a big thing’ when actually it’s not. In this case, though, squeaks is fast. Cassandra barely has time to pivot on the ball of her foot when the other girl explodes out from behind the door, and when she tries to run after, the socks cause her to sprawl, sliding face-first on the ground. Squeaks gets her head start thanks to that fall.

Cassandra grumbles to herself for a second before she pushes herself up to her feet and pursues as quickly as she can! Aurora’s almost certainly already made it back to base, but it’s Squeaks that Cassandra wants to catch now. “Chase chase chase!” Cassandra calls after Squeaks as they barrel through the halls toward their apartment, feet pounding on the well-worn floors, darting through and over obstacles that might be in the way. PEople sitting, people walking, are all darted around as the chase is taken up. Finally, in the distance is the door of the apartment, waiting. Safety for squeaks, a win for Cassandra if she can get the girl first!

Aurora might be more hindrance than help here, standing in the doorway of the 'safe' base, jumping up and down and clapping her hands, squealing excitedly, "Run, Squeaks, Run!" It's only as she sees the older teen round the corner in a tight turn that she herself squeaks and backpedals into the apartment, laughter bubbling over even as she trips on a sleeping bag and lands square on her little butt in the middle of the room.

It would be the perfect escape, except there’s an Aurora in the way! “Woah-look-out!’’ Squeaks’ voice is some cross between laughter and startled shrill as she rounds into the doorway and finds the six-year-old in her way. She frog-hops to keep from running over the littler girl, which is the best idea when they don’t move.

But Aurora did. So it’s not so great.

The teenager makes a strangled yell sound as she tries to change direction before she lands on her friend. Arms and legs work against each other, but she manages to twist and hop and belly flop on someone’s sleeping roll just inside of the doorway.

And with that dramatic dodge and tumbling landing in the apartment, Cassandra slows her pursuit, jogging to a stop in front of the apartment door, breathing heavily after the run through the building. One hand goes up to rest against the doorframe, the woman bending at the waist, taking in big breaths. “Jeez you're fast, Squeaks.” She leans off to peer at Aurora. “I'll get you next time, Rory. You did great hiding and evading. Primal, right?”

How do you do, fellow kids?

Uh-oh! Ohno! Squeaks comes barrelling at her and it's a comedy of flailing arms and legs as Squeaks dodges one way, Aurora dodges the same way, and there is a tangle of limbs and a pile of girls by the time they're done. The smaller girl at least, somehow, wound up on top… and Aurora starts giggling. "Botswarf!" she belts out on a belly chuckle. Because it's the baddest bad word she ever learned! She turns her head so she's nose to nose with Squeaks and crows, "We win!"

The teenager grins up at Aurora when the smaller girl goes all nose to nose. “We did! You’re primal at — ” Squeaks’ eyes get wide as one word catches up to her, and she presses her hands lightly to the six-year-old’s mouth, one right on top of the other. “Don’t say that where grown-ups can hear,” she warns with a conspiratorial look. Most of them probably aren’t going to know what it means, especially if it’s used out of context — it goes hand in hand with the slang she and the others from the Wasteland use — but maybe she can keep smaller mouths from slipping it into casual conversation. Just in case. Her hands fall away and she rocks her head so she can look up at Cassandra, still grinning. “You’ve got to be fast to find us.”

“Next time.” Cassandra promises, pointing at her eyes with two fingers, then at the two girls. A threat, it seems, although it's a well-intentioned one. Whether or not she heard or even understood the slang that Aurora used is left unsaid, but the reaction to said slang being used in front of a grown-up is noticed. Thankfully, she overlooks it, hoping to be painted as one of the ‘cooler’ adults.

“What do you say? Let's get some lunch, some water, and then try again? Best two out of three?”

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