What I Did On My Summer Vacation

A compilation of shorter logs
August-September, 2010
Participants: Aleksei, Timo, Derek, Linus
Summary: Various summer activities


"So, here's some directions. And bring your board."

Linus had been talking to Aleksei this morning, and it being Saturday and actually a nice day for the moment, the San Angeles native hit upon an idea. He was finding himself trying to think of ways to acclimate the Russian immigrant to the area before school kicked off, and something he remember hit him, and Linus Tate figures out exactly what to do for the day.

Which is why Linus can be found at the south entrance to de la Vega Memorial Park, backpack over one shoulder, leaning against the wall surrounding the park with yet another large bottle of fruit punch, waiting…

Aleksei shows up a little early, the boy packing his board in one hand and gear in a shoulder gym-bag. He waves, seeing Linus at the gate, and walks over to the other teen. He looks different, until it's noticed he's not wearing his glasses, but rather contacts apparently. "Hello, Linus, thank you for inviting me.." he says, looking around the skate park. "This is wonderful, wow, it's much bigger than the one I used," he says, giving a low whistle of appreciation, then smiling back at Linus.

"I thought you said you boarded, so I wanted to show you a good place for it," Linus admits, indicating the paved paths through the park by using his punch-holding hand. "They really don't have much of a newbie's guide for people who just moved here, so I took it on myself." He smiles for a moment. "Glad you like, and for some reason everything's big. Even the trees," he says indicating the redwoods.

Aleksei is already looking up at them, almost stumbling as he turns, big shoes getting in the way. The teen blinks in the bright summer sun, and turns back to Linus, clapping him hard on the shoulder, grinning. "Thank you, my new friend, that is most kind of you," he says, looking eagerly at the paths and half-pipes. "What should we do first?!"

"Whatever you want," Linus says. "I didn't have any dastardly plan other than showing you here." He just has a drink and a backpack; he doesn't carry a skateboard. "I also have an autographed DVD from the other night, from Ashleigh Grove, who Timo was interviewing for the paper after the signing." He starts heading towards the skate park, ready to sit and watch. "You live here, now. You occasionally run across famous people." For him, it's not…major, but Linus was born here.

Aleksei wows, looking at Linus, and suddenly grinning foolishly. "Thank you, it is good to run across friends," he says. "Thank you, I can't.." He blushes. "Thank you, it means a lot." He hikes up the bag and ambles towards the main part of the skate park. "You do not have board with you? Are you not going to skate?" he says.

"It's all right," Linus replies, feeling a touch guilty. Am I trying to buy friendship, he wonders. Or just protecting people? He lets out a breath as he shakes his head. "Maybe some blading, but I'm still wobbly with that. I've never been on a board in my life." He lifts his shoulders again. "But don't worry about me. This is your show today."

Aleksei snorts, punches Linus in the shoulder lightly. "We get you up on board, dah?" he says. He sits on a bench and makes sure his shoes are on tight, then takes pads for his elbows and knees out of the bag and slips them on, checking them. Then the helmet. That's new and he's not sure he likes it, but they won't let him skate here without it, he knows. He stands up and beams back at Linus, taking up his board. "You watch me, you see it so easy," the youth grins, and trots off to the nearest half-pipe, then hops in. He zooms down the incline, up, oooover and hangs, then down again, back and forth. He is pretty good, after all.

"Uh…" Linus doesn't look at all confident, in comparison with Aleksei, when it comes to himself actually skateboarding. That's as far of an answer as he gets before Aleksei is off, and the kid mystic watches the other kid prepare, and then he's off. Linus sits, legs dangling over the edge and nursing his drink as he watches, and he lets out a whoop as Aleksei nails it. "Nice!"

Aleksei waves at the top of his arc, goes back, swings through the concrete bowl several more times until he lightly hops up on the rim and steps off the board like he's stepping off a curb. "Not bad," the Russian kid says as he looks the thing over, then back to Linus. "What you say? I put you on board, push you over?" he grins, clearly teasing. He taps the board, flipping it up and catching the rim. "Is nice place, very much. Thank you for showing me around."

And Linus is content to watch, just enjoying himself, soaking in the last rays of summer before the monolith of school comes to shade things. At Aleksei's question, all Linus manages to do is make a strangled noise at the idea of just getting on and being pushed over. "Look, maybe another-" He's cut off as Aleksei keps talking, and he grins. "It's no problem. I think there's a hot dog cart at the north side, if you get hungry. A lot of the park is…useful for meditation, or relaxing."

Aleksei flashes another smile as he teases Linus, then gives him a nod. "Oh, that is good. I have not had an American hot dog yet," he says. He goes back to the bowl, then spends several more minutes on the half-pipe, before rejoining Linus. He sits down to take off his pads, and skins out of his sweat-soaked shirt, taking a towel out of the bag to dry himself off. Finally, he rubs it through his hair and snatches a clean t-shirt out of the bag to squirrel into. "Whew. Yes, I am hungry now. This is almost only thing I do well, like that. It is more balance, than anything." And it's strangely close to the same muscles and reflexes he uses when flying, so it's something he's come to like.

"DOn't sell yourself short," Linus says, standing up, pointedly not looking directly at Aleksei as he changes clothes. "You're probably good at a few things. But it's balance. I'm just not sure of my own." He tilts his head to the side, waiting. "Whenever you feel like going."

Aleksei stands once he's done, tossing a smile at Linus. "Is only sports thing I am good at, really. Baseball, I am no good at. Football, that was embarassing. Track, I am too slow. I cannot even get up rope. But this, is good," he says, looking and sniffing. "Hot dog is.. this way, yes?"

This gets Linus to chuckle. "Then on the way," he says, leading Aleksei off. "I will give you all the warnings you need about gym class."


Aleksei has never been to a beach. Russian beaches, what few they are, are rocky slabs of sharp rocks and forbidding gravel. The ones that aren't frozen, that is. So, slathered with sunblock and wearing purple board shorts, he's exploring the beach here in California, looking hesitant and amazed at the same time. He's also wearing around his neck a leather cord with a semi-translucent orange stone, like a bit of amber. Right now, he's waded out about knee deep into the surf.

Derek isn't covered chin-to-toes in heavy, dark clothing! In fact, he's almost unrecognizable in his dark gray, knee-length shorts and short-sleeved shirt of navy and white stripes. Though he bears the darker tone of his Mediterranian heritage, his exposed skin is still woefully pale compared to all the bronzed surfers around him. With his ever-present backpack hanging off one shoulder, he shuffles along in the hot sand, eyes hidden behind dark glasses and an unruly mop of hair, which he keeps deliberately covering hard of his face.

Aleksei splashes, walks out of the surf, and promptly almost runs into Derek as he heads back to his staked-out bit of beach demarkated with blanket and umbrella. He's a slight kid and he simply flinches to get out of the way. "Sorry," he says with a thick accent, adjusting his glasses. "Still I am clumsy here, so much sand!" he says, a shy quirked smile showing to the other teen.

Derek jerks to a stop, clearly startled by Aleksei's sudden appearance from the churning surf. "Dude," he mutters, looking over the top of his shades at the younger teen. "You swim here alla way from Russia?" His lips quirk in an almost-grin, as he looks Aleksei up and down.

Aleksei brightens. He looks maybe a little younger than Derek, his form slender and just starting show some thin muscle. "Nyet, but.. you recognize accent?!" he says, his smile now bigger. "Unusual. Most people seem to think I am German. Again, sorry I run into you," he says. "I brought, um, 'cooler' if you want soda?" he says, pointing to the area where he's set up.

Derek slowly turns his gaze in the direction indicated, then shrugs. "Uh, sure, okay. And yeah, Russian's easy to recognize. All those Cold War spy movies, right? Plus my dad's got a lotta Russian friends from back east, so…People think you're German? Weird. German's a real ugly language, don't you think? All consonants and glottal stops. Russian's not nearly as bad. It's more rhythmic, I think. French though, don't get me started on French. They sound like they've got a mouthful of mashed potatoes when they talk."

Aleksei leads the way and plops down on the blanket, opening the cooler and rumaging for a Coke. "Is interesting, your father having Russian friends. Not so many American friends we're having," he says. "What does he do? My father, he works for university." He smiles as Derek says this about the French. "Not meeting so many French; they don't tend to holiday in our area. I've met some in the chalets, though, on school ski trips."

