Author's note: I wanted a little more character development, and maybe a little foreshadowing. I mean, I'm probably foreshadowing stuff. I tried to. But without an outline, it's tough to tell. It's been interesting writing without an outline, though. It's allowed me to come up with some neat stuff that probably wouldn't have happened if I thought too far ahead. And if you have suggestions for cities they can visit, or things they can find, or entities they can fight, or anything like that, please, suggest them. I'm writing this without an outline, so I have only the vaguest idea where I'm going, and I won't turn away any help. All feedback is appreciated. hotwing: I don't do much with Jackson. Because I'm pretty sure a bunch of teenagers from near Chicago would find it an incredibly boring city. Connecticut: Glad you're still enjoying it.

February 13, 2013

They'd had enough of New Orleans, and were now squatting in an abandoned house in Jackson, Mississippi. They hadn't really gone on purpose. They'd gotten on a bus without knowing where it was going. They'd been in the city for two days, and already, they were ready to move on. Even Lisa found it hard to be excited by anything in the city.

"This is the dullest city ever," Ashleigh complained. "Let's go somewhere cool."

"We're in the deep south," Raven said. "Everywhere we go is going to be boring."

"Then why don't we leave the south?" Eric asked.

"Because it's cold up north. That's why we came south in the first place, is to escape winter."

"I get that. I'm just saying, it's a big country. We can go to, like, Las Vegas or something."

"You just want to get a hooker," Raven said.

"So where do you think we should go, then?" Eric asked.

"I don't know. Everywhere sucks. I don't care where we go. Where does everyone else want to go?"

"We could just take another bus and see where it ends up," Taylor suggested.

"Alabama, with our luck," Ashleigh grumbled. "I say California."

"Some of my old teachers are out there," Raven said. "I'd rather avoid running into them. They might force us to go back home."

"And what would be so bad about that?" Eric asked.

"What are you talking about?" Raven asked angrily.

"We've been out here for almost two months now, and all we have to show for it is Lisa's music box. And don't get me wrong, I'm glad she found it. But we're still no closer to finding out if she has living family. We don't even know where to begin looking."

"I would think down south would be the place to start," Jacob said. "It's where we found the music box. She didn't sense anything else in New Orleans, and she hasn't sensed anything here in Jackson, but it still makes sense to keep searching around the area."

"We don't even know how the box got in that swamp," Eric said. "Maybe it was dropped on a vacation. Maybe someone stole it and then dumped it out there to retrieve later."

"No," Lisa said. "It was put there for me to find."

"How can you be so sure?"

"I just am."

"All right, well, that still doesn't really mean anything."

"It means whoever put it there expected her to come down here," Jacob said. "So if we keep exploring the region, we'll probably find more clues."

"And why would you want us to go back home anyway?" Raven asked. "You do remember that we all ran away for a reason, right?"

"Sure," Eric shrugged. "You ran away because you hate your step-mom, and Taylor ran away because his mom's never around. Ash ran away because it felt easier than telling the police about her abusive father, and Jacob ran away because he's scared of his uncle. The thing is, none of us needed to run away to solve our problems. Jacob could've crashed with Taylor and Lisa. The only reason we're out here is for adventure, and since we're only 16, we shouldn't be getting in adventures in the first place. I think it's time we went home."

"No," Ashleigh said. "No. I'm not going back to my father."

"And I don't even want to be in the same ZIP code as my uncle," Jacob said.

"If you want to go home," Raven said, "then fine. I'll buy you a ticket."

Eric sighed. "All right. I'll stay, even though it's a mistake."

"So now we just need to figure out something to do," Taylor said.

"We could always hit up Memphis, I guess," Eric said.

"What's in Memphis?" Taylor asked.

"Graceland," FRIDA answered. "The National Civil Rights Museum. The Mud Island River Park. The Stax Museum. Beale Street. Victorian Village."

"Most of those sound incredibly boring," Ashleigh said.

"Graceland sounds really cool," Eric said.

"No it doesn't. It sounds like the most boring thing on that list."

"There are also riverboat day cruises," FRIDA added.

"No way!" Raven said. "No more boats!"

"Why not? What are the odds of us being attacked on a boat twice?" Lisa asked.

"I'm still not risking it. I've had my fill of boats for a long, long time."

