Hidden 2 mos ago Post by BrutalBx
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BrutalBx

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December 4, 2016, Pinehurst, MA

“That absolute bitch!”

Allison was fuming. Not only was she cold because it was the middle of December. Not only was she annoyed that Francis had decided in his infinite wisdom to travel with the boys to Pinehurst; there was also that shit with her mother. She knew she had to tell Vinny about it but her baby brother was just so...he was just so Vin. She didn’t think he would handle it well. And then to top it all off that Pinehurst slut Bianca Washington had stolen her fucking song!

“This is unacceptable, ladies!” Ally looked down at her assembled squad and scanned them one by one, looking for any sign of weakness. A mass bout of the flu had struck Edenridge High like a bolt of lightning and her Varsity cheerleaders were mostly suffering; leaving Ally with the freshmen squad as her back up. This wasn’t a terrible thing, there was a lot of talent on the team but it was difficult nonetheless. Allison had spent weeks training the young fresh faced ladies a flawless routine but low and behold goddamn Bianca Washington had up and stolen their music. If the Celtic’s were to dance to the same tune as the Pinehurst Monarchs, how were they going to win the Shining Star competition?!

She needed to win this. Pinehurst had won the last two competitions and Rosefell had won the one before that! This was Allison’s senior year at Edenridge, it was her last chance to make an impact. Reagan was going to be a doctor, Vivi’s drive would surely take her places and hell, Francis had gotten into Yale. Allison had yet to hear back from any of her colleges of choice and although there was still plenty she was starting to get a bit worried. She didn’t want to become another statistic, another prom Queen who never left her hometown, got fat and had a bunch of kids with some Neanderthal who worked part time at the Stop n' Shop. Ally had to get out, to be someone, she had plans. Those plans started with winning this damn competition.

“Mei! I know you’re all leather jackets, Hayley Williams, I’m such a badass but please, for the love of baby Jesus, tell me your encyclopaedic music brain has something we can work with in there? Something with a similar beat so we don’t have to change the routine?”

Tying up the laces of her converse sneakers, Mei looked up towards the taller girl and smiled. “Let me scan through my phone and see what I’ve got” She reached into her duffel bag and began to scan through Spotify to see what she could find. It was very last minute but Mei had a mind for this sort of thing, she just didn’t have a lot of time to dwell, one wrong move and Allison would have her ass cleaning the basketball players' used underwear.

Turning back to the rest of the squad, Ally tried to put all other thoughts from her mind and focus on what she could control; how her team looked. “Girls, make sure you wear your hair down. Down is sexy, up is somebody's housewife with four kids and a mortgage. These judges aren’t gonna give us any extra points for baking them a casserole. Baby oil those legs, get those tans even and pad those bras. Sex sells!”

Ally scanned her youthful team again, with an almost wide eyed, manic stare. "Jillian! The make up, it’s wrong wrong wrong! Pushing by a terrified Katherine Dunbar she began to ratch through her purse, throwing all of the girl's personal belongings onto the floor. Finally, she pulled a small lipstick out from the bottom of the bag and threw it at Jillian. "With your skin tone and that hair-- I’m totally jelly, by the way--, you should only ever wear red lipstick. Trust me.” Her chocolate-coloured eyes moved to the other redhead in the room, Caitlin. ”That goes double for you, CeCe.”

As soon as Allison turned her back on her, Caitlin's cheeks couldn't help but flush at the older girl's words. There was something about the way she'd said that statement-- with the cryptic undertone and the knowing, almost smug look-- that made Cece wonder whether Ally was aware of what happened around her more than she was letting on. The cheer captain's remark made Caitlin replay in her head all of the interactions she'd had around Ally with others, trying to figure out whether something had slipped through the cracks but failing to pinpoint any particular instance. Whether it was all in her paranoid head or she was correct in her assumptions, this encounter only strengthened Cece's resolve to keep a tight leash on what she did or shared with and around the team.

She moved her way over to the blonde bombshell that was Lanie Lancaster and scanned her up her down. "Where is your ass, Elaine? I told you to get your squats in. You look like a stick.”

Lanie scoffed in disbelief and rolled her eyes at her mentor, the annoyance painted all over her delicate face. "Well I'm sorry puberty hasn't caught up with me yet! We're not all blessed with !" she argued back, positively fuming. During the times Allison acted neurotic when under pressure, the blonde girl often tried to not take what she said seriously. She knew sometimes. That being said, Lanie still didn't appreciate Ally broadcasting her insecurities to the rest of the team like that. Out of everyone else, it was Ally who knew firsthand how much work it took Lanie to avoid constantly comparing and belittling herself when thinking of the squad of beautiful girls surrounding her.

Cupping the young girl's face in her palms, Allison looked deep into her eyes. "Lanie, baby. Please make sure you’re eating”

Elaine raised an eyebrow. "What the fuck makes you think I'm not eati-"

Interjecting into the conversation before Allison went all den mother, the Asian teen spoke loudly. ”I’ve got the song, Ally” Mei took out her AirPods and turned up the volume so the rest of the squad could listen to her chosen track.

“The fuck is this?”

”I promise you, Allison. No one else tonight is using this song. The beat is perfect for the moves. We just step up our rhythm a bit and we’re golden”

Allison shot daggers at Mei for a second before kissing the girl on the top of her forehead. ”Great work Mei-Day but if we fuck this up, it’s on you”

Emerging from behind a locker, Babs Copeland, guidance counsellor, cheerleading squad coach, former Shining Star winner of both first place and best choreography, Allison’s hero. She was still a ravenous beauty and indeed some boys at Edenridge High got themselves appointments with the counsellor purely to gaze upon her visage. In the boys locker room, there was a famous saying in regards to Miss Copeland; Shame she’s gay

“Ladies, you’re up in five. I hope you’re ready.”

In a panic, Allison looked to her girls and pointed at the door. “Five minutes. I want you all out there ready to break some hearts” She barged by Olivia Madden and through the side door to the parking lot.

She almost side swiped that tall lanky freshman, what was his name, Charlie something? And some girl he was with before making it to her car and climbing into the passenger side. Allison opened up the glove compartment, allowing a small bag of white powder and a rolled up dollar bill to fall into her hand.

Just a small bump to get me going, then I’ll get the good stuff from Rey after we win
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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Fever Dream
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Fever Dream

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“Oh yeah, no, my phone is fine.” The girl gave it another glance, not noticing any additional scratches aside from the ones already on it. She then put the device away before addressing him once more. “Sorry again, I’m so clumsy I managed to hurt my wrist all on my own...go figure.” Anna shrugged her shoulders with a half smile, picking up on the fact that the man appeared to be somewhat confused for whatever reason. She, on the other hand, had simply gotten distracted. Not that one was to blame over the other.

“Alright, well, have a good day!”

Have a good day!