Derek takes a quick look around, almost as if he's afraid someone he knows will discover him being friendly, then slowly kneels on the edge of the blanket, dropping his pack in the sand. "He's in…uh, construction," he mutters, pushing the shades back up the bridge of his nose. "Your school had ski trips? Man, that's awesome! Only school trip I can remeber was to a zoo, way back before the quake. That and museums, which are dull as hell. Who cares if a bunch of cavemen invented music by beating logs with bones? If they really wanted to teach us the history of music, they'da taken us to the Hard Rock, before it was destroyed."

Aleksei pops open his own soda, drinks some. "Skiing, snowboarding, some museums too. We have, well, a /lot/ of museums but most.. eh, they fall out of favor until they get better exhibits. Only so many times can you show the Glorious Peoples Farming films."

Derek chuckles softly, relaxing just a bit, as he peers into the cooler. "No beer, huh? Guess it's too early for that anyway. Somebody might see." He helps himself to a Coke, then looks at Aleksei again. "I'm Derek. How long you been in California? Are you visiting, or do you live here now?"

Aleksei actually blushes a bit, embarassed. "Um, no, no beer. I'm too young," he says. "Oh! I am Aleksei," he says, offering his hand to shake. "Good to meet you, Derek. I am living here now, for.. ah, six weeks, on Father's visa until the papers come through."

Derek gives Aleksei's hand a puzzled look for a few moments, then quickly gives it a good shaking. "Your dad's at the university? Like, a professor? I bet he's always on you about homework and junk, huh?"

Timo comes wandering up the beach, stepping out from between a couple trucks parked in the parking area. Nobody saw him go between the trucks on the other side, but there really isn't anybody watching to notice his sudden appearance. He's wearing a tank top and swim trunks. As he spots Derek, he steps over quickly, greeting both him and the stranger, "Hey."

Aleksei is sudenly on veeery familiar territory. "Ach! He is, always, 'why are you not as good as your brother?', 'why did you get a C in this?'. Father is a phycisist," he says. "At Moscow University, he was the head of the entire physics program; here, he is a researcher." He looks up as Timo approaches, noting the looks and such. "Ah, you two are knowing each other. I am Aleksei," he says to the stranger.

Derek gives an involuntary shudder. "Yeah, my dad's the same way about my brother, except it's not schoolwork he cares about. Sports. Just because Gene can catch a football, then plow through all the other muscleheads, my father thinks he's the best thing since sliced bread." Then he looks up, and another almost-grin, this one even bigger, greets Timo. "Yo, Timo. Aleksei's from Russia, where the schools take trips to ski chalets and have vodka in the drinking fountains. Cool, huh?"

Timo grins and gives a wave to Aleksei, "Hi. Yeah, as he said, I'm Timo. Nice to meet you." He grins and says, "Ski trips would be cool. Dunno about the vodka though." He then adds, "Did I hear you say your dad's a researcher? What's he working on?"

"It is good to meet you, Timo, and no, no vodka," Aleksei says. "Ah, he is working on something about um quantum fluctuations in string theory something; it is mostly over my head. I barely got through algebra."

Derek looks blankly at Aleksei for a long moment. "I got no idea what you just said, man, but it sounds like something outta Star Trek, which all went way over my head, too. He's not messing with dark matter at the McKinnley Accellerator, is he? 'Cuz that stuff's dangerous. Really dangerous. Like, it could turn you into a…er, ghost or something."

Timo blinks, and then nods a little, "Yeah, sounds way complicated." He adds then, "I'm pretty good when we do physics in science class, but nowhere near that kind of stuff. Mostly light refraction and stuff."

"That is problem! Neither do I!" Aleksei says at the 'got no idea' line. "My kid brother, he inherited the brains, apparently." And while he has some time left, it's kinda obvious that Alek isn't a sports prodigy or anything, so what does that leave? "I am sure he deals with dark matter, too. Who knows?"

Derek shudders again, this time more visibly. "Trust me, you're better off not getting mixed up in all that physics stuff," he says, though it's unclear whether this is directed at Aleksei or Timo. Possibly both. "Even light refraction and stuff could be dangerous, I bet. We should all go back to the days when scientists were mixing up love potions and trying to turn lead into gold. A lot safer."

Timo grins and shakes his head to Derek, "No way. I bet tons of fires were started with those kinds of experiments, and back then they could bring down an entire town. Nope, I think it's safer now. Especially with the heroes around to stop things if they go bad."

Aleksei nods at this. "Dah. I do not think I would like it very much, back then." He fingers his glasses. "I would probably be mostly blind servant, if I even lived to grow up."

Derek rolls his eyes behind the shades. "I didn't mean go back in time to the olden days. Just…I dunno, dial science back a little. Do we really need to be making black holes and Big Bangs in blenders?" He shrugs a bit, taking a long sip of Coke. "Plus turning lead into gold would be a lot cooler than mashing up atoms and looking for quirks or quarks or whatever."

Timo shakes his head to Derek, "Of course they do. They need to find a way to travel faster than light and stuff like that. I mean, even the speed of light is pretty slow when you think how big space is. And medicine too. Things like that. And, if it wasn't for experiments like that, they'd probably still not have a way to keep supercriminals in jail."

Aleksei nods at this, looking back and forth between Derek and Timo. "I have to agree with Timo. I want them finding cures and making bigger TVs and such," he says with a shy smile. "It is better, overall."

"I guess," Derek says, not sounding entirely convinced. "All I know is, it's the last week of summer, we're on one of the best beached on the West Coast, with sunlight and killer surf and all these babes in bikinis, but we're sitting here talking about science and physics and other school stuff. Are we just the biggest nerds in the world, or what?"

Timo blinks at Derek's words and says, "Last week? It's only the sixteenth, we still have two weeks to go, plus a few days probably. Anyway, you're right, though. I came, anyway, to swim." He gives a grin.

Aleksei laughs a little. "I am never seeing a beach before, and the women.. um, is a little overwhelming. I went to all-boys school, so seeing this many and all at once is.." He drinks more of his Coke. ".. is a little weird," he says, almost blushing again. He laughs. "Swimming in the ocean is still strange, too; thankfully for the pool at school or I wouldn't even know how."

Derek glances around quickly, his cheeks tinging just a little with red. "Yeah, I went to an all-boys school, too. But always spent the summer on the beach, so it's not like I never saw girls. You guys wanna swim or something?" He finishes his Coke, turning the can upside down in the sand at the blanket's edge. "I'd rather swim in a pool, too. Fewer sharks. But the ocean's cool, too."

Timo blinks, looking between the two, "Wow, two people who're so unlucky. Not that I would've cared before I started high school anyway, but still." He nods to Aleksei and says, smiling, "The ocean's great for swimming. In a pool it's all so still, in the ocean it's more… natural, I guess, I dunno."

Aleksei quirks an eyebrow at Derek, just a touch, curious about the boy's reaction. Still, he looks to the ocean when swimming is mentioned. "Dah, I could do more of that, yes. I cannot get over how hot it is." He finishes his own soda, and wipes his mouth, gets up, ready to go back into the water.

Derek casts a look toward the ocean, then shrugs a bit and pulls off his sunglasses, stuffing them in a pocket of his backpack. "Unlucky how?" he asks Timo, shielding his gray eyes from the sun, as he gets to his feet.

Timo grins to Derek and says, "Stuck in a stuffy all-boys private school." Then he nods and pulls off his shirt, dropping it by Derek's stuff as he grins and runs ahead, out into the water.

"School uniforms. I am glad I do not have that anymore. I can wear T-shirts all the time, now," Aleksei says, as he follows the pair, splashing out into the sea until he can float and paddle, looking like he's having a wonderful time in the surging water.

Derek looks a little self-conscious as he strips off his own tee, dropping it with the rest on the blanket. "All boys wasn't the problem," he tells Timo, once he's caught up to him in the water. "Having nuns for teachers though…You have no idea how lucky you were to have regular people teachers. Don't miss the uniforms either." He playfully splashes at Aleksei, then dives beneath the surface, re-emerging with his over-long hair plastered to his face and neck. Without his baggy shirt, he doesn't look quite as scrawny, his body having more than a little muscle tone, though not much bulk.