"So, we're going to Memphis?" Taylor asked.

"I just said it sounds boring," Ashleigh said.

"I'd like to see Graceland," Lisa said. "So Memphis sounds fun."

"Works for me," Jacob shrugged.

"I don't care," Raven said.

"Neither do I," Taylor said. "That's three-to-one. Sorry, Ash, but I guess we're going to Memphis."

"Fine. Whatever," Ashleigh said grumpily. "Let's go to Memphis, I don't care."

"We'll leave tomorrow," Raven said. "The drone can hook us up."

"Of course," FRIDA said. "That's why I'm here."

"So we need to spend another day in Jackson?" Ashleigh asked. "What are we supposed to do?"

"I'm going online," Raven pulled over the laptop. "The rest of you can do whatever you want."

"Hey, Eric," Taylor said, "you wanna hit up a comic shop?"

"Yeah, sure, it's been a couple months since we had anyone other than ourselves to really geek out with. Hey, droid, where's the nearest comic shop?"

"Oh!" Lisa said. "Frida, after you give them directions, could you tell me and Jacob where we can find a movie theatre? I feel like watching a movie."

"Do you have any idea how much it costs to go to the theatre?" Raven asked.

"I help steal food," Lisa said firmly. "I can go to a movie if I want."

"Just pirate it."

"You already have me stealing food, now you want me stealing movies? No. Pirating movies is against the law. And it's wrong. Haven't you seen the commercials they show about how it hurts people to do that?"

"I just don't understand how you can be so naive," Raven shook her head. "Fine, go to a movie. Knock yourself out."

"And what am I supposed to do?" Ashleigh asked.

"I don't know, make out with your boyfriend."

"My boyfriend's going out with his boyfriend."

"Oh, right."

"I guess you'll just have to make out with Raven," Eric joked. "Ah! Ow! Bela, cut that out! Raven, your cat's got his claws in my foot."

"I know," Raven said without looking up from the monitor. "I tried to get him there before you finished, but he was too far away."

"This still doesn't answer what I'm supposed to do," Ashleigh said.

"We can make fun of people online," Raven suggested. "Maybe there are some funny new cat videos, too."

"I guess that'll work. Sure wish we had chairs, though. Or a bed. Or something more comfortable than the floor."

"Stop whining. You know we're broke. You want to stay in a motel, get a job."

"Well, I think Eric and I'll be off," Taylor said. "We'll be back in a bit."

"Same with me and Lisa," Jacob said. "Later, guys."

Taylor and Eric strolled in the direction of the nearest comic book shop. "So," Eric said. "Any particular reason you felt like going out?"

"Yeah, like I said, I just felt like hanging out with you."

"No ulterior motive?"

"Like what?" Taylor glanced over.

"I don't know. Thought you might need to talk about what's been going on."

"I wasn't thinking about that, but . . . it has been pretty messed up."

"Yeah. That's one way of putting it."

"Almost dying in that swamp was a bit much."

"Ever think we have no business in all this magic stuff?"

"Sure. Doesn't mean I'm quitting. If I didn't do stupid stuff, I never would've met you," Taylor said with a smile.

"We've come a long way, haven't we?"

"Yeah. Remember when I told off Ray?"

"And he kicked your ass for it."

"Still worth it."

"Well, sure, it got you the rest of the day off."

"Anything is worth missing math class."

"And getting Ray kicked out of school turned you into a bit of a hero, too. Lucky you."

"Yep. I do wonder what happened to him, though."

"I never heard anything. I suppose it'll be a while before we find out," Eric sounded melancholic.

"Yeah. If we ever do," Taylor chuckled.

"By the way," Eric said, looking at the ground and blushing slightly. "I'm glad you tried to stick up for me. I'm glad I met you."

"Same here. You're my best friend. You're like a brother."

"Whatever does happen, I'm with you until the end."

"All right, I think we're getting a little dramatic here. We should probably talk about comics or Star Wars or something now."

"Right. Manly guys like you aren't supposed to show emotions, right?"

"Not when I'm sober. Maybe if I got drunk, I could start showing emotions."

"Too bad you don't drink, then. I have to admit, I'm a little surprised you wanted to get away from Ashleigh."

"Why's that? It's not like I spend all my time with her."