That was the message that her mother had sent her in response to Anna’s text explaining how she had to get started on her math assignment. Technically Anna wasn’t lying when she had mentioned that, but she was in a hurry because her homework was due immediately after lunch and she hadn’t even began working on it. Immediately after the fact, Anna rounded the corner and that’s when she had come across Charlie, without a doubt the scariest moment of her short life.

But that was then. A few moments later, Anna snapped out of it. She realized she hadn’t moved from her spot, and she was pretty embarrassed with herself as she had said her goodbyes without going anywhere. But then she realized she wasn’t hungry any more, and going back to the store would be a waste of time. Instead, Anna figured she’d go back home, pick up a bit around the house, and maybe read some of those letters. Her mood and appetite had already been ruined by that god awful memory, so she might as well get it over with before the stack of letters grew even more.


Interacting with: @Metronome
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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by metanoia
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metanoia I must return to my meditations

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A @LovelyComplex & @metanoia Collab
Featuring: Penelope James & Jade Taylor

The only thing Victoria tasked her daughter to do today was grocery shopping, and for the most part, Penelope made it out alive. With Charlie’s hoodie on, her hair unbrushed and falling in front of her face, and a mask covering everything below her green eyes, the youngest James daughter robotically moved through the public. Fading in the background of the busy and impersonal market, she chose to detach herself from the surrounding chaos, tunneling her vision toward the items and not the people. Separating her brain from herself, momentarily, to achieve one task.

A month ago, she wouldn’t be able to successfully walk into a place like this. Her mouth and tongue still dries up, but at least she can fool herself to not panic. She wasn’t ready to say she was strong, that she was okay, everything was fine — why would she lie to herself like that? Instead, she thought of the delightful imagery in times past in order to make it through mundane chores in a public place.

Was this sad?

Yeah, it was.

Even worse that she couldn’t remember what day or year it was.

As she walked down the aisles, she could see him. She saw him grab his favorite things, as she read a list of necessities and he would sneak in even more bagels than they already had. It was funny, really. Funny how much they looked like a married couple even when they weren’t. They had never kissed or even said...

Thinking back, after Maxine died, Charlie was really all she had. Yes, her parents were still living, but her father was constantly trying to protect and save the children he saw himself in and her mom? She had hidden demons that no one else knew about.

People were innately selfish and really, if she could have things her way, it would be just Charlie and her against the world. That would be the reality she’d have over everything else. Maybe that was extreme of her. Still, when she thought of the idea of not being able to feel him anymore, hold his hands, touch his face, mend his wounds, smell his scent, she knew there was no control left in her.

Lost, powerless, and empty.

Charlie was her compass and she didn’t know how to get home. Instead of moving forward, she was getting pulled deeper and deeper in a vast ocean, reaching the Mariana Trench, unable to swim back up. No compass. No home. No purpose. Just her and this heavy sensation.

Her body and soul might’ve been empty, but at least she saw joy where she went. At least she remembered. Memories made her feel safe and gave her the strength to find a harbour away from the strong waves and the storm. She liked this feeling. She liked feeling removed from the world. She liked seeing things, good things, to mask all the bad. She liked to pretend.

This way of living became second nature to her. For about a year now? Give or take. However, she knew… Poppy knew this all needed to stop. She had to stop locking the truth in a cage and warping her love and her memories of him. How can she learn to let go if she kept playing pretend?

Easier said than done.

Penelope found herself home, putting away her groceries, continuing to move on auto-pilot. When she finished her task, hopefully not forgetting anything, she decided to take a shower. Wow, shocker. There was a place she needed to go, and she had to go right and clean. It was time for her to remember the good, the bad, and the ugly, and let that become her strength to reconnect with the world and weave herself into her new normal.

Shuffling her way upstairs, not surprised her parents weren’t home yet, Poppy headed straight to her bathroom through her bedroom. She didn’t think about checking her phone to see if she had any missed messages and calls. She was too busy replaying things in her head to think about that. So instead, she got ready for her walk down memory lane aiming to look semi-presentable to impress a ghost.

The ghost forever in her dreams.


And then when a familiar blonde made her way through the front door, she sighed out as it closed behind her. Her long fingers, which were detailed with black nail polish and red specks on them, still remained on the doorknob as it clicked shut. The sound of it making her smile for some reason and she looked around. There was something in the air and she couldn’t say what it was for certain. Maybe it was just today and how she knew the task waiting for her upstairs wasn’t going to be an easy one to accomplish.

“No time like the present,” she’d mutter quietly.

Jade threw her legs into a brisk walk, the creaking sound of her step repeating until she reached the top. With every step, Jade grunted but she also thought about what she was going to say and just exactly what she might have to say to get a certain ghost to come with her. Knowing how stubborn they were, Jade found herself sighing once more.

And now at her bedroom door, she hesitated before knocking. The apprehension was clear in how her hand trembled slightly.

And then Jade twisted the knob.

And then she knocked as the door opened.

And she saw her friend, that dear friend who probably was the only other person in the entire town dreading this day.

“Hey..” Jade spoke in a low tone, almost inaudible. It would have been if she was any further away. “Hope you don’t mind, I let myself in.” Jade laughed as she walked further into Poppy’s room. “You guys seriously need to think about locking your front door, never know who might walk right in.” Ah yes, there was Jade’s trademark humor that had just enough guilt-tripping in it that made her almost endearing.

“If we locked our door, you would fall on your ass through my window. And we all know how well that goes for Charlie.” Out of habit, Poppy talked about the lost man that weighed heavily on her and her best friend’s heart in present tense. Even after such a long time, she acted like it was only today he said ‘see you later, Pops’. In false hope, she expected him to come crawling in her window for her to comfort him.

Unbeknownst to the blonde bombshell, Poppy had no idea of the importance of this day and that there was something happening later on. Believe it or not, the lost soul that was Penelope James had not opened a single letter directed to her. Since she barely went out in public and when she did she was not listening to the people around her, she had no idea what was inside the envelopes. Her father, her mother, and her friends might’ve known but none of them thought to bring it up to Poppy… or none of them wanted to.

In addition to that, Jade was walking into a surprise. For once, Poppy was dressed in fresh clothes — another Charlie hoodie, a different pair of jeans, and a tank underneath — and she was rubbing her wet hair with her towel on her vanity chair. Do note, her vanity no longer had a mirror since glass was a danger to the James girl. Regardless, not only did Poppy seem like she was getting ready to go somewhere, she was clean. Usually, her parents had to remind her to take a bath or she’d go days without leaving the floor of her bedroom. Her only motivator being her back end job at Cafe Rochambeau. Or maybe that wasn’t the case anymore?

As she massaged her head with the towel, Poppy assured her best friend, “You’re always welcomed here.” Pulling her head up, she delicately brought her attention to Jade and smiled, “You know that.” After her melancholy green eyes met Jade’s bluish-green gaze, she carelessly threw her wet towel in the mess that was her room and reached for her brush. Ready to take out these awful knots.