Timo, on the other hand, is scrawny. And small, giving him a look of someone younger than he actually is. He dives under a moment as well, swimming a short distance, then surfacing for air. "Well, I don't know about that. You should've seen my grade six teacher. Made Snape seem cheerful." He's assuming both of the others know the reference, obviously.

Derek unconsciously rubs the back of his left hand, murmuring, "I dunno, I think I'd prefer Snape over Sister Mary Augustine." Then he suddenly grins, eyes alight. "I remember I went to a Harry Potter movie once with some friends, and the first time Snape appeared on screen, I pointed and shouted, 'The Voice!' Then I hadto go to confession and admit I'd seen Dogma. And laughed. Cost me six Hail Marys."

Aleksei is not from such a backwater that he's not seen movies! He recognizes both of them, and laughs when he recovers from being splashed, and treads water. "We did not have nuns, no," the boy says. "Nuns are pretty scarce, still. I loved those movies, Kevin Smith is great," he laughs.

Timo blinks, looking to Derek, "Dogma? Never seen that. But sounds cool if it made the nuns mad," he adds with a laugh. He looks to Aleksei and asks, "Why're nuns scarce in Russia? I mean, any more scarce than they are here. I don't think I've seen one since the refugee camps after the Quake."

Derek playfully splashes at Timo this time, though he's aiming well below his face. "I was only six when it came out, I think, but I snuck into a theatre to see it. Didn't get half the jokes. But I got it on DVD, so you should come over and see it sometime. You too, Alex." He doesn't seem to notice that he's shortened Aleksei's name to something more 'American'. "We can stay up late, eat popcorn, and watch all the Harry Potter movies, too."

Aleksei doesn't seem to mind; his little brother Fillyp is already 'Phil'. "I'd like to do that, yes!" he says, trying not to sound /too/ eager; he's missed having friends. Even the old friends he talks to on the net are no substitute for flesh-and-blood people. "I saw it last year, on a bootleg DVD. Harry Potter, though, we get in theaters." He splashes around, enjoying the novelty of this. "Under communism, no churches; since I've been born, though, more and more come. Mostly Russian Orthodox, though."

Timo blinks at Aleksei's words, "Wow, really? That seems kinda… weird. Why would they care if there was churches?" He looks back to Derek then and nods quickly, grinning again, "Yeah! That sounds awesome!"

Derek brushes long, wet hair from his face, looking thoughtful for a minute. "The nuns told us about it in history class once. Communists are all godless heathens, see, so they hadta outlaw churches. I think Groucho Marx said that religion is like opium or something. And the Eastern Orthodox Church does Easter different from the Catholic Church. Plus they deny the Pope is infallible. Not that I believe it myself. I mean, he's a man, right? I don't care how many funny hats he has, he's not God." This last is said in a whisper, barely audible over the surf, lest a nearby invisible nun overhear and thwack his knuckles with a ruler.

Aleksei quirks a smile but isn't about to correct his new friend. "Something like that, yes," he says to Timo. "The Communists did not want the church to interfere with them, but they could not stamp it out, not nearly. Now, such things are coming back," he says. "It is so very interesting, being in your country. I'd been to Germany, Sweden; other Western democracies, but it is.. different here."

Timo nods to the explanations, more Aleksei's clarification than at Derek's though seems to make sense. He then says, "Oh, well, glad things are better now." Then he nods to Derek and says, "My family's catholic, but even my grandparents don't think the Pope can't make mistakes. At least, the Pope we got now. John Paul, though, he was different."

Derek nods quickly, eyes lighting again. "Oh yeah, John Paul was definitely different," he says, almost reverently. Seems his general disdain for his religious upbringing doesn't extend to the previous Holy Father. He casts a glance toward Aleksei then. "So are you Orthodox? I dunno if they've got any churches here in San Angeles, but I bet they do. There's just about every kinda church here. I even saw a Satanic one once, but it was really more like a little storefront than a proper church, ya know?"

Aleksei ahs, hmms, "Honestly, Orthodox perhaps but.. my family has never been particularly religious. Mother, more so; we go to church with her, sometimes. But mostly, not so much."

Timo swims underwater again for a moment, coming back up fast to splash at Dererk a little with a laugh. Then he looks back to Aleksei and says, "Yeah, I hardly ever go anymore either. My mom stopped after the Quake, so my grandparents don't make me anymore. I believe and stuff, just…. church is so *boring*."

Derek tries to duck Timo's splash, but botches his savings throw, actually diving -into- the splash, instead of away. Sputtering a bit and laughing softly, he swoops his hand through the water, sending a spray at both other boys. "I dunno what I believe anymore," he says. "But I go to Church religiously. You know, only on Sunday, plus confession on Wednesdays. Just in case, ya know?"


Aleksei is enjoying these last days of summer at the beach, since he's never /seen/ a beach like this before except in movies. So, pale skin lathered with sunscreen and sporting some new purple board shorts, the slender kid is camped out here in the sun and fun, a portion of the beach staked out with a blanket, umbrella, and small cooler.

There's enough sunscreen going around in late summer on a Southern California beach that the entire place probably has that coconut scent. And Linus Tate is no stranger to it; his complexion practically begs for SPF numbers that have exponents attached. Still, he's got a chilled six pack of soda cans in the plastic ring holder dangling from one hand while his backpack and towel are loaded over the opposite shoulder. He's scoping things out behind sunglasses as he makes his way down the beach, and skids a little as he spots someone he does know, just lying there.

"So," Linus says, putting his stuff down slowly. He's already claimed beach area since he knows the guy. "Found the place that sells swimsuits?"

Aleksei looks up and then smiles, seeing one of the few people he knows, again. "Linus, yes, they have these!" he says, pointing to the surfing shorts. "They look good, yes?" He opens the small cooler. "Here, your sodas will get hot otherwise. You are here to swim?"

"Looks fine," Linus says, mostly non-commital as he spreads his towel out, using his taken-off shoes as anchor points against the breeze, and settling the cans down next to his bag. "We've got a little time before the school year kicks in, and I wanted to just get out for a bit, you know?" He sits, arms hugging his knees. "Considering it. Swimming, I mean. How about you?"

Aleksei pushes his sunglasses up into his shaggy hair and looks out at the expanse of sand and ocean. "I am just looking right now. This is.. totally new to me. I have been coming out as much as I can, just to see it. I.." He suddenly blinks, jaw drops, and tries to conceal it, rubbing his chin and trying to look non-chalant.

"You've never seen a beach before?" This is something that makes Linus think for a moment; he's grown up here, so life sans beach is an alien concept to him. Hie head turns to the side, towards the Russian guy, and takes note of the look. "What?" he says, turning his head to try and see what Aleksei's staring at.

Aleksei blinks, blushes a little. "Ah, no; most beaches anywhere near Moscow are dark, stony, and cold. Not that people do not go to them, but seldom to swim, and nothing looks like this, with all the sand. And.. Um, I was thinking 'I need to come out before winter sets in' and then I realized you do not have winter here?" he says, admitting to the faux pas. "It would have sounded foolish, yes?"

"Is it foolish?" Linus asks, un-hugging his knees to stretch his legs, and uses his hands to plant himself into sitting up without a chair. "I mean, you come from an area that you just said was cold, and known as wintery in popular culture. And you moved here what, a month ago? You're allowed a margin of adjustment, Aleksei." He flashes teeth at that. "Winter…well, it does get cold sometimes, but what someone like me would consider cold, you might disagree."

Aleksei smiles back. "Probably yes, I am thinking," he says, relieved Linus isn't going to make fun of him. "There is a lot to absorb, and we moved so quickly that I barely had time to look up things on Google. I mean, I've seen a lot of TV and movies set here, but I think it is not so much like the real thing."

"I should," Linus says, grabbing a soda to idly move it from hand to hand. "One day, I'll look up old movies that are about your country. I think there's that…filter, you know? Cultural divide, where one country's perception of another place isn't quite a match for the reality. It goes both ways, it sounds like." His lips quirk. "America's not perfect, and we're not all for war and conspicuous consumption and…waste. Mostly." Beat. "Sometimes." Another beat. "Sometimes we really suck."

