The Picnic Hot Dumps
#1
Did Grace like pickles? Amber teetered with her stack of appetizers and shuffled to the nearest table. Right on top, wobbled a paper tray of fried pickles - balancing precariously above a hot pretzel and cheese curds. A decent set of starters before Grace picked the rest of the food.

Location set, she snapped a picture and sent it off with a text to let Grace know she was next to the dumpling truck with a fiery dumpling sign attached to the top with the very appealing "HOT DUMPS HERE" lit up in neon pink lights.

Amber set her phone down and ripped off a chunk of pretzel, digging into the inside where the best soft dough was hiding. Oh yeah, that's the good stuff.

Eyes and ears open for her psychic friend, Amber bounced her leg as she slowly ate.
#2
GOT DUMPS
Grace

She'd actually meant to type "HOT DUMPS" but that worked just as well. Arriving fashionably four minutes late, Grace cruised in with big cartoon steps, high energy and hungry. It didn't take long to spot Amber, who was extremely fucking cute even outside of an Easter maze.

"AmberLAMPS," she bellowed, swirling up toward the table to throw herself across from Cutie Pie. Or Twilight Sparkle or whatever. Grace didn't know their personalities, just that Amber had cute glitter energy.
#3
She got caught with a mouthful of pickle stuffed in chipmunk cheeks. Amber dropped the other half and waved like crazy. "Grazy!" The name was butchered by greasy fried pickle goodness.

While one hand continued to wave her down, Amber used the other to point at the small spread. "I got started first." Everything was for sharing if Grace didn't mind the finger food rule.

That All food was finger food.
#4
Grazy! Gravy! Grace! That was a brand-ass new one and she loved it. It was a favorite trick of Grace's, enthusiastically greeting people she didn't know especially well and watching them wither flounder or glow up in return.

"Helllll yeah," she croaked in approval, swinging her ass in across the picnic table from Amber. She didn't even know what the fried shit was, but she was here to burn herself on it. "Gimme your best questions. Bad cop. Good cop."

Grace was down for interrogation, paused only temporarily as she dunked a pickle in ranch and plowed it into her mouth.
#5
Amber pushed the tray towards Grace but before snagging a pretzel to rip apart while the questions began to flow.

She swung her legs back and forth under the picnic table, catching her toes every so often into the dirt. Amber chewed thoughtfully. "I've only met one other magical person. This girl could make flames appear in her palm." She ripped a corner nub off her pretzel while tilting her head to look down. Amber hadn't seen Piper in a long time and the one time she called the phone had been disconnected. The funny thing though was Amber didn't feel bad about that. Weird outside forces were likely the cause of it.

"So first question, uh. Are there a lot of powers?" Amber looked back up as she asked and placed the pretzel bit into her mouth.
#6
Magical person. Grace didn't consider herself magical, but to be fair, it was hard for her to nail down what the fuck she was. Big dick energy manifesting into big psychic energy.

"Fuckin' pryos," she huffed. Grace had always been jealous. She followed the pretzel lead to shred a hunk off herself.

"There's a fuckload of powers. More than I know about. And me and you can have the same power and experience it totally different ways. Do different shit with it."

That was a joy for Grace. No two psychics were alike.
#7
Damn. Did that mean there were a ton of magical people all around them? Amber stopped mid-chew to widen her eyes at Grace and communicate her surprise.

"That's so so cool." Because whoa.

Grace was a fountain of information and Amber had brought her vacuum pump. Gonna try to drain Grace's entire brain.

"And you can like just tell if someone has a power–? How does that work?"

High likelihood that Amber couldn't replicate it with her normal human abilities, but it sure didn't hurt to ask.
#8
Amber was a good question asker. She didn't fuck around with disbelief. Even other psychics spent time balking, doubting truths. Grace saw herself in this chick, if she hadn't been lucky enough to wake up with a power one day.

"Psychics can pick out supernaturals through shit called auras. Different for everyone. For me, it's like heat lines, rolling off someone. Other people might see a color or feel a sensation. In the beginning, all supes are the same: vamps, shifters, psychics all give the same aura."