“Yeah, I know..” Jade said, albeit in a dragged out tone, as she let her gaze circle around the room. Maybe it was out of habit or just taking in familiar sights, she smiled. Roughly everything looked the same as she was in here last, but the energy was somehow different. It was messier than usual. Maybe she should ask? Nah, that wouldn’t be wise. Even Jade knew not to go there.

A series of long moments passed, mostly with Jade being silent other than the occasional semi-inaudible grunts as she took a spot on Poppy’s bed. Today her legs felt weirdly achy and she just had to take a seat. Doing so allowed her time -- time to think, that was. Poppy knew it wasn’t unlike Jade to not say anything, though this long had to be a new record. “So,” she began, turning her gaze onto her friend, “how are you?” The blonde asked, giving Pops a smile.

Subconsciously, Poppy twitched when Jade sat on her bed that she barely went on herself. It was subtle and barely noticeable, but it was still there. Usually this only happened when someone went on her bed… which was the one place she spent the most time with Charlie. While that sounds inappropriate, that was her favorite part of the day. When he came home, snuck in, and she’d read to him or they’d just talk all night until she fell asleep in his arms. It was simple. It was her’s. She could call those memories her own.

Going back to brushing her hair, looking away from Jade, Poppy went in and out of a daze. Brushing, just brushing. Repetitive but soothing. Sadly, she didn’t notice how long it was taking her friend to speak up. If she wasn’t caught up in her own headspace, she certainly would’ve but that Poppy went missing a long time ago. The one that noticed when her friends were feeling off. When her friends clearly needed her. When Jade finally spoke up, snapping Poppy back to the present, the brunette lethargically shrugged in response, “I’m here, just thinking.”

Once she placed her brush on her vanity, she stood up and did the big stretch. Charlie’s hoodie was huge on her so it didn’t really show her thin stomach, which clearly displayed her lack of nourishment. “How are you?”

Jade let out a slow breath as she leaned back, putting most of her weight on her wrists. “I’m fine,” she said lowly. “I mean, I got to see my uncle today,” she’d admit as an afterthought. Something in her wanted to ask how she really was doing, but that part of her seemed to be sighed away. The only thing that remained was how she needed to work up the courage to bring up tonight and why she’d really come. Right about now, Jade wish she’d saved some of her coke. She could really use some of it right about now.

“That’s great, J. He’s doing good? Holding up?” Dropping to the floor, Poppy searched through the pockets of her clothes to find her cigarettes and lighter. With the acknowledgement of Jade’s Uncle Charlie, who she knew was behind bars, it showed that Poppy wasn’t completely in the grief stage of denial. An improvement from a month ago. She was talking about things that her friend was currently living through and not the past. Whether either girl was aware of it or not, Poppy seemed to be moving a small step closer toward the right direction.

“Ah-ha.” Finding her Marlboro Red cigarettes and Charlie’s zippo lighter, Poppy graciously pulled them close to her and checked to see how many she had left. “Fuck.” Just two. Still enough for her and Jade but she should’ve gotten this on errands today. From the floor, she recklessly tossed the box to her friend with no warning or hesitation.

And when it was tossed, an absentminded Jade was slow to react. And then it made contact with the right side of Jade’s face, literally forcing her to become alert. And then it fell into her lap. Jade looked at it, smiling into a laugh and glancing over at Poppy. “Jesus Pops. If this thing was actually full, it might’ve actually hurt.” Jade laughed at that and took a peek into the cigarette box, seeing two inside. “Care to throw me a light, too?”

When she did, unlike with the box, Jade caught it in her hand and flicked it on to light up the cig that was pressed between her lips. She took in a quick puff before walking over to Poppy, jerking out the last one. “Might as well take the last one.” Jade looked at her friend as though it wasn’t a request. That light bump she took woke up more than her immediate attention.

Staring up at her friend, from the floor, Poppy rolled her big puppy eyes, before pushing herself up and grabbing the ‘offered’ cigarette and placing it in her mouth. Leaning into the light, she let the butt of the cigarette touch it, letting it burn. Pulling away, she inhaled the grey stench, forcing the chemicals to invade her system almost fervently. Truth be told, Poppy didn’t always smoke. She started in junior year, when Charlie was pulling away from her.

Opening her mouth slightly ajar, she let the smoke steadily flow out. This was refreshing, honestly. The Poppy in highschool would hate the smell of smoke in her bedroom, but this Poppy? This Poppy could care less. Give it all to her from the tar-infested lungs to the future death-bed, she wanted, no, she needed nicotine. Relaxing her shoulders, she looked at her friend and cut to the chase, showing a glimpse of some of the old Poppy that everyone knew and loved, “Okay, hoe, why are you really here?” The Southside’s Symbol of Peace, the daughter of a reformed Serpent turned cop, and the one who saw the best in all of them, teasingly chuckled while nudging her girl.

With how she was leaning, Jade felt the nudge more than she thought she might. “What? Do I need a reason to visit?” Even as she asked her question, with how Pops was looking at her, it became clear to Jade that she could avoid it any longer. But that still begged the question how would she bring it up? Just saying it made her feel dirty. At the same time, when was Jade Taylor this hesitant?

Fuck it.

“It’s about tonight. Are you going?” She asked Poppy.

Huh? Taking another drag, Poppy blinked at her friend with pure confusion. “Tonight? I mean I was going to do something but like, what’s happening?” Did she miss the memo? Jade knew she didn’t like social gatherings, so if Palmero or any other place was throwing some kind of mixer or fun night, she was NOT going.

Jade had to take a moment to just...stare at Poppy. She needed to make sure her friend wasn’t pranking her and making her work for it. And then she realized it was genuine confusion in her eyes. And that brought Jade to a thought. How could she not know? The letters were pretty clear. As painful as it was for Jade when she first read them, the most recent one was direct and to the point.

“How could you not know about tonight? It was clear in the letter…”

“...what are you talking about? You mean these letters?” Poppy went to her desk, opening her file drawer but not going in to pull any of them out. There was a stack of unopened letters that buried a manuscript. “There wasn’t a return address… I didn’t care enough to read any of them.”

“You mean you didn’t-”

“Hear anything? Come on, Jade. I barely can remember to bathe, let alone feed myself. What makes you think I’m paying attention to anything that’s happening in this town?” Poppy cut her friend off, knowing exactly what she was going to say because of her soul-sister sense.

There was a familiar sharp pain rising from her gut all the way up to her heart. Between the unopened letters and how slowly, yet surely, Poppy was confirming she really didn’t have any idea, Jade just knew what she had to do. She was certain that she had to be the one to drop the bomb on Poppy’s ignorance is bliss world. But between that and the other little bits she revealed, Jade really didn’t want to be her right now.