Aleksei flashes a smile. "We were slaves to crazy people for the last fifty years. I think we suck a little more than you," he says, reaching for a 7-Up and cracking the top. "We have a long way to go, yes, before people really trust us again?"

Instead of non-colas, this time, Linus has Dr. Pepper in a six-pack. He doffs his shirt, already well and truly dosed with sunscreen. He came prepared. He still moves his can around, unopened, yet. He's more focused on the conversation. "A long way? Beats me. That all came and went before I was born."

Aleksei is already shirtless, showing a trim chest just beginning to fill out a bit. "Thank goodness, yes. From what my mother and father say, they make us all grateful of this. My grandfather and great-grandfather, even worse. They had to put up with Stalin." Even here in the sunshine, about as far away as one can get from that area, Aleksei gets a little goose-bumby, thinking of the stories his grandfather told…

"I'll believe that," Linus finally answers, and pops the top on his soda can. It fizzes a little from the pre-opening movement, but he doesn't seem to mind. "I'm sorry if I offended," he adds. "I heard some of it in History class, but not nearly as much as a first-hand account like your family."

Aleksei shakes his head. "It is not offensive. The Germans, they bear the burden of what their leaders did. So do we. Our country will be decades recovering, if it truly ever does," he says, stretching out on the blanket and looking up at Linus. He flashes a smile. "Do not fret; it is, um, water under bridge."

There's a quick grin in answer to the last question. "Exactly," Linus replies. "Oh, you have my info now? Because if you come across something culture-wise you're not sure of, give me a ring. A lot of…turns of phrase could be taken the wrong way by someone who grew up anywhere else, and you already seem terrified of making a mistake." He takes a long drink. Ahh, cold and wet. "I've got some friends you should meet, too. Decent people." People! Oh wait! "Did…you talk to that girl? From the mall, after I left?" Something was strange about her, and Arcane was curious.

Aleksei nods and holds up the small cell phone that's stashed on the side of the cooler. "Dah, all right here. As for her.. ahh.." He props up on his elbows. "She was very strange, it was.. she wanted something with meat but not, um, cooked. I thought she was playing joke on the foriegn boy, but then.. she was either serious or she is actress. I beleived her, at least. I made my apologies, and left. I was.. unsure of what to do, and she scared me a little."

"She wanted raw meat?" This might be something Linus will bring up to his long-dead ancestor, next time the ancient Witch-Hunter comes a'calling. "Okay, that is strange, and especially if you're out by yourself…I'd have done the same in your place." He considers that. "If you see anything else weird, keep me posted? I'd love to say that everyone here has my sunny, non-sarcastic disposition." He's joking here; he loves his sarcasm. "But there's some real messed up people out there."

Aleksei tries very hard to keep that 'I've got a secret' smile off his face, and nods, sipping his cola instead. "I will. She was.. strange, and not just.. made-up strange." He flashes a smile at Linus' joke. "I can see. I will call, yes."

"No sweat," Linus replies, drinking more of the soda before laying out on his towel. Mostly so he can hide any 'I have secrets' looks from the Russian kid like so many Americans before him. "So…okay, school. Beach. Mall. What do you do, Aleksei?"

Aleksei turns on his side and props up with one elbow so he can look at Linus. "Ah, so much I did before was winter sports; I ski, snowboard, things like that. In mountains here, though, you have this. Skateboard, um, play video games. I, um, like to read. A lot," he says almost sheepish, admitting this to another guy.

"There's a few places in the mountains, in this state but way north, where you can ski. Or you can check out Colorado if you get the itch." Linus just seems content to just hang back, though his head turns. "I know a few good skate parks, though I'm…bad at it." Still, he'll go hang out. "What do you read?" Here, his interest perks up. Me Nerd Like Books.

Aleksei's smile turns a bit shy. "Comics, mostly. But lots of science fiction. My father is a physicist and he has many, many old and new science fiction books about, a lot of them in English."

There's almost a gleam in Linus' eye at that. "Old? Like Aasimov? Saberhagen?" Apparently, he knows his things. "I've been addicted to Peyton's Therian series lately, too." He rolls onto one side, resting his head in one propped arm. "I…some comics. Some gaming." Pause. "Actually, a lot of gaming. I'm a nerd in a clever disguise." He couldn't hold it up forever.

Aleksei smiles at Linus. "Yes, yes, Clarke, Pohl, Sturgeon, and new things, too. I have read that series, yes!" He looks down at Linus, laying there. "I have several boxes of comics. Not so many video games, though." He pauses. "You hide it well," he chuckles.

The redhead's face splits into a grin, as he sees a kindred spirit…that he doesn't think is socially malajusted. Considering some members of his gaming group, that's a godsend. "Yes, oh yes!" he exclaims. Someone he can talk to! "And…well, I hide, but it doesn't work. I will warn you, keep your head down in school. We have bullies, and the geeky types are their preferred prey."

"Ah, so IS like Russia, then," Aleksei says. "You are pleased, yes?" he says about Linus' outburst; he's smiling, though. "I am good at keeping my head down. Talk about sports or something, dah."

"So you're already further ahead of the game than I am," Linus said. "I'm going to suck it up and deal, this year. If I like dice-rolling and Mountain Dew, I shouldn't have to hide." He chuckles. "I love how they call me a geek when half the jocks can recall pro sports stats from three years ago. So hypocritical."

"Oh, I have never done the, what-you-call, Dungeons and Dragons. I did play some Drakar och Demoner with a few friends, until the guy running it had to move. I have no done it since," Aleksei says.

Linus is so going to look into that name when he gets home. "Yeah, I play it a bit. I have a group, like me. Kind of. I have a few others who are interested, Timo and Derek, so I might run something for new people…" The people he looks forward to seeing. He flops back down on his towel in that train of thought. Guilty. "Glad I asked that question all of a sudden," he says. "We didn't get a chance to talk much outside of I'm sorry I knocked you over' the other day."

Aleksei blinks as Linus mentions these names. "I.. think I have already met them. Derek is kind of moody and Timo much less so?" he says. "It is.. interesting coincidence?" He pauses, processing that look Linus gives, then: "It is OK, the mall was pretty loud and crowded. We could not have talked like this, much," he says.

Linus is so going to look into that name when he gets home. "Yeah, I play it a bit. I have a group, like me. Kind of. I have a few others who are interested, Timo and Derek, so I might run something for new people…" The people he looks forward to seeing. He flops back down on his towel in that train of thought. Guilty. "Glad I asked that question all of a sudden," he says. "We didn't get a chance to talk much outside of I'm sorry I knocked you over' the other day."

Aleksei blinks as Linus mentions these names. "I.. think I have already met them. Derek is kind of moody and Timo much less so?" he says. "It is.. interesting coincidence?" He pauses, processing that look Linus gives, then: "It is OK, the mall was pretty loud and crowded. We could not have talked like this, much," he says.

"He said while at the crowded beach," Linus comments with a sly smile. "Still, it's all good, and yeah, those two. Wait, they mentioned me?" He muses on that. Did he make an impression? "Derek's a nice guy, but a little cynical. Timo seems to balance him out, they seem to be a team." Linus doesn't feel anything negative about that; he only met them a few weeks back, after all. "We all go to the same school, too. So you'll see them around."

Aleksei flashes a smile. "Oh! Cool!" he grins. "This is one of the first times I've ever looked forward to school," he says. "It will nice to already have friends there. I will be in clique, yes?"

"I'm…not sure," Linus whispers, barely heard over the beach wind. "See, I have people I usually hang around, but…I just met you and Derek and Timo. And Leigh, but she's all with the popular girls, but when she's by herself she's nice. And that Andy girl…" He sits up. "And what if it changes when we go back? I have to not say hi to Leigh in the halls, for instance, or the jocks will stuff me back in the locker. And maybe, just maybe, I want to get to know you guys better instead."

Aleksei mms and nods. "I will, how you say, have your back? They will not do this." The youth seems pretty confident, at least. "It is too bad you will not be able to talk to her, but I have seen this before."

"I guess that some things about schools are universal, no matter the country," Linus comments, feeling his shoulders slump a little. "I have your back, too," he adds, almost quiet. He turns, cocking his head to one side. "Want to go for a swim? The water's nice out here."