That had been Grace's best guess at the world for years. There was so fucking much more now.

"But if you get good, and you make a pact, like a group with other psychics. You can start to tell them apart."
#9
She should be taking notes. Amber nodded her head in big sweeping motions, soaking in as much as possible from Grace. Her fingers blindly reached to the side to wipe greasy residue on a napkin and then she made the whole action redundant by immediately going in to grab another pickle.

Amber nibbled on a crispy corner. "I take back my earlier statement. Auras are the really cool part." A bat sonar for other psychics. It was the perfect way to find your people. If only she could do that with regular humans but with their personalities. It would be easy to sniff out the douchebags.

Hold up. Grace also mentioned vampires and shifters. That was definitely the kind of stuff Amber wanted to get her greasy hands all over. "I will return to the pacts in just a second, but telling apart other supes... What do they look like to you with the aura thing?" Amber then waved her hand in an imitation of swirly waves. It kinda looked a lot like the wrong side of a dolphin shadow puppet.
#10
Amber was so good at this shit. Pointing out what she'd come back to. Was she a reporter or something?

And the question was a fun one. She heh-heh'd, husky anticipation for an absurd but real answer.

"That's the crazy shit," she started. "So I see auras, right? With my eyes."

Duh. But she was getting somewhere.

"But if it's a vamp, I see wavies. And I fucking taste sour. Like pure essence of sour on my tongue. And for shifters, it's-"

She picked up a pickle chip and threw it in her mouth whole, blurting out the answer around it in delight.

"MEAT."
#11
No way. It was so ridiculous that Amber believed it right away.

Her eyes grew larger at the very obvious problem this posed. "But what if you're like eating meat at the time? Or sour candy?" Amber asked, so so so concerned.
#12
Amber was smart.

"Right!" she agreed first, enthusiastic, chomping a still somehow too hot pickle. The insulating powers of breading.

"Just means I gotta clear my mouth out before I check someone. The first time it happened, I was here actually, and I thought I was just sucking in meaty truck air."

This was a Grace spot, in retrospect, though rarely was she paying for her own food. (That suited her and her wallet just fine.)
#13
Grace had it all figured out.

She nodded enthusiastically. "Totally get it." It wasn't a one-time thing, after all. Grace could readjust and zap her radar power when she was good and clear.

Amber poked at her pretzel and bent her head, eyes sweeping back to ask. "So, then did you go up and confront them?" Grace indicated it was a shifter, the better of the two choices. Amber had some thoughts to share of her own, but this was Grace time and she really wanted to know how things went down.
#14
"I figured her out another way at the time, figured out the meat thing later," she said. "'Cause she worked at a place where I knew the person who owned it was a shifter. And she didn't talk like psychics do."

It was hard to put her finger on it, exactly, but Grace knew what someone with powers talked like. Vampires were harder to pick out, to separate, but she could nail down shifters okay.

"She was chill because I was chill. But I've been, uhhh."

What was a good word for it. Grace wobbled her head, shrugged.

"Advised not to out people straight up. So I try to be careful."
#15
Yeah, Probably the smart move. "Was told pretty much the same thing."

Amber pulled her hands to her lap and bounced her leg. " I, uh, know a couple of shifters. One is really open about what she is and the others I found out on accident."

"Maybe you've heard the same thing? That shifter groups can be pretty strict about telling people and may even try to turn humans who find out." The last part had been more inferred than stated directly. Regardless, the warning of how dangerous shifters, in general, could be was also compounded by their desire to keep things secret. It had already caused issues between Amber and a few of her friends. She understood why in a sense but that didn't mean she had to like it.
#16
Told the same thing, huh. Grace wondered who Amber's shifter sources were.

There was info to be found here that Grace hadn't really put together. Shifter "groups." Like big pacts? Turning humans who found out. Fuuuuck. It hadn't been presented quite so direly.

"That's fucked up," she said. "Turning people like that. It's like gang violence or some shit. Shooting someone for seeing a drug deal go down."

Because getting turned felt on level with death, really.
#17
God yes, Amber agreed on every level.

"It's scary to think about." She confessed. "I don't know if any groups here are like that, but it was said as a warning that I've tried to take seriously."