"You do spend most of your time with her, though. You think you two are meant to be? Together forever, that sorta thing?"

"I don't know. We're 16, I haven't really spent much time thinking about forever. I'm just happy with her right now. That's good enough for me."

"Things would get awkward pretty fast if you two did break up."

"Why this sudden concern about me and Ash breaking up?"

"Mm? No reason. I'm not concerned. I'm just saying."

"We should try to find you a nice guy who can join us. Maybe if you had a relationship of your own, you wouldn't be so worried about everyone else's relationships."

"I doubt it. I'm just a snoopy guy. Having a guy to make out with would only mean I'd have a little less time to spend on everyone else, but I'd still be sticking my nose where it doesn't belong."

"Yeah, true."

"I feel like we're being watched."

"What do you mean?"

"I don't know." Eric looked around and behind them. "I think we're being followed."

"By who?" Taylor looked around.

"I don't know. Just a weird feeling."

"Maybe you're starting to tap into that magical potential Lisa said you have."

"Or maybe I'm just paranoid."

"Eh, either option's good."

Back at the house, Raven browsed through some videos of cats. Ashleigh sat in contemplation. "Do you think Eric might be right?" she asked.

"About what?" Raven replied.

"About whether we should be out on our own."

"You don't seriously want to go home, do you?"

"Not really. But he has a point. We might be in over our heads."

"No way. We'll be fine. We don't need adults telling us what to do, or how to take care of ourselves."

"Maybe. But the more we look into Lisa's past, the more danger we're probably going to end up in. And half of us have no powers, no way to take care of ourselves."

"You've got that gun that nerd-girl gave us."

"I don't know how much good that'll do us against magic."

"Worried about getting hurt?"

"Well, yeah!" Ashleigh said. "I'm not an idiot, so of course I'm worried. But I'm actually more worried about Taylor. Ever since he tried to help Eric, he's taken pride in doing stupid stuff that could hurt him. I don't want to see him get himself killed."

"Jeez, you actually love him, don't you?"

"Well, um . . . yeah, kinda." Ashleigh was blushing.

"So when's the wedding date?"

"Shut up! You're making fun of me!"

"Me? Make fun of you? Would I do that?" Raven feigned innocence.

Ashleigh was quiet for a moment, then asked, blushing, "Do you think he'll want to marry me? I mean, eventually?"

"Well, he's a loser, so probably. You're way out of his league, and he knows it, so he'll end up being completely devoted to you."

"Is that why you don't date? Can't find someone too pathetic for you?" Ashleigh asked with a smirk.

"Bite me, Nick Fury."

"Who?"

"The black guy from that Avengers movie. Samuel L. Jackson played him. He wore an eyepatch."

"Right, yeah, I remember him now. What was with that stuff around his eye? Gross!"

"How long do you have to wear that eyepatch, anyway?"

"What do you mean?"

"Before your eye's healed enough to take it off."

"Healed? There's nothing to heal. This eye's gone." Ashleigh looked down sadly.

"Wait, gone? Like, totally missing?"

"Yeah. It was plucked right out."

"Damn. Oh, goddess, I had no idea. I'm so sorry," Raven said, feeling guilty.

"I know. It's OK. I forgave you a while ago."

"I wish there was something I could do."

Ashleigh shrugged. "There isn't. I could get a glass eye or something, but those look really weird. It's not a big deal." Her tone didn't match her words.

"Well, hey, Janet might be able to do, like, clone-tissue or something to get you a new eye."

"Maybe. I don't know." She smiled a little. "But I thought you didn't want to go to any of your old friends."

"I'm the reason you lost an eye. I'll do whatever it takes to make up for that."

"It's OK. Really. You don't owe me anything."

"I do. And I swear, I'll make it up to you, somehow, some day. Anything you need, I'm here for you."

"Really? Well, as long as everyone else is out, how about you boot up some gay porn and give me fifteen minutes to myself?"

"That . . . really wasn't what I had in mind."

"Hey! Too late to take it back now!"

"You're such a pervert. I should introduce you to Scott. You two would probably get along."

"Oh, God, Scott again? I'll tell you what you can do for me, you can stop talking about him."

"Now you're just being a bitch," Raven smirked.

"I don't deny it," Ashleigh said with pride.

Next: Graceland.