Aleksei claps Linus on the shoulder and bounces up. "Yes!" he says, standing up, offering his hand to help Linus to his feet if he wants it.

Taking the proffered hand, Linus brightens a little. "Let's do this," he says, and heads down to the water, leading the way.


"I'll apologize for being lax, Aleksei." Linus straightens up, formal. "There are certain skills anyone our age should know. A measure of prowess, coordination, and patience in the pursuit of excellence and self-understanding." He tilts his free hand upward. "These are the rites of passages for adolescents in the area; to know one's way around, and to learn, and train."

As Linus and Aleksei stand in the arcade inside the mall, the place teeming with kids of various ages, from the cool kids hanging out to the rugrats who have been left here by parents while they shop. The pair of guys are by the row of machines by the far wall, lights and cocentric rings at the end of a polished wood track. Linus holds up a sphere, palm-sized, of some poly-urethane make.

"This, Aleksei, is a Skee-Ball."

Aleksei is in a new T-shirt and jeans, part of the intense back-to-school kick his Mom has been on, and he pushes his glasses up as he looks at the small ball in Linus' hand. He puts his hands together and gives a bow to Linus. "Teach me, Obi-Wan," he says. "I will admit I have not seen this before. We have much Dance-Dance Revolution. This? Not at all."

"We can do that too," Linus says, and means it. Across the arcade the DDR machines have a much larger crowd than where they are. Linus notes in his head the irony of that, and the parallels between here and school. "We've got all day." And only a few more til summer ends and school starts, and the last month has been so amazing for him. Linus doesn't want it to end, even if that is a futile hope. He…likes where he is.

He turns. "Now, you roll the ball, a little like bowling, up the ramp here," he says. "You get the ball to go into one of the rings…the numbers below them show how many points you get. And then, you get tickets." His grin flashes at that. "Just ease up. Throwing too hard just makes the ball go too far for minimum points." He demonstrates, rolling the ball with a calm, practiced motion. Though, it only reaches the second ring in. Not minimum points, but not much better.

Aleksei takes the small ball, and steps up to the track. His first pitch is too slow by far, not even reaching the rings and slowly guttering. His second pitch hits only the 10 ring, not a good showing. "It is harder than bowling.. " he says. "I have done that a little.." He concentrates, watching Linus on his turn.

Clapping a hand on Aleksei's shoulder after the throw, Linus nods solemnly. "It's a bit of adjustment, really," he says. "A bowling ball's heavier, so there has to be more force behind it. Here, you have to be gentle about it. It takes practice." He steps back up to the lane, and takes the next ball, rolling it around in his hand for a moment. He drops his arm, letting momentum swing it around, and he gets the 30 point ring this time. "Better."

Aleksei smiles at Linus, at the clap, and takes the next ball. He consciously mimics Linus' stance, and lets the small ball leave his hand at a faster speed this time. Too fast, as it turns out, as it overshoots and again gets 10 points once it slides down into the lowest ring. "Maxatb", he says, hands on head as he does a little turn-around. "Is harder than it looks."

"You kiss your mother with that mouth," Linus asks, at the unfamiliar word. He has not Clue One what it means, and he takes a step forward so Aleksei doesn't notice the slight touch of color on his cheeks at the question. "Patience, padawan," he says. "It's almost Zen. You just have to not think about it." Which he tries, but only gets a twenty this ball. For his self-considered expertise, he's not doing all that hot. He stands there, afterwards, arm dropping to his side, staring forward at nothing…

Aleksei blushes, himself, obvious he's been caught out and that word would earn him a good cuff from either parent. He steps forward after Linus, takes the ball, then looks back at the other boy. "Linus? Is something wrong?" he says, green eyes quickly looking back the way Linus is looking. Man, please let nothing be happening where he will need to change. This is fun.

If Linus heard Aleksei, the young man doesn't make any sign. Nor does he move. He's not standing stiff, but just stares into the disatance for a good few minutes. Inside his head, it's a different story, though none of what occurs there can be heard from anyone around him.

Looking close enough, for the most brief of seconds, there's a flicker of light from the lump underneath Linus' shirt. That thing he wears around his neck; usually seen while at the beach, but covered by clothing. But…a brief flicker, then nothing more.

Linus blinks, feeling his mouth move even as he comes back. "A shadow is a shadow, alert to those near," he whispers, as he finally finds hismelf back where he was. "What?" Then he realizes where he is, and turns to Aleksei, guiltily.

Aleksei hand-waves in front of Linus' face, then gets kinda scared. Maybe Linus is an epileptic. He doesn't know what to do in that case, and he's just starting to call for help when he sees the flicker, and hears the whisper. He's staring right in Linus' eyes when the other boy 'comes back' and he grabs Linus by the shoulders, concern all over his bespectacled face. "Moy droog! What has happened?" he says, glancing where the flickering was.

There's another moment as Linus processes who's speaking to him, and why. A minute ago, he wasn't in this arcade. At least, that was how he saw it. He feels Aleksei's hands on his shoulders, and looks really embarassed. "Oh, Alek," he says. "I…just spaced out. It happens. It's…complicated." The words 'you wouldn't believe me' are written all over his face. He slumps a little, feeling sweat trickle back down his neck.

Jonathan doesn't account for things like time of day, where he is, what he's doing, so occasionally, Linus just spaces out. In class. Or in mid-conversation.

Aleksei looks concerned, and unconvinced. "I am sure it is complicated," he says, letting Linus go now that he's pretty sure the other teen isn't about to collapse. He licks his lips, thinking, puts a hand on Linus' shoulder again. "Do you.. want to talk?" he says. "Or need to?" He wants to be a hero, it means not ignoring things in front of his face. "Do you need help?"

Luckily, Linus is not going to crash into a heap on the floor. He just feels a little drained, and he stays silent for a few moments. He almost wants to answer that last question, but putting Aleksei in danger makes his stomach twist into some very uncomfortable knots. "I can't," he finally says. "Not now." Not here.

Aleksei's jaw is set, and the happy teen of a few minutes ago looks.. well, different. Finally, he nods and lets Linus go. "I understand. If you need to talk, you will call me, yes? I will have to make you promise this, my friend."

There's an expression on his face that says Linus would like nothing more than to do just that. "That, I can promise," he says. "Just…I can't do it now. I'm a little more outcast that most."

Aleksei quirks an eyebrow. "You are not outcast, you are friend, eh? I understand you have secrets. I think we all do, but I will hold you to this talking," he says, taking up the small ball again. "It is my turn, then?" He turns and slips the ball down the wooden track, watching it arc up and hit the 30 row. "Woo!" he says, looking back to Linus as if to assure him that Everything Is Normal.

This elicits a smile from the mystic. "Good, good," he says, patting the young man on the shoulder again. "It's all in taking it easy." He takes his next turn, and does a better job of it and doesn't space out again, thank goodness. When the pair are done, the machine starts to spit out tickets. It's…an okay amount. "Now these," he says, taking said tickets and placing them into Aleksei's hand, "are redeemed for prizes over there at that counter." There's various knick-knacks and stuff that can be gotten. But what they have won't get Aleksei much.

Aleksei oohs as he looks at what the short line of tickets will get him. "Can one save them?" he says to Linus. "Otherwise, I am looking at small bear for my sister. Except she would rather play with violin. You should take them, this is first time; I did not win very much."

"You don't have to spend them today," Linus explains. "You can always come back, win more, and save up." He closes Aleksei's hand around the tickets. "Consider them a gift from a teacher to a student that learns well," he adds, a half-smile on his face.

Aleksei smiles back, and nods. "I will, teacher," he says with a smile. "We must do this again, and soon. I am hungry, though; do they have the hot dogs here, like the ones we had the other day?"

"Well, not exactly like the ones at the beach stand," Linus says, making his way through the crowd, leading the other guy. "But now, we get to show you the ultimate arena, where every move and word is judged by all. The social microcosm, the anvil on which one's wit is forged in the fire of unfettered conversation." He turns around and gives Aleksei another wicked grin. "Quickly, my friend," he says, pointing dramatically out the entrance to the arcade. "To the Food Court!"