She hadn't meant to bring the mood down and the guilt made her fingertips twitch. Taking another napkin she worked it into her fingernails to get rid of the greasy residue, twisting a corner into a little hook to get nice and deep.

"But you know? It can't be that common anymore. Shifters are so well known now..." Amber trailed off and shrugged, attempting a reassuring smile.
#18
Grace didn't assume here to be any kinder than anywhere else as far as shifters were concerned. A few were cool individually. And then there was shit like Jimmy ending up turned one day, unable to say who did it.

"I hope so," she said. "I've met a couple now who were out about it pretty early. Just sets things off on a better foot, like. We can both be chill with each other."

In general, Grace didn't like shifters. But people like Yara and Asha being real about what they were went a long way on an individual level.
#19
Amber had the urge to vent out everything to Grace, but they didn't each other that well, and Amber was here to listen not to steal the conversation. Clamping a lid on her own shifter woes, she shifted things back toward the questions.

"It'd be nice if things were more open. But hey, you have a really cool advantage." Amber tilted her head and stressed the last part, determined to make sure Grace knew what a boon she had.

"Actually though, do you have any tips for regular humans to keep safe?" She knew silver was a deterrent for shifters but she doubted it kept them away for long.
#20
Yeah, she did have an advantage. How long it would last was another story, but she'd worry about that when the time came. (Spoiler alert: it would be soon.)

"For shifters it's tricky. There's silver, but. All I really got is that if someone starts acting weird, you peace the fuck out. Like if they're suddenly in big dramatic pain, or barfing or something, or you legit hear bones breaking- you run."

Grace knew what that sounded like. Unkind as fuck. But kindness didn't keep you safe.

"It doesn't feel like the Good Samaritan thing to do, but they'll be glad you didn't stick around for them to rip your arm off or some shit."
#21
Amber's head was bobbing the whole way through. Yep yep yep. Exactly right on all accounts.

"I've had to run from one recently. Transforming seems so painful." She shuddered, looking down to the table. Goosebumps littered her arms as she recalled her conversation with Abraham. Turning was a horrible experience, dangerous for everyone involved. Amber never claimed to be super intelligent, but if you're shown multiple times what a near transformation looks like and you still stay? Dead and dumb.

You is dead and dumb.
#22
It did seem painful. Like the fucking worst. Jimmy sure had a bad time of it.

Grace wondered how he was doing, then just as quickly decided not to do that.

"What all happened?" she asked, nosy about if they happened to know the same one.
#23
She could share a little? Hmmm. Why not?

Amber stretched her arms under the table, rolling her shoulders with the movement as her fingers made pretend claws around her knee caps.

"Well, I already knew she was a shifter. Long story there, but it was a lifesaver in this situation." Amber chuckled in the way people did after a scary experience - a little too high-pitched. "Something set her off. A bad memory of sorts and she looked...constipated and all face scrunched. Told me to get away before she started hunching over and shaking."

Blair's bones were probably growing and deforming at that moment. So gross.
#24
Someone who had already outed themselves to Amber. Grace wondered if that was what kept her from getting turned. How many people, with no idea what was happening, would go running off in what seemed like a medical emergency?

"That's fuckin' scaaarryyyy," she said. "I'm glad you already knew. I feel like, if we just know, we can be so much fucking safer."

Grace shook her head, grabbed a pickle and ranch dunked it before plummetting it into her face.

"You know much 'bout vampires?"
#25
Tell her about it. Scary was only the tip of the iceberg of heart-pounding, butt-clenching panic that came with knowing your friend was about to double in size and see you as a potential meal. Amber was so lucky she'd been briefed on the signs early. Better that than ending up on the news...

Amber was nodding a lot throughout the conversation. Grace had so many good points. "Exactly. Everyone would be so much safer if we knew what to even look for." She said it forcefully, yanking out another chunk of pretzel.

And then vampires. Amber bit into the soft dough viciously. "Not as much." She mumbled before growing louder. "I was attacked by one over a year ago. Never want to experience that again."