She took in another breath and then one final drag of her cig before she spoke. “It’s Charlie, Pops. The letters are from Charlie. Or they’re from his journal. At least, that’s how they read.” Even as Jade spoke, saying it out loud, saying his name out loud, it made everything in her ache.

Tilting her head, Penelope took in this information. She was silent for a second or two. Slowly shaking her head, she whispered, “What? No.” That can’t be true. How could Charlie… did someone… “No. NO! She yelled at Jade, in both anger and disbelief. What was this bullshit? Those were his private thoughts!

Suddenly, Penelope became frantic. Absentmindedly, her cigarette slipped out of her fingers. Dropping to her knees, she pulled out each letter and ripped them open seeing his handwriting and skimming the quotes; his words. She threw them from left to right, her eyes resting momentarily on his novel. Then she crawled to her closet forcefully throwing it open and pulling out the box that was left for her. “No… what do you mean?”

She started throwing Charlie’s things out of the box, searching for his journal. Why wasn’t his journal here? It should be here. Why wouldn’t she be the one that has it? Like this morning, she found the last thing that she grabbed which was his leather jacket. Bringing it close, her eyes watered and her head felt… light. No crying. Don’t cry.

She needed to… she needed to… standing up, leaving his coat behind, she ran to the bathroom and threw herself over the toilet and upchuck the small food she ate for the day. When she had nothing more that could leave her body, she rested there, as if she had a little too much to drink. Exhausted, tired, and shocked.

“Fuck,” she muttered to herself.

As Jade stood in the aftermath of what she had caused, she couldn’t bring herself to move -- at least not yet. The aching feeling from before evolved into that kind of numb feeling you got when something terrible happened and you knew it was your fault. Hearing her sister wail frantically was the final nail.

But really what was she expecting? For Pops to not to react? No, that wasn’t what made her feel this way. Sure, it didn’t soften the blow. What Jade seemed to have trouble processing was Charlie’s things scattered about and just how much of it there was.

Internal guilt for Charlie brought an external frustration and from that frustration came a few tears that clashed with Jade’s heavy eyeliner.

As she allowed herself a few moments to just… take it all in, letting herself feel whatever she needed to feel in that moment. And when she was finished, she picked up Poppy’s dropped cig and flicked it out the window, then she’d find herself in the bathroom and by her sister’s side. She was on a knee, both hands on Poppy’s shoulders. She didn’t know what she could say, so she just let her actions speak for her.

Breathlessly, Poppy weakly demanded, “We’re going.” She didn’t know if she was strong enough, emotionally and physically, and she knew for damn sure she hadn’t eaten enough, but she was already going to the school. She decided that this morning. Might as well kill two birds with one stone.

There was this different sensation building up in Poppy. She wasn’t sure as of yet what it was, seeing how she just got done puking her guts out, but she knew she couldn’t ignore this. Whatever it was, it was motivating her. Driving her. Pushing her towards the truth.

Using Jade as support to get up, Penelope went to her sink and quietly cleaned her mouth and face. There was no mirror in front of her, once again. Since her father removed them all. Holding herself up on the sink, she loudly cursed, “FUCK!”

Punching the wall in front of her, with her bandage hand, it was clear that Poppy wasn’t only shaky, she was furious. After stretching her right hand fingers and knuckles, likely opening wounds, she turned to Jade, wiping her wet lips off with Charlie’s sleeves, “They want to talk about him like they know him? Let’s go fuck that up.”

Seeing the way Poppy pulled herself out of that place made Jade crack a smile, though it was short-lived when she realized something. The way Poppy was shaking and how it was clear she was running on fumes alone, she stared at her sister. Jade’s familiar stern gaze was piercing Poppy down. “Yes, we will. But we’re getting you something to eat first.” Again, like with the cig, Jade wasn’t asking.


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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by NeoAJ
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NeoAJ Fine. I'll High Five Myself.

Member Seen 16 hrs ago




A @LovelyComplex, @BrutalBx, & @NeoAJ Collab
Featuring: Kylee Grimm, Mei Ramsey, & Jillian O'Brien
With Guest Star: Hailey Grimm
and a little bit of Garrett "Rhett" Cleary III

Kylee Grimm spent her day having a date with her ‘mother’. On days that she didn’t have much to look forward to, the sugarbaby that was trying to call herself ‘mommy’ went out of her way to use the youngest Grimm, that still lived in the nest, as a source of entertainment. To summarize Kylee’s day, they went to the mall, which was more Kylee watching Miss. Frenchie trying on many, many, many outfits, they got their nails done, and they grabbed a bite to eat at Palermo. Throughout their day, they got plenty of stares, as per usual, but this time there was a mixed pot of feelings towards Kylee, who chose to start her day with valor. From what she could see, there was disdain, confusion, and hope. At least now she could guarantee she had listeners.

At some point during that day, Kylee had texted her sister and the moment she stepped in the house, she turned right back out, dropping the shopping bags on the floor and leaving the blonde woman behind. Hailey Grimm pulled up in her 2015 Ford Mustang Convertible and the moment she came to a full halt, Kylee slipped in and hissed, “Thank GOD. That woman is so goddamn needy.” She huffed and puffed and when she was finally done being extra, the brunette grinned at her sister, “Haileyyyy, thank you! You are the absolute best.”

“Uh-huh.” Hailey nonchalantly responded before snapping her gum, “You’re lucky I have some time,” Her sister, a natural sex ba-bomb, with perfume that created a welcoming haze, shook her head at her youngest sibling while shifting gears, leaving their father’s estate at full tilt. The baby princess knew Hailstorm had work tonight at Edge of Sin, so asking this of her last minute was an inconvenience, but she also knew that her sister hated that woman too. It wasn’t that hard to state her case and convince her sissy to help her out. ‘Just this once.’

“They’re at the Hole in the Wall, probably drunk as hell,” the mischievous gossip girl absentmindedly skimmed her socials, while her blue haired vixen of a sister sped through the streets.

Glancing over to the girl in a pink berat, the promiscuous girl probed, “I’m surprised you’re sober honestly. You sure you got this? Whatever this is tonight.”

“One of us needs to be the sober one, Hails, and I have no choice but to ‘have this’. I can only assume tonight will bring up Allison. My girls need me,” Kylee sighed, placing her phone on her lap, “Plus, if I don’t show my face, after all the things I said this morning, I’ll be called a coward or whatever unclever thing my peers can come up with.”

“Do you need a gun?”

“W-what?! No, no it’s fine. I think the last thing we all need is a gun in that place.” Jeez, sometimes she wondered if her sister’s screws were loose. If someone brought a gun at this event that was focusing on Charlie’s letters, that would just be sad and dumb. Very dumb. There probably would be cops not too far away from the scene anyways.

Quickly changing the subject, Kylee started to talk about how crappy her day was. It got to the point that Hailey decided to drown her sister’s voice out with music. Her music. Hailey adored her sister, don’t get her wrong, but sometimes… she just didn’t know when to shut up.