Aleksei can't help but laugh as he walks along just behind Linus, smiling broadly at the other teen's antics. "We do have the food court in Russia. Just with more goat meat." Still, he's impressed, this being such a huge place. "This mall is bigger than my neighborhood, I think. I think if you got lost, it might be easier to start living in a store than trying to find your way out."

"Then for sanity's sake," Linus says with a laugh to punctuate it. "Pick the computer store or the cyber cafe. That way, if you do get lost, you can e-mail me for a rescue mission." He stops short as he thinks about what he would do if trapped in a mall overnight. "But if you ever go for the video games, whatever you do, don't play Dead Rising. You'll end up freaking out and paranoid." The Food Court is at the mall's other end. It's a hike.

Aleksei is up for the walk, craning his neck to look at the unfamiliar stores. "I have played that, then; it is too late. We have many stores like that, now. The old arcades, they closed when we opened up to the West and from what I hear most of the old machines are in museums, or just gone. Now, all of us have X-Box and Playstation."

"Ah," Linus says. "Just overnighting in a mall playing a game about a zombie invasion inside a mall would totally creep me out." Yes, he has mystic powers to deal with it, but still. "Sorry about the arcades, though it seems that X-Box and Playstation can be a universal language of sorts with out generation these days." He muses as he walks. "Though, Eurpoean exports are sometimes more rare than what the States get, and Japan has the deciding power. But Japan always seemed too busy for me. Every time you see Tokyo on the news, it's so crowded."

"It is! It is incredibly crowded. My father took us a couple of years ago when he presented a paper to a meeting of scientists. There are so many people! The trains.." Alexsei gives a little fake shudder. "The trains are like, um, sardines. Packed so tight."

This makes Linus shudder, visibly. It's not fake. "I know San Angeles isn't exactly known for having a low population, but we've never been like that," he says. Even in the mall, while crowded, still has breathing room. "I like where I live," he says. "But, what was it like in Russia? Old movies used to give these images of houses that were barely shacks, everything in grey…I imagine they were exagerrating."

Aleksei smiles gently. "Some, but not too much. Much has changed in many of the big cities; I come from Balashikha, one of the cities that surround Muskova; it is like here, where one bleeds into another. It is nice and bright, but many of our buildings are many decades old. It is hard to find a city in America more than 100 years old; Balashikha is like that, so many buildings are new. There are many parts of Moscow, though, older than your country. After a time, it gets.. grey. The smaller towns, though, so much has not changed there. For so long, our entire country was poor compared to the West.

"Though, some of the pictures…older buildings? Some of the ways they were designed were pretty. It might be less study than modern designs, but sometimes the modern stuff seems a little too…sterile, you know?" Linus smiles as they get to the food court, at last. "Now, that place there sells hot dogs," he says. "I'm not sure I'm in for that, but I've been itching for some chicken fingers." He starts pointing out the various food places: Chinese, Sushi/Japanese, Chicken, Greek, Italian, a couple of fast food chains besides, Subway…and so on.

Aleksei's eyes widen at the Mongolian Stir Fry place, and he points to it. Minutes later, he's picked his meat and veggies, and has a steaming hot styrofoam container full of spicy spicy goodness. "This is even better," he says about the food. "Many of the older buildings, they have been cleaned up. Before, there simply was no money for it unless the government did it. They cleaned up the nice tourist places, but left the rest to rot. Things have been different for many years now, but my grandfather.. he had stories."

"I bet," Linus says, now happy with chicken fingers, fries, many varieties of dipping sauces, and of course a big cup of fruit punch. It seems to be his 'thing.' "Interesting times. Which is the foulest of curses in some cultures, but man, I don't have the life experience to confirm or deny that." Yet. "My family has relatives in Boston, and some of the earliest buildings, more than a hundred years old, are there. You have to see the gargoyles."

Aleksei quirks a smile. "We do not have many such things; most of the old churches that had them were destroyed in the Communist era. Some we do have, though.. some move. They are living thing, somehow. This is what they say, but I have - almost - seen one do something. I was at museum with our school, and we were waiting for the bus. I was watching one on the corner of the museum, with pigeons around it. I look away, look back. There are feathers on the gargoyles mouth. Maybe they blow there, maybe not, eh?"

This is just met with a stare. "Dude," he says. "Okay, that is one of the coolest things I've heard all week. You jazz up the telling, you could scare people with that story." Which seems to be all right in Linus' eyes. Note to self: Get to Museum in Russia, investigate Gargoyles. Possibly wait for sun to set…

Aleksei quirks a smile. "We have people in tights who throw busses. Who is to say gargoyle is not alive, eh? Maybe he eats once a week, staying so still?" He eats his stir-fry, smiling across at Linus. "See, you accept this thing I tell you, where even now many people might scoff."

"As you said, we have people in tights who throw buses," Linus replies smoothly. "It leave me a little more open to the possibilities than others. I'm starting to think of adopting a 'assume truth til proven otherwise' approach to it.'"


Aleksei is sitting nestled in on of the beanbag chairs by the window, perusing his new Superman trade collection. He has a small cup of juice sitting nearby and he sips from it occassionally. His glasses are perched on the end of his nose, needing a little adjustment to the close work and brighter light.

Timo comes into the store, looking around a moment once inside as he scans for whatever section he's looking for. But, in the process he spots Aleksei, and turns instead to head over to him, saying cheerfully, "Hey."

Aleksei looks up and waves Timo over. "Hey!" he grins, putting a bookmark in the comic. "What's up? Hey, come over, I got news. Met a meta the other day, and wanted to see if you know him? He might give you an interview or something."

Timo blinks, and says, "Really? Awesome! Who was it?" He moves to sit down near Alek, looking very interested. He does glance at the comic curiously, but soon his attention is back on Alek.

Aleksei sees the attention and holds up the Superman book. "My favorite," he says, a slight smile on his face. "This meta, though, he is real. He's a telepath, and so is his family." He proceeds to tell Timo about Jacob, and admits he's a little intimidated by the fact this kid his own age is about to start college, but that he's otherwise a pretty cool guy. "So, I thought if you didn't knwo him, should I tell him to drop by, see if he's want to be interviewed?"

Timo grins and says, "Mine's Green Lantern." He listens attentively, and says, "Awesome, yeah, for sure! Though, I'm ok if he doesn't want to too. I mean, if he's not using any kind of secret identity, don't wanna mess up his privacy or anything either."

Aleksei shakes his head. "He was pretty open about it, but then.. telling a bunch of guys is different from telling a whole school, etc. It'll certainly hit the net, too. I will ask him, though." He looks up. "How have you been?" he says, perhaps unexpectedly.

Timo blinks at that question, but says, "I'm fine! Found out they're updating the software at the school paper, so I'm here to get a couple books so I know how to work it all. Was worried mom wouldn't give me the money for them, but she said it's important too. What about you?"

Aleksei smiles. "I have been fine. I have been reading some of the books we will need for school, and thought I would get this as a treat for myself. I just wondered. I have many new friends now, and wanted to hear what was 'up'," he says, pushing his glasses up on his nose.

Timo smiles and says, "Yeah, that's cool. Yeah, I usually don't look at any of my school books until I actually get to school. Except for things my mom makes me study, which're usually the stuff I got bad grades in the year before."

Aleksei quirks a wry smile. "The curse of having a teacher as a parent," he says. "Mostly, though, they are English books for summer reading that I have not read yet."

Timo grins and says, "Not much better having a reporter parent. My mom knows how to investigate way better than I do, she can see all the clues whenever I try to skip homework or something like that."

Aleksei winces. "It is that we are both unlucky, then!" he says. "The only thing worse would be to have parent who is security agent. Or mind reader."

Timo nods quickly and grins, "Yeah, that'd be definitely worse. Maybe I'll ask that guy if he comes by about that." Then he says, "Anyway, anything else been going on?"

Aleksei opens his mouth, closes it. Yesterady, he saved a chemical truck from going off an overpass, but he can hardly say that now can he? "I have been to the beach more, and Derek has a car. He says he will take me to school so I do not have to catch train."

Timo nods quickly and says, "Yeah, knew about that. Derek's been going on and on about that car constantly. You'd think it was the most amazing car in the world."

Aleksei flashes a smile. "He does. It is very important to him. I hope he does not have the accident; it will hurt him a lot, I think."