Her raised hand drifted over her collarbone, toward the side of her neck where it happened.
#26
They needed some kind of news announcement. "If you see someone's bones moving around under their skin, get away."

Though, just as fast, she could see people falling into a panic. Accusing each other over a sneeze. It was all bad. Felt more like she had to hand hold every person she met through it.

Vampire attacks were a motherfucker. Grace understood deeply. For all that she'd befriended Billy, it could just as easily have been him who attacked Amber.

"Vampires fucking suck. I think it's like shifters, where, like. You might know an individual that's alright. But as a whole they're dangerous and shitty. You know about mind control?"
#27
She hated reliving that night, pinned and frozen in fear under a vampire. The power behind those wiry arms had been unworldly and Amber had the horrible realization the under threat, when her moment came, she was not the type that fought. She had laid there useless. Crying. Shameful.

A steadying breath came and she was quick to agree. Yes. All together bad. One by one, some were okay.

Amber's nose wrinkled. She remembered something about memory. "Is that related to the eye thing?" Shifters had glowing eyes, she had plenty of confirmation there. However, something wiggled in the back of her mind about vampires.
#28
Grace was no mind reader, but she could see tension there. Getting vampire attacked had made a real fucking bitch out of her. She remembered bawling when she got home.

But she knew better than to coddle. Instead, she nodded. Forked two fingers to gesture from her own eyes to Amber's.

"If they make eye contact with you, they can make you do shit. Stand still, follow them. Forget the whole night. It's fucking gross."

And so hard to detect. The idea that Billy had convinced her to go outside and she hadn't even felt it? Fucking nightmares.
#29
"Fuck. Mind control." Amber muttered. She had an inkling of it, something mentioned years ago that stupidly, Amber had brushed off as "cool" and "out there."

She had blocked so much of her attack that the details were fuzzy, worn at the ends as if she took a lighter to the edge of the photograph and melted the chemicals within to run through. There had been words exchanged - none she could now recall. However, the possibility that she had been controlled sunk in deep and refused to be ignored.

"And you don't feel it happening?"
#30
She shook her head. That was the fucked up part about it. "Suggested" was the word Billy had used for it. Felt more like her own brain had suggested it.

"I got a... friend, now. Who is a vampire. But in the beginning he'd tried to get my blood or whatever."

Grace forgave him.

"And he told me to find a place outside? Because he had like, a healing power. And he actually did heal me, so, whatever. Fair trade."

She did actually believe that, too. Losing a few cups of blood or whatever was a fucking deal to clear up a concussion. Nothing hit like those headaches.

"Anyway, when he told me to find a place outside, somewhere secluded, he was actually mind fucking me into doing it. But it felt like it was my idea. Like, fucking duh, we'll find a place outside. If he hadn't told me later it was mind control, I never, ever would have known, even looking back."

It felt real enough that, if it weren't so obvious that Billy had literally nothing to gain by doing so, she would have assumed he was lying about it.
#31
Horror overtook her. Amber should have realized that Grace's information came from personal experience. There wasn't a "Supernatural Creatures and How They Kill You 101" just lying about at the book store.

Having a vampire friend rang alarm bells of BAD throughout Amber's head, but she kept her judgement to herself. She had a pack of shifter buddies and didn't exactly have a leg to stand on.

Grace ran through a lot of points. Healing powers? Hold the phone. That opened up a whole new line of questions. Amber's legs began to swing under the table again.

"I'm really sorry that happened to you." She cupped her hands and looked at Grace.

"No one should be able to take away free will. God, it scares me so much." Fingernails cut into palms. She hoped Grace's friend was actually a friend, but Amber didn't think she'd ever feel safe in a vampire's presense. Never.
#32
Amber took it big serious. In retrospect, it was fucked. But her first encounter with Billy had gone entirely in Grace's favor. There was a chance he was lying, that she couldn't remember it right. But she didn't think that to be the case.

Not that she'd know better if it was. The Vampire Conundrum.

"It's cool," she said of the first bit. "The mind control is fucked up, but. I make sure I don't make eye contact with strangers after dark. Some vampires can go out in the day, too, but. I heard they're rare."

The day walkers freaked her out most. Meant her vampire test could mostly go in the garbage.