Sighing to herself, not oblivious to her sister’s annoyed expression, Kylee looked out the passenger seat window, at all the houses passing them by, waiting to get to their destination. She didn’t know how she felt about this but she hoped it wouldn’t be too painful of an experience for her friends.



A couple hours before...
Rena: “I know a little bit. Me and Jill will be at the school tonight to catch this fucker! You should come by and bring your foxy cousin xxx”

Mei hit send on the message and then placed her phone back onto the damp wooden table which had been soaked by the spillage of one of her or Jillian’s many drinks. The Hole in the Wall was a great bar. The booze was cheap, the wings were to die for and the music wasn’t half bad and that was saying something considering Mei’s eclectic tastes. She pounded down her shot of vodka before chasing it with the Holes signature ale; Hazy Banshee; a mango and guava IPA that blends perfectly with those damn tasty wings.

”You want wings? I want wings. RHETT!!!” The girl called out to the poor assistant manager of the bar. Rhett was a nice guy, they went to school with his sister. The dogged young man turned up at their booth looking tired. He would never understand why his father insisted on opening early and these girls had been there for hours. To be fair, he probably knew that the booze hound former cheerleaders were going to be his best customers. ”More wings. Twenty-five plate, thank you handsome.” The poor server headed back to the kitchen to cook up some of those famous chicken wings whilst Mei threw back another shot.

”I got a few requests for you to be back on the show this week, think you’d be down?”

The first thing that was down was Jillian’s glass. It had made the trip from her lips to the table countless times since the girls arrived at the Hole. The condensation from the glass had made the landing a bit of a splash down at this point. The redhead had lost track of which number vodka cran she was on. It never really mattered in the end. All that mattered was that she stuck with the vodka. Mixing grains this early in the day was a recipe for mistakes.

The second thing down was her elbow as she used her hand to prop up her head while she looked at her best friend. She was surprised to hear there were calls for the Ashes to rise again on Mei’s podcast. Granted, she was better equipped to tackle some of the darker subject matter nowadays compared to when her nickname was something more positive. Ashes was a pseudonym she came up with on the spot when Mei asked if she wanted to be on an episode. Now it was a thing.

She laughed slightly. It was harder to do these days, but Mei was the one most likely to be able to pull them out of her, aside from maybe Danny on one of his absolute doof days. “Hard to believe I’m that much of a hit. I didn’t think I added that much to things, but I guess people like to hear two people talk about the mysteries of the macabre even if they have that fake Irish accent going on, huh?” The soothsaying banshee voice was also created on the spot, based on her grandmother’s lilting tones. It was a little slurred given Jill’s desire for G&Ts while recording, but it worked well enough for people to want her back apparently. Plus, it gave Jill a little bit of space between her real life and this world where she had answers from beyond.

The glass made another round trip back to the table, but sounded hollow this time as another beverage was emptied. “But you’re lucky I take payment in wings, so I’ll be on the show anytime you’re offering.” Jill looked up at where Rhett was running back to the kitchen. “And another VC, Rhett!” she shouted as loud as she could muster. It wasn’t much these days, but it was something. Those wings were going to taste great in the shadow of her makeshift breakfast though. “So what’s the topic, anyway? Are you still planning on talking about Amanda? ‘Cause I mean, I’ve heard some shit, but I dunno how much you want out on the airwaves,” she warned.

”You know me Jillybean. I got nothing that scares me and people deserve to hear the facts about what happened. There are too many damn lies floating around this town.”

Mei didn’t really consider herself a journalist by any means yet it seemed to be the role that she acquired. She was a better looking Veronica Mars in leather and fishnets and felt things just a little too much. Of all the tragedies to befall this town, even those in no way connected to Mei, she felt them hard. One might describe her as an empath, attracted to the bitches, bad asses and broken things that the winds of darkness left behind in this godforsaken place.

Perhaps this was why she and Jillian were as close as they were. Flashback but a few years and the two girls were worlds apart. If you were to line up the cheerleading squad of the Edenridge Celtics, you’d see what you’d expect. Bottled blondes, beautiful people and in the midst of it all, a fiery redhead and a wannabe goth. Through tragedy their bond was sealed and now at least on Mei’s side; she would die for the girl that sat before her, of that there was no question.

”You should have heard Kylee’s show this morning. She had the reporter guy on, he sounded hot to be honest, wouldn’t be surprised if she mounted him then and there. I’m talking mucho sexual tension.” The thought of any kind of sexual fun made Mei just a tad thirsty. It had been a while since her last encounter and the need for some release was growing stronger with each drink.

After yet another shot and a wing from the plate that Rhett has so graciously rushed from the kitchen, Mei looked her friend up and down and planted her hands firmly on the table. ”You know what? Here’s the plan. You and I are going to get dolled up, fucked up then we’re going to go to that fucking school, kick the shit out of whoever is sending these damn letters and then we’re gonna get laid. We could both do with it. Don’t even question me on this, Jill.” The small girl was a force of nature, even if Jillian argued, she wouldn’t listen. ”I’m gonna hit up Ky. We need a designated driver.”

With that she pulled out her phone and dropped Kylee a message to meet them at the Hole.

As Mei laid out the plan for the evening, Jill looked down at herself. Dolled up was going to be an effort to get to in her current state. Especially if it was a fighting-mode dolled up style. But there was no point in trying to change Mei’s mind. It was funny. It seemed Mei was more of a steadying influence in high school, keeping Jillian and her high-risk ideas for the squad in check before the redhead went too far beyond the team’s capabilities.

Now? Polar opposite. Mei was the one who was ready to go out and do whatever it took. In contrast, Jillian was not in the state to be denying that desire. Certainly not with as much alcohol as she had enjoyed already. At least she still had spare makeup in her purse so she wouldn’t necessarily have to go back home. Her current outfit was more than all right for fighting. Tank top + short shorts = total mobility.

“Why would I question you on this, Mei? Fuck that caligraphy asshole! Who the hell writes letters anymore anyway? IG it like a normal person!” Not that Jill would have had the desire to check the gram, but still. It was better than trying to hide those offending letters from her mother. Shannon was already a wreck after the shooting, unsure what she could have done to protect the baby or her friends. Jill had the levels of apathy needed to deal with it without more unnecessary care coming from mom. “I dunno if getting laid is in the cards for me though. I mean, more than happy to play wingwoman for ya, but I just dunno. Not a lot of guys in this town are worth it. I mean, if Danny is top-tier, what does that say about the state of Edenridge on that front? Especially if Kylee’s got the reporter on lock. You sure she’ll tear herself away from him to be able to pick us up?”

”Oh for sure, she owes me.” Mei grabbed another wing and in the least lady-like way possible, demolished it in about three seconds flat. Thems was some good meats. ”No one ever accused Danny Belimonte of being top tier talent, Jill. Maybe it’s time you came over to the dark side like me. Women rarely let you down, you know why? Cos women know women. Men are idiots.”