Timo blinks, "The accident? What do you mean? Has someone predicted he will?" He sounds a little worried now. In this world, someone saying something like that could be a bad sign. Who knows, it may be a precognative meta.

Aleksei blushes suddenly. "'An' accident. Sorry, your language still confuses me sometimes. No, no-one has predicted anything. I am sorry," he says, reaching to get his juice, sip it.

Timo ohs, nodding again as he relaxes and smiles, "Ok, cool. No, it's ok. My grandparents don't speak very good english either, they're mixing up stuff all the time, unless it's on our menu. They just usually talk Spanish to me, makes it easier. I don't know Russian, though."

"I could try to teach you some, if you help me with my Spanish? I have that this year as an elective. It is.. very odd," Aleksie says, coming from an entirely different language family.

Timo nods quickly with a grin again, "Yeah, that'd be great! I dunno if I'm a good teacher, though. Sitting around explaining stuff isn't something I'm good at."


Aleksei is sitting sprawl-legged on one couch provided for people who want to read their purchases, looking through one of the international newspapers sold up by the front, the youth's owlishness compounded by the glasses. He turns, folds, smoothes, and sips his punch as he considers something.

For a moment or two after he makes his way inside, Linus drinks in the general ambiance. And the air conditioning; it's hot as hell outside. He was asked to hang out here, and the geeky mage is not going to turn down that opportunity, as he starts scoping the place out as he wanders. He should be around here someplace…

Aleksei decides to refresh his drink, looks up and sees Linus. He gets up and waves as Linus passes nearby. "Dude, hi. You are looking for books for school, or just to read?" he says, folding his newspaper again.

"Nah, I'm a book-a-holic," Linus says, flashing a grin as he sees who's there. "Oh, hey you," he says, with warmth in his voice as he takes over a chair. "Looks like I'm not alone in that regard." His eyes slide to the newspaper, ever curious.

Aleksei holds up the paper, strange Cryllic characters marching across the page. "I thought I would catch up on what was happening back in Russia; this is the main Moscow daily. Though I have friends on the web, LJ and IM that tell me things, too." He slides back onto the couch, taking the arm nearest Linus. "I do have many books, yes, but now.. mostly online. There was much we had to leave behind because it was too expensive to ship." He actually /has/ most of his books and comics and things but can't find a way to reveal all that to his family. So he's been keeping them safe until he can work out storage.

"That's cool," is Linus' answer, looking over the unfamiliar lettering with an untrained eye. "Everything all right? Oh, there's an interesting question. Are your keyboards different, because if the differences between the Russian Alphabet and English?" He winces, some. "Sorry to hear that. Leaving things behind and all. You've seemed so jazzed about being here, you never mentioned it."

Aleksei quirks a smile. "It is good; there are better editions here, still, and there are so many more comics… and yes, the keyboard is different. It is still a little hard for me to switch back and forth. Do not worry! I am still jazzed. There is so much to see!" He smiles quietly, trying to chill out. "But you have lived here all the time, yes? So much must be, ah, 'old hat'?"

"Sometimes," Linus says, leaning forward in his chair a bit. "Though, that makes me regret sometimes, because if I'm around something all the time…well, folks take it for granted. I've been trying to see things through your eyes, because of the new perspective, you know? I've been appreciating things around here more."

Aleksei ohs, and settles back into the couch. "Really? I had not thought of that. Well, it is good you do this, right? This is why I enjoy finding new friends, here; they can explain some of the things to me and I do not feel foolish for asking."

"Never feel foolish," Linus says. "Most of your friends, 'sides myself, will know you're new to things. We grew up around them, but there's some things that everyone must learn. Like, being in a store for the first time. I wasn't born here, so some time was my first." He chuckles. "I forgot how comfortable the seats are. Used to just go in, get stuff, get out. Always in a rush."

Aleksei bounces a little on the couch. "They are! I could sit here and read for a long time, which is something we do not see much of in stores." He looks out the window, a tiny slice of the titanic metropolis around them. "I could see how the city could make you rush. So much to do!"

"Exactly. I know Cali's supposed to be a bit laid back, but…a lot of it isn't. People don't stop to think sometimes, or to appreciate whay we have here." Linus runs a hand through his hair. "Sorry. Linus is partly cloudy with an occasional chance for introspection, today."

Aleksei gives a short laugh. "Cloudy Linus is OK with me." He stores his paper beside him. "I am glad you are my friend," he says, frankly. "Mother was worried about how I would fit in, how we all would. I think.. I think I am doing best, so far."

"I'm glad you're my friend too," Linus says, feeling a bit of shock on the inside as he realizes how much he means that. "Your folks? If I could help, I would, but…well, I'm nowhere near adulthood. You, well, around me. Expect jocks." He pauses. "Um, popular athletes. Jocks are what we call them."

Aleksei nods quickly. "I have heard this in movies, many times. You are friends with many of them, then?" he says. "I have never been very athletic, but I try."

"No. Oh no," Linus says, shaking his head. "I am not an athlete. The jocks are expected because I'm one of the targets. Me, the friends I game with…though some of them really do bring it on themselves, but." He rubs at his forehead. "Hell, they all make me mad sometimes. So much for loyalty."

Aleksei ahs, nods. "I understand. Same thing, it happens to me. I expect to be target, because of my accent and such. So, we could what, get each others back? Derek, Timo, the others?"

"That's the plan," Linus admits, and feels himself smile at the concept. "I want to go to classes, but the rest of it isn't making me too hyped about going. It's the way things are, but I think I'd be cool watching out for you guys."

"We can watch out for each other, then. Maybe it is time to take judo class, yes?" Alek grins. "They will not bother us for long." Not once some jocks new car ends up on the Moon.

"I could just follow you around, you know. Soak up some of your confidence," Linus replies with a laugh. Granted, he has pondered the idea of a jock's eyes going wide right before he's pummelled into a heap by mystic blasts of energy, but Linus long ago discarded that idea. "Still, it makes school a bit more bearable."


Aleksei called up Linus last night and asked if he'd been to the zoo, here? Of course he had, and Alek wanted a guide and companionship, so here they both are; Alek walking along with a drink in hand and stopping at the various exhibits. "Do you think they have any actual alien animals here? I did not check the website."

"I'm not so sure they would," Linus asks, having found a place in the zoo that had fruit punch and walking at Aleksei's side. "I mean, they're probably out there, but I guess it might be a problem adapting to Earth's environment, and the food or something. Far as I know, it's all Earth-based here." He flashes a smile. "Not that that's a bad thing. Been meaning to catch the dolphin show and all."

Aleksei ohs as he thinks about that. "There's this zoo in Iceland, I think they have something like that, something that can only live in very cool climates." He sips his drink. "That's right, though; what would they feed it?" He nods as he checks his watch. "We've got a little time, but should we start heading that way? This place is so huge.. is there a tramway or something?"

"You know, I have no idea," is Linus' answer, as he stops to look around for something. After a bit more walking and searching, he lets out an 'ah-ha!' and finds what he's seeking; a map of the place. "Okay," he adds, as he unfolds the map…and finds it pretty big. "Well. Huh. I…" He looks around the map at Aleksei. "I'm not sure?"

Aleksei smiles and looks around, finds a table that's relatively clean. "Here, spread it out over here. We're in the… lessee.. bird area? There were penquins back there. Then.." he says, looking over the large map. "Maybe we should have left breadcrumbs?"

"The way they keep this place clean, breadcrumbs wouldn't have helped," Linus says laconically as he gets an idea of how big the zoo is. He's chuckling at Aleksei's joke, however. "So, since we're apparently going to end uo living here and be lost forever to the outside world…"

Aleksei nods, seriously, finger lingering on the huge savannah region of the map. "Loincloths I think are standard issue, then. And spears." He looks up at Linus. "I don't suppose you've killed a zebra for supper, before?"

"Loincloths?" Linus mock-winces at that. "Look, I get bad sunburn already. If I'm going to live here, I'll crash out in the aquarium where the rooms are dark and the floor is carpeted. I'll make the sharks have wishful-thinking mealtimes."

Aleksei perks up. "The aquarium! Yes, we have not seen that? Is it close to the dolphin show?" He looks back to the map, trying to locate it. "Then you will have to wear, what, suit like swimmers do, catch your own fish and all. Marine Boy, like."

