Chapter 120

“Dare,” Stella said confidently.

“Fine, I dare you to shotgun a beer,” Violet challenged.

Stella dipped her hand into the cooler and produced a fresh can of low-proof alcohol. Her hand turned metallic as she slammed her index finger into the can’s side while popping open the top. Without coming up once for breath, Stella drained her drink and cast the can back into the cooler.

“See, this is why games played with your roommate are always more fun,” Stella declared, exchanging a high five with Violet.

“Your turn to pick someone,” Thomas reminded her.

“Oh, believe me, I’m aware,” Stella said, her voice bordering on predatory. “I’m looking at you, Nick. Truth or dare?”

“Truth,” Nick replied immediately. It was the obvious choice. Actions were undeniable; however, he could always lie with words.

“What in the hell is up with the glasses? I mean, seriously,” Stella said.

Nick took a draw from his own drink. He’d found that answering too quickly put up people’s defenses that it might be a deception. Going slow, however, and pretending as though the act of answering required alcohol-based fortification, those things sold the listeners on the legitimacy of an answer. Of course, it also helped to make it something that was either slightly revealing or embarrassing.

“They’re a social mechanism,” Nick said. “They keep me a little bit different, a little bit separated from everyone else. Back home I was so used to being special because of my powers, when I came up here I guess I was scared of blending in. So I made sure everyone would notice me.”

“Huh,” Stella said. “That was more honesty than I was expecting. Kudos, kid. Your turn.”

“I’m picking Vince,” Nick said. “Truth or dare?”

“Um, truth,” Vince said.

“Psh, that’s a waste,” Sasha chimed in. “Vince always tells the truth anyway.”

“A valid point, but how else am I going to get the boy to drink if I don’t try to catch him in a dare?” Nick pointed out.

“Fair enough,” Sasha conceded.

“Anyway, here’s my question for you, buddy. I noticed something odd when you took your shirt off. You have no scars, like, at all. Now, since you’ve been at Lander you’ve had healers on hand to patch you on the fly, but for a guy with your level of martial arts experience, it seems odd that you never sustained any injury. What’s the deal?” Nick asked.

“That’s a pretty invasive question,” Alice noted.

“I’m pretty set on making him pick dare next time,” Nick said. “So, Silver, how’s about it?”

“I used to have scars,” Vince said. “I got into an accident when I was sixteen, though. I was taken care of by a healer.”

“Oookay, so what happened all the injuries your body had sustained in the years prior?” Nick prodded.

“He was a very good healer,” Vince said, glancing away.

“Damn,” Stella said. “That’s an intense power.”

“No kidding,” Alex agreed.

“Question well answered, though I feel like there’s more story than I’m getting,” Nick said. “Your turn.”

“Hmm. I pick Jill. Truth or dare?”

“Dare!” Jill announced enthusiastically.

“Oh,” Vince said. “I suppose I dare you to put more sunscreen on your nose so you don’t burn.”

“Seriously?” Jill asked, her excitement deflating.

“Sure,” Vince said.

“Wow, okay you guys are awful at this game,” Jill sighed, pulling out her sunscreen and briskly reapplying to her face. “It’s not supposed to be these deep ass questions. It’s supposed to be embarrassing and at least vaguely sexual. For example, it’s now my turn and I pick Alice. Truth or dare?”

“After that lead in? I’m going with truth,” Alice said.

“Works for me. I’ve wanted to ask for a while anyway. Are those things fake or natural?”

Alice began blushing as soon as the meaning of Jill’s words registered. Still, she was playing the game, and that’s how these things went sometimes.

“Natural,” Alice said. “Apparently it runs in my family.

“Ugh, and with that tiny waist, too. You’re such a bitch,” Jill said, her tone full of more friendliness than her words.

“I do what I can,” Alice said, taking a drink from the chilled wine bladder that had been one of the features of her cooler. It was awful, awful stuff, made even worse if the consumer knew anything about wine. Her father would have died to see his daughter consuming such swill. Which might have been a significant factor in why Alice was chugging away on it.

“Okay, so my turn. I choose our tan stoic,” Alice said. “Thomas, truth or dare?”

“Truth,” Thomas said.

“Let’s see,” Alice said, drumming her fingers on the side of the tube. "Oh, I know! In terms of bases, just how far did you get with our little Violet back when you two dated?”

“I’m not sure that’s appropriate for a gentleman to disclose,” Thomas began.

“Oh, it’s fine, that’s the whole point of the game,” Violet interrupted. “Tell away, I’m not ashamed.”

“I believe the term is ‘Home,’” Thomas said, keeping his eyes firmly away from everyone else in the group.

There was a series of catcalls and whistling, as well as grumbling from Alex about even the ones who didn't want it getting more play than him.

“That’s right, that’s right,” Violet said, lifting her arms in pride. “I nailed me a good boy. I know I’m your hero.”

“Moving on,” Thomas said. “I select Jill. Truth or dare?”

“Dare!” Jill said, once more yelping with enthusiasm.

“Very well, I dare you to lay a kiss on Alex that renders him incapable of coherent thought,” Thomas said.

“Woo, Thomas taking it up a notch,” Sasha cheered.

“She did advocate a more risqué theme in the game,” Thomas justified. “Besides, I find it permissible to look out for my friends.”

Jill began paddling over to Alex, who threw up his hands.

“There’s no need for that,” Alex said. “I’m not into girls kissing me out of obligation.”

“Oh, shut up,” Jill said as she reached him. She grabbed his tube and pulled herself close. Without pause she latched onto Alex’s shoulders and lifted her body up to his level. The kiss lasted for nearly a minute, long enough to become mildly uncomfortable for those watching. At last Jill released Alex’s narrow form and dropped back into her own tube, the force of her landing setting her drifting back toward Alice.

“I don’t know about coherent thought,” Jill said as she paddled to steady herself, “but I guarantee he won’t be able to stand without embarrassment for at least five minutes. That work?”

“That works,” Thomas confirmed. “Your turn.”