Jillian laughed at Mei’s statement. She knew her friend wasn’t shy about her openness for any kind of relationship regardless of gender, but for Jill? She had experimented a bit in the past, usually at the bar when it was easy for her and Mei to get a few free drinks from the idiot men in exchange for a few seconds of lip-locking. However, there was no indication one of those idiot men would be worth her while. Who would be a better candidate among the women of the town though? As Rhett delivered the latest in her procession of beverages, she took a long, hard sip from the vodka cran and put it back down. “I’m not going to argue that one. Can’t count many times Kieren put Ronan in the washing machine when we were kids. But… I dunno. Giving men up completely? I’d need a pretty good reason.”

”Who said anything about giving them up completely? Men are great for a distraction but for everything else? If I was to give my heart to anyone it’d be a woman.” Mei had uncovered her identity fairly early on in life. In fact it was probably after Allison’s death that she realised that her feelings for the beautiful departed went far beyond idolisation or sisterhood. In hindsight, it was purely infatuation but it was enough to convince her of what she was beneath the black clothes and make up.

Mei loved Jillian as dearly as anybody could love anyone. She would be lying if she hadn’t peaked at her in the shower after a gruelling cheerleading session or two as she did with pretty much most of the squad but that was pure curiosity. Relationships were a thing to be cherished, at least in Mei Midnight's eyes and she was comfortable being friends, sisters or more with anyone in her life; it was her blessing and it was her curse.

”We need more drinks. Rhett? Sweet pea? Mama needs another round!”



“Okay hurry your ass up. My phone is going crazy. Guessin’ I’ll be hard carrying tonight. Jade isn’t going to be in, and I’m sure other bitches called out. Fuck. We’re understaffed.” Hailey pulled up in front of the Hole in the Wall. As she put the car in park, she grabbed her phone to catch up on the text messages from her coworkers.

Kylee rolled her eyes and opened the passenger seat door, “I still don’t know why you work there. You don’t even need to.”

Not looking away from her phone, texting back people, the dynamite stripper criticized her little sister, “At least I have a job.”

“Hey! I have my show. And I help you! All the time. Kylee protested as she stepped out in frustration.

Ungrateful, little bitch.

With an ice cold stare, the blue haired activist (or anarchist depending on who you ask) blew a large bubble with her gum, before popping it and taunting, “How’s that going for you?”

Nope! This conversation was over. Not having it, no longer interested in anything Hailey had to say, Kylee slammed the door and stormed to the front of the bar. Throwing the bar door open, the bell ringing to announce her presence, she scanned the room for customers that were very drunk, very loud, and very cute.

When she did see them, she didn’t approach immediately. Her dark gaze went to the man behind the bar first. He was wiping the surface down, being all cool and sexy and professional. No one feature made Rhett so handsome, though his jawline and eyes came close. It wasn’t fair how his kind of handsome just went through your bones, made you shiver and just ugh. Why was it so easy for her, to this day, to imagine his lips on her’s?

As Rhett’s gaze went to her, capturing her eyes and enslaving them, he smiled and waved. A charmer through and through. Letting her go, just as fast as he stole her breath away, Rhett went back to running his business and making the customers happy. Sighing in hopeless unrequited love, Kylee watched her first crush walk away, like he had always done in the past and then patted her cheeks.

That was enough.

Bringing her mind back on the priority, Kylee called out to the girls she knew all too well, “Mei! Jillian!” hiding any anger she had experienced with her sister moments ago. Energetically, the mayor’s daughter inquired, “You guys… good?” Once her voice double-made her presence known at this place of business, Kylee pranced her way to the cutie patooties that have not exiled her for being innately petty, judgy, and kind of a brat. The ones that loved her for her!

Upon the arrival of her friend, Mei stood up to her full, tiny height and pressed a beer and wing tasting kiss onto Kylee’s soft lips. Flashes of past evenings popped up in her mind for a moment before planting herself back down onto her seat. ”We’re all good, Goddess. We’re gonna blow this damn letter mystery straight out of the water. Bitch just call me Velma.”

“Not sure I like that making me Daphne by default, but I guess I resemble the remark,” Jillian added. In all honesty, the comparison made sense given some of the thoughts in her mind at the moment. She was pretty sure Daphne and Velma were doing something together, since Shaggy was too busy with drugs and food, and who would want to do anything with someone wearing an ascot? If it wasn’t for the honey-garlic flavor Mei applied to Kylee’s lips, she would have taken a shot at seeing if it was better than the tequila she usually got. Still, Ky was here. It was a good reason to not think about that sort of thing.

”Just saying you’d look fantastic in purple, Ashes.”

“And I’m just saying I’m not helping you take care of any giant great dane you find.” Jill punctuated this remark with a wink and a stuck-out tongue.

“Anyway, one more of these VCs and I’ll probably be good. Besides these wings are better eaten here than on the road, and I can’t try and get fully riled up for a beat down on an empty stomach. Thanks for the lift, by the way.”

“Anytimes, babes.” Kylee looked between her two friends, while licking her lips clean from Mei’s flavorful kiss. Hm. If Mei was Velma and Jillian was Daphne, what did that make her? A gender-bent Fred? Huh. Shaking the random thought away, she took her phone out to text her sister that they’d be out soon.





The car ride consisted of drunk girl laughter, a lot of questions and compliments towards Hailey, and a sing-along to Hailey’s cover of Slumber Party (by Ashnikko), among other songs on her phone. With how rowdy this ride was getting, Kylee had to roll her window down. The thirst and repressed sexual tension was just a lot. She needed air.

Part of her wished she let loose and got drunk herself, or gave no fucks like her sister, but if she did that, no one would take care of her friends. This was the burden she’d bear because she didn’t want anyone to take advantage of them. Kylee didn’t know how Hailey could be this way, never setting a good example as one of the mayor’s daughters, but then again, Hails had always been kind of this way. Wild, exciting, and cocky, with a bigger ‘sword’ than any guy she knew.

For as long as Ky could remember, her sister was many people’s wet dreams, especially in highschool. She recalled people approaching her freshman year, boys and girls, just to see if they could get introduced to the Hailstorm of Edenridge High. Maybe that’s why Roddy and her worked so well as friends. They both struggled in the shadows of their older siblings. When people talked to them, it wasn’t for them, it was for Francis or Hailey.

Hailey was a cheerleader in Allison’s year, rest in peace Allison, and considered popular like Miss Cheer Captain. Even so, she transcended her cheermates by not really giving a shit; not about her future, not about what people thought of her, and certainly not about rules. Hails had a way of brushing off all the rumors or squashing them when it involved people in her circle or herself.