"No no," Linus replies, as he folds up the map (badly; it's that big) and heads to where he thinks the Aquarium is, according to said map. "Not in the tank, I'd get all wrinkled. I mean…well, the little passages you walk through to see them. It's out of the sun. Marine Boy, I am not." Really, he isn't. He already picked a name.

Aleksei hops up from the table and follows along, sipping at his drink. "OK, then, we need to hole up in the forest area. Cool dark woods. Dress in wolfskins, but then that would mean we'd have to skin some wolves and I'm not up for that. I guess we'll have to hope we find our way out?"

"You know, with the number of gift shops around here, we can always just get extra shirts from there," Linus says, cringing a little at the idea of wolfskins. Of course, that would leave things sans pants, and that makes him think of downing the rest of his drink. "Let's hope we do," he says. "But I respect your active imagination, there."

"Oh, well, gift shops. If you want to make our lives /easy/, trapped in this nightmare?" Alek grins, and then points. "Oh, aquarium sign. We must not be far," he says, "Yay, we will not miss dolphin show." Dolphins are fun; he's found some to play with from time to time, and he wants to see the ones here.

As for Linus, he just likes the water. It's fun for him, and he grins. "I'm all for easy, if there is an option. But, you go for the challenges and I respect that." He sighs. "Though, I'll have to pass on trying to take a zebra down with spears. I'd starve to death. I'd learn to live on peanuts." A lot of peanuts. Oy. He laughs. "Looks like we'll be fine. Maybe we can follow people and see if they know the exit."

Aleksei pats Linus at the sigh. "Only in my imagination, really," he says, ditching his empty drink in a recepticle as they pass by one. "I could never do that to a zebra, either.. Yes.. OK, there's the aquarium and then we just go left back out of here to get to the dolphin show in.." he checks his watch again ".. a little more than an hour, allowing for getting there early for good seats."

"I've never seen this place," Linus admits. "And I'm not even sure why." He hasn't even been to the petting zoo yet, mostly because that's for 'little kids' in the usual teenager arrogance. "I've only seen aquariums this big on that one episode of the Simpsons, and that was a long time ago."

Aleksei turns to walk backwards and goggle at Linus, exaggerating for effect. "Is biggest aquarium in the world! Not even a school trip?" he says, turning as he walks, then turning backwards again with a slight smile. "Good! Then I will not be only one going 'OMG lookatthat'," he laughs.

"I think if more people went like that," Linus counters with a grin. "There'd be less assholes in the world. Stop and enjoy what's in front of you, I say." He's chilled out and relaxed today, and praying his ancestor doesn't call another confab like at the arcade the other day. "I'm not sure why my school didn't. You know, that is odd…"

Aleksei nods quickly. "Yes, my school they dragged us to every museum within fifty miles." His voice grows deadpan serious. "Moscow has /lots/ of museums…" he says, then goes back to normal. "But things like this, too. It is strange. Maybe you were out that day?" He stops to look at the map at the entrance to the massive aquarium. "Do you think we'll do better with this one than with the main zoo map?"

"For here, sure," Linus says, but does take some time to look at the display map, which has a bit more detail than the fold-out they found. "I think this is the exit of the park," he adds, pointing to an opening at one end. "And we're nowhere near it. We should buy canteens when we're ready."

Aleksei gives a quirked smile. "Yes, and is good idea. So hot, here.." he says. "I will get some bottled water after we leave here." And the cooler shaded corridors cause the youth to smile and mmmm and stand in a blast of AC after they pass through the turnstiles and enter the main aquarium levels. "What should we see, first? The main tank? We can sit, and watch.."

"Water's good," Linus says, thinking he should pick up a bottle of it once they're out of here. He looks a little sheepish. "Can we sit for a while? I should get more walking exercise, or something."

Aleksei nudges Linus as they walk along the shady corridors towards the main tank. "Is why I said this. I am about to fall over; I skateboard, which does not make me, um, how you say, 'Jock'." Indeed, when they get to the sitting area, he sprawls on the comfy folddown chair, closing his eyes for a second, enjoying the cool. "I think we could get merit badge for all the walking we have done today.." he sighs.

This is good, Linus thinks. He's out of the sun, and has found a place to rest sore heels. "Makes me wish I had gone for the Boy Scouts," he says. "If it would be that…easy. Except it wasn't. I could crash here if I'm not careful, then I'd wake up and it'd be dark and off for the wolfskins."

Aleksei laughs. "I am so getting you a wolfskin," he says. He looks over at Linus, his face striped by rippling water as fish and sharks glide by feet away. "Why did you not, then? Even we have Boy Scouts. Maybe you would be good despite being, what, 'city boy'?"

"I…dunno." Linus finds he has to think about it, when asked. "It was never my thing, I guess. Been camping a couple of times at most." He laughs a bit. "A bit of a city boy, oh yes," he comments. "I just didn't think I'd fit in."

Aleksei gives a smile at the laugh. "Camping I have not liked, but Father had a nice cabin by a lake. We would go there for a week sometimes, all of us. It was like camping to me, at least. No internet!" he chuckles. "Being out of touch like that… I do not like it. You could come back to alien invasion or something."

There's a visible shudder from Linus. He's a mystic, the idea of alien invasions freaks him out a bit. It's that same helpless feeling he gets when he thinks about the Quake. And school to a much, much lesser extent. "See, that by the lake thing? That sounds nice. But I'm an indoorsy sort, I'll admit. Bit of a wiss, to be perfectly honest."

"Dude, you would wince at number of Microsoft Points I have…" Alek says. "I've been… gettting out a lot more, lately, but back in Russia it was always 'Alek, stop reading and go out and play!' 'Alek, that chair is not a bed!'."

"'Linus, don't you have anything else you want to do besides read books?'" The other kid is snickering at this point. Linus sighs. "Linus, you should go out and make friends. Find something you enjoy." Here, he looks away, shoulders slumping a bit.

Aleksei lays a hand on Linus' shoulder when he sees the other boy turn away. "You have made friends, though? There is me, and Derek and Timo, others?" he says quietly. "I did not mean to make you sad."

"Yeah. It's the others," Linus explains. "See, Robbie…I've tried to hint at him he wouldn't get picked on so much if he was a little cleaner, and not as abrasive. He thinks he's funny. Larry's okay, but he's always so pissed off at every little thing. Troy? He worries me a little too. He wants to social climb, and God knows what he'd do to get it. Himself, or anyone. Dave? He's withdrawn from being by himself a lot of the time." He purses his lips. "I feel bad, 'cause I feel like I'm ditching them, but…" He looks to Aleksei. "I care about my friends. All of them. But it gets frustrating having to watch every word and thing I do so I don't cause a meltdown, because some people are so horribly broken on the fundamental levels…"

Aleksei's hand stays there and he gives his friend a squeeze on the shoulder, trying to reassure him. "I know what you are talking about. But we cannot save everyone, especially from themselves. Maybe this is thing you try to do, yes?" He looks to the calm swimming creatures, half-wishing he was among them right now. But he also knows they are really far from calm. "I am not wise person, and I have no advice. I know you a few weeks, and you know them much longer. If you enjoy them, then it is all good."

"I'm not so sure anymore. I'm tired of all the drama that can be so easily avoided." He turns his head towards the guy. "I don't want to be a downer to you either. Just feeling like I'm in two different directions, and trying not to hurt anyone in the process."

Aleksei gives a sort of sad smile. "Someone always winds up getting hurt when you set out not to hurt anyone, and that person is generally you." He pauses. "And here is where I grow beard and turn into my father, for he says this many times and maybe now I see the reason of it." He unconsciously puts his elbow on Linus' shoulder and lays his head on his own arm, looking at the slow shapes in the massive tank, lank hair falling in his eyes. "Is just life, I suppose? Is that trite?"

"I'm not sure if it's trite if it's true," Linus says, and gives the Russian kid a sidelong glance. "Don't go for the beard. Wouldn't look right," he comments, smirking just so.

Aleksei sticks out his tongue. "Do not worry, I will not." He picks up his head and looks at Linus. "I think perhaps dark makes your thinking too dark, too?" he says, quirking a smile. "Is almost time for dolphin show.. do you still wish to go?"

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