"B- my friend said like. Mirrored sunglasses will stop those, since they can't see your eyes."
#33
She was impressed by Grace's banality of the whole thing and also a little sad. Trauma was fucked up and most people learned to laugh it off. Amber had plenty of practice there. She would be locked away or on so many meds if she didn't learn how to compartmentalize.

"Oh damn. That's a good idea." Amber had a pair of aviators in her closet somewhere. Avoiding eye contact was the important one there. Difficult to do, but the threat of imminent mind control would be a hell of a motivator.

That piece of information was worth the whole dinner. Amber flicked her eyes to the people passing by. "Hey, do you arm yourself with any fire protection or something?"
#34
A good idea straight from a vampire. She knew better than to say as much. Sometimes you had to protect your sources.

"I've thought about it. I carry shit on and off. Lighters. Got a fun little flamethrower magic trick thing."

She lifted a wrist, flexed some fingers like it would trigger fire.

"But it's risky. If a vamp just wants to take my blood, and I whip out fire. I need to straight up kill it in that second or I'm fucking dead. Because now I just, like. Escalated to a hundred."

Grace considered, continued.

"I guess I could carry something for if I think I'm legit getting murdered." A laugh. "Fucking dark. Though I ain't that worried."

Not any more worried than she was about a normie rolling up and stabbing her. In the end, vampires made up the tiniest, tiniest percent of her daily encounters.
#35
"You've really thought about this a lot." Amber rested her cheek on a raised fist. A natural stategizer, Grace should be selling her information or at least asking for donations.

How lucky that she was getting in early with just the price of dinner and drinks.

"I used to carry a lighter myself but having the dexterity to open and flip it on in a life or death situation just didn't work out." Amber kept her tone light and mopped up the edge of her plate with a napkin.

There was one more thing Amber wanted to know. "That magic trick though...what's that?"
#36
It was a lot of what Grace thought about. Lying in bed in her shoebox apartment, just fucking thinking all the time. Brain half teleported elsewhere.

She figured it was for the best that Amber wasn't fucking with a lighter. Hoped that Amber wouldn't need one, anyway. Too grim to think about.

"Lemme find it," she said, fiddling for her phone, Googling the terms she knew would pull up a website.

"It's for magic tricks or whatever, buuuuut. You know. Could be good for other shit too."
#37
Amber watched, rapt. Her eyes darted back and forth on the page as a looped video started playing.

A portable flamethrower. Sick. "I didn't know these things existed." She spoke, still engrossed in the page. "Let me write this down."

Her phone wouldn't appear over the table but Amber was diligently typing away in her notes app.

Without looking up she asked, "Have you ever used it before?" If it was faster than pulling out a lighter, Amber was already sold.
#38
Amber keyed in, and Grace felt something between pride and dread. Hoped she hadn't doomed her, but dug Amber's spunkiness.

"Never on a vamp," she said. "I've shot it off a few times. Lit a trashcan on fire with it. It's fucking fun, even if I'm not murdering anyone with it."

She'd practiced with Vanessa using it, which had been a nice flex of something other than her own ordinary shit.
#39
Amber was actually glad it was all theoretical. Grace didn't need another vampire in her life, a surprise friend filled the quota just fine.

Of course, setting all kinds of shit on fire was a must. Everyone had a little pyromaniac in them. She smiled. "If, no...when I get one. You might need to show me some moves."

A nice controlled burn or perhaps lighting fireworks from a distance. Amber's perked up with all the possibilities.
#40
Grace, flamethrower expert. She'd have to start by learning moves herself.

"Yo. It's a date."

She reached out a fist to bump with Amber's. The beginnings of fireball club.
#41
Their knuckles scrapped in satisfaction. Amber tapped her feet excitedly under the table.

"I'll let you know." Sometime soon then.

Looking down, she made a thoughtful noise. They had gotten through a good portion of her appetizers, but how rude! She had invited Grace for a full meal.

"You ready to order something else? Whatever you want." Palms were placed on the table and Amber lifted her body up.

They could eat and chat about non-supernatural stuff. She liked Grace's company anyway.
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