On top of her not shying away from her intimidating. anarchy attitude, she openly shaked what her daddy gave her. A big ass and tits to match. You know Missy Pantone from Bring It On? A born trouble-maker that isn’t innately girly, whose abrasive, punkish, and dark. That was basically her sister. Someone that shouldn’t have fit on the cheer squad, yet really made it work because she was sex incarnate. It also helped that behind all the bitch, she was team-oriented, which was what Alison liked. But really, we all know what got her on the team was her sex appeal and her ability to twist, turn, flip, and fly, making others thirsty by simply existing. If Allison asked, Hails would flash her tits, if that meant they’d win.

Clearly, Kylee would never know how to use her body like her sister does, nor pretend to be above it all, because sadly, she cared deeply about a lot of things. So yeah, at this point in time, the youngest Grimm tried her best to numb herself to her sister’s existence. Be less insecure. This wasn’t highschool anymore and they were in two different worlds.

Thankfully.

When they entered the parking lot of their old school, a feeling of ominous nostalgia fell over the Grimm girls. They hadn’t been at this place for what felt like ages. It was weird to be back. When Hails pulled up in front of the gym, she offered, “Call me if you need me. If not. Link and Ken should be home from Boston within the next hour. Other than that, be careful and don’t take any shit.” If Edge of Sin wasn’t so understaffed, she would love to find out what this was all about and who was sending Charlie’s letters to the whole town. That was neither here nor there though. She knew eventually these girls would share their findings, whether privately or publicly. “Seriously though. If anything happens. We are a call away.”

Narrowing her eyebrows, Kylee surveyed her sister’s seriousness and surprisingly stern visage. She was being genuine even if she was kind of a bitch earlier (on their way to pick up Mei and Jill). I suppose I can forgive her… No one fucked with a Grimm kid and got away with it. If you expected to not have problems with the rest of them, you were clearly mistaken. They could pick on each other but the moment someone overstepped with their sibling, shit hit the fan. “Yeah, I know… thanks.”

Jillian was certainly in a better mood from the start of the day. From the wings with Mei, to getting to catch up with another one of her mentors from cheerleading, complete with singalong, to the fact that she had copious amounts of alcohol in her system (with the half bottle of vodka in her possession still untouched), things were on the up and up today. Plus reconnecting with Hailey Grimm had the chance to fix a cash flow issue she had been having lately. “Thanks for the ride, Hails! Let me know what they say, eh? I can start whenever!” It was time to get serious though. There was some letter-writing fool in here that needed an ass-kicking. She removed the bottle from her bag and held it in a manner that suggested either a drink or a clonk would be coming, and whoever was in the old school would determine which happened first.

A fire had been lit under Mei after that car ride. Between being around an icon like Hailey Grimm and the copious amounts of adult orientated beverages she had had, she was eating to go. The talk of dancing at the Edge got her all hot and bothered in multiple different ways as the mere existence of ReyRey fucking Gonzales made her blood boil but the thought of his dancing girls, well he sure knew how to pick them; Hailey, Jade and if Jillian were to sign up Mei would have to reserve a permanent booth at the Sin; to gawk and to protect. She should wear a badge.

Grabbing a nearby piece of wood from the floor, the goth girl began to swing it in her hand gracefully. She may be drunk but years of training never just disappear and Daddy Ramsey would not be best pleased if his baby girl couldn’t protect herself or those she loved. ”Let’s get this fucker.”

The door to the gym was open; a fabled almost mythical place. The Edenridge Celtics were somewhat of a high school sports dynasty; a religion in this town and this was their church. Mei had spent four years of her life between these walls in a tiny white and green uniform, flashing her ass to keep the rowdy Irish invested. What even was high school? As she scanned the large echoing room, the familiar Snow White hair of a long held enemy.

”Well well.”

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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Hedgehawk
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Hedgehawk

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Night time was starting to settle in. Aaron could tell simply by the reflection of the sun off the roof windows. It caused the gym to have a hazy glow to it, obscuring the vision of things far away. Combined with the dust and pollen build up from the planets outside that traveled inwards, the sun rays were almost visible. It only helped to add to that relaxing aura that Aaron came here to experience. He let his mind drift and wander, thought patterns trailing at their own discretion. Random thoughts came and went in his head. Some good, some bad. He thought about Jade in the most gothic clothes he could think of, he also thought of Charlie too. It wasn’t a thought of hatred or anger. Some frustration maybe, but while in this state, he was too relaxed to be tense. The bad thoughts just rolled away into the gymnasium's atmosphere, no longer causing Aaron any harm or distress.

At first, he was too relaxed to notice the sound of footsteps approaching. The sound was almost rhythmic and if anything, it sent Aaron into a deeper and more relaxed state than before. It was only when his brain finally engaged that he realised footsteps were bad. It meant someone was coming. But Aaron was too relaxed to care right away, even if the realisation had set in. Two words; well actually one word repeated a second time, changed that however. That voice only belonged to one person. Aaron knew who it was and didn’t like it. He darted upwards to a sitting position, and immediately regretted it, groaning through his teeth in pain and bringing his arm up to rub his now very sore lower back.

Sitting up however allowed him to confirm what he thought. Standing inside the gym was Mei. Jillian and Kylee were there as well, but his main focus was on Mei, and the fact she seemed to be armed as well. Though, not very well it seemed. Still, anything was a weapon if you swung it hard enough. Aaron struggled to give off the right body language to express how he was feeling right now: Angry, shocked, bewildered. It wasn’t exactly possible to translate all of that into a single expression. What exactly were they doing here? Was this some kind of ambush? Did Mei finally want round two after all these years? Was she finally taking justice into her own hands? Still. He needed to do something to show his displeasure at seeing Mei. So he raised his left hand, and extended his middle finger giving Mei a massive ‘Fuck You!’. It wasn’t exactly the perfect way to express his emotions. It missed most of the nuances and subtleties of how he really felt, but god did it feel so damn good to flip her off.
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Metronome
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Orren was glad that her phone, and her, were both okay. He was also glad when she quickly left that awkward as hell interaction, and he could pretend it hadn't happened at all. He shuffled up to the door of the cafe and let himself in.

This time of day, it wasn't very crowded here. The "please seat yourself" sign was put up, so Orren found a lonely corner booth and slid onto the bench. His glazed over eyes wandered out the window next to him. He watched the morning commuters go by for what felt like a second, but was torn out of his thoughts by a, "Sir?"

"Huh?" Orren grunted dumbly as he turned to look up at a concerned waitress.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah....why?"

"Well, I've been trying to get your order for five minutes." Now she seemed slightly annoyed. Five minutes? He couldn't have been looking out that window for longer than a second.

"Oh, sorry. Uh," He picked the menu up and flipped through it real quick. "Just the turkey sandwich I think, and a coffee, please." The waitress nodded and took up his menu.

"I'll have that right out."
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Aces Away
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Mordechai pulled his boot back on slowly, as if the single task weighed on him a great deal. Once he'd tied the laces and pulled down his pant legs, he just rested his elbows on his knees and dropped his face into his open palms. Sonny watched him from his side of the bed, sheets pulled up over his stomach but no trace of tiredness in the sharp eyes that assessed his other half.

"You gonna beat the shit outta them, or go for the kill?" He finally asked, reading the tense lines in Mordechai's shoulders. The other man let out a muffled laugh from behind his hands before dragging them down his face in a slow, measured gesture. His shoulders relaxed and straightened out as he sat up, turning to look into Sonny's eyes with his own measured stare.

"'M not stupid, Sunshine, there's gonna be others there so I can't just go in and kill someone," the regardless of how much I want to went unsaid, as much did when the two were alone. They didn't need to speak to understand each other. "I'm also not stupid enough to go in there unarmed, but I'll need to borrow some'a your shit."

Sonny raised an eyebrow but began to get dressed anyway, throwing the next question over his shoulder as he looked for his pants. "What happened to your switchblade?"

Mordechai smirked and walked towards Sonny, stretching over him to reach into his jacket pocket. "C'mon Sunshine," he teased, sliding out his Two Sun pocket knife, a gift from Sonny both for the gag of the brand name and a genuine attempt to keep Mordechai safer. He flicked the blade open in front of Sonny and grinned at the smaller man from his spot by his shoulder. "You know I don't go anywhere without my switchblade." He gripped the back of Sonny's neck and the grin became a smirk when he felt the skin beneath his hand heat up. With an amused laugh, Mordechai gave Sonny a quick kiss on the cheek before heading to the small closet on the other side of the room, throwing it open to see Sonny's weapons stash. "But I'm not goin' in there with just a fuckin' switchblade."

...

The school loomed above him in a much different way than it had on his first day Northside. What was once an overly-peppy and bright building now looked as though it had been infected by the Southside, even from all the way out here. The overgrowth and debris, the signs of teenagers partying and graffiti littering the area almost made him feel like he'd walked full circle and ended up home.

If not for how different the air was.

Mordechai looked at the broken chain on the door and the signs of recent entry and did another mental inventory of his weapons. Switchblade, brass knuckles, a smaller blade tucked into each boot, and a metal bat slung over his shoulder, already dented and riddled with old stains. No guns, not here. For Danny's sake. As an afterthought, he broke the bottle of vodka he'd been drinking on the way over against the door, the sound of shattering glass echoing down the darkened corridors. Not even glancing the direction that led to the cafeteria, Mordechai allowed himself to focus solely on reaching the gym, his body working on autopilot despite the time spent away.

The gym had more lighting than the rest of the building, the skylights and high windows letting the evening light in to wash the area in sharp contrasts. Tapping the back of his head lightly with the bat and shrugging his shoulders once more, Mordechai stalked through the doorway with the same menace as when he led his crew to battle, only to stop short at the three figures he saw standing on the basketball court, facing a guy who he never thought could have gotten paler, but fuck if he proved him wrong.

"Fuck is this?" He called out, his voice echoing like ghosts calling back. He either hated or was completely apathetic to all four people currently inhabiting the gymnasium. Kylee and Mei were gossipy, rumor filled bitches and while Jillian wasn't as bad, at least not that he remembered, pretty much the entire Cheer Squad hated his guts because of his relationships with Lanie and Charlie and the Serpents and anyone else they could pin on him. Aaron hated him and Mordechai never really gave a fuck, the guy was good for a fight and despite Decky's own feelings on the matter, ReyRey had marked him in highschool so his opinion didn't factor in anyway. All that being said..."Despite how nosy and/or petty most of you are I doubt you started this shit, so who the fuck am I s'posed to be beatin'?"

He tapped the dented bat against the gymnasium doorframe to emphasize.
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by metanoia
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metanoia I must return to my meditations

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________________________________________________________________________________


A @metanoia, @LovelyComplex & @Venus Collab || Featuring The Brady Clan & Danny
________________________________________________________________________________

As Marco stirred in his sleep, his bed (though one of those that was clearly the best money could buy, doubtless another present from his Abuelo) moved and made creaking noises. Under tired grunts, he whispered something. Under tired grunts, a name left Marco's lips, his normally clear tone raspy. But in that rasp there was a curve on his face, his lips that is, curved into a smile. He gripped his dark gold blanket, tugging on it and pulling it closer to his chin. Something about the way he gripped it hinted at affection. He was embracing it.

“Dan…” He said, smiling a little wider now, almost as though that bit was bringing him joy, whatever he was dreaming. “Danny..” He said again.

In the peaceful serenity of Lyon Park, the faint acoustics of children laughing, the birds chirping in the trees above, and that particular sound of footsteps passing by along the happy trails, I look into his eyes. Brown and full like two acorns that have fallen from the tree, landing in the safety of the hands of a squirrel.

I was his squirrel, but with him, I could feel myself be bathed in safety. In his arms, those big, bulging, amazing arms, the ones that held me close, I was his whole world. And I was safe. And when we kissed, fire was set to our world. When we kissed, electricity came down from above and hit us at just the right time to make us both feel truly alive.

But I knew we couldn’t do anything more.

Oh, how I wanted to just raise up from his hold, walk out from past these bushes, our hands connected in the public light.

Oh, how I wish I could just be with him without hiding.

Oh, how I wish we could just be with him.

Oh, how I wish we could...be together.

“Marco..” A voice said, their hand shaking a still-asleep Marco with some force.

But nothing happened.

“Marco!” They said again a little louder, their shaking becoming slightly more aggressive.

But still, nothing happened.

Marco! The voice snapped with feeling, shaking the young man vigorously.

And a slightly annoyed groan left Marco’s lips. And then his eyes opened. With a symphony of more groans and crusty eyes opening, Marco wiped it away with the top side of his left wrist, feeling it rub into his eyes and forcing him to focus on waking up. While he did that, the person speaking to him kept shaking him, probably thinking he was still asleep. As they did, Marco saw who it was and if he wasn’t still dazed, he might have just rolled his eyes, but he settled for an annoyed grunt as he started to move more than his arms and head.

“Emil, I’m up,” he said groggily, looking at his younger brother who sat on the edge of his bed. Marco shifted himself into a partially upright position. “See? I’m up. No need to shake me so violently anymore.” Marco laughed as he saw Emiliano, though he normally went by Emil, got up.

“Jesus Christ, Marco.” Emil rolled his eyes, placing a hand on his temples. “You’re harder to wake up than Papi is.”

Marco couldn’t argue with that. “Sorry.” He offered his younger brother a small, apologetic smile. “So why were you trying to wake me up so badly?”

Emil, always the smart ass, pointed to the clock. Marco had to focus his blue eyes on the digital clock on his nightstand to see that it was less than twenty minutes until Danny said he would pick him up. And Marco knowing his ex like he knew he did, when he said he’d pick him up at 7:15, he meant it.

“Why didn’t you wake me up sooner!?” Marco panicked himself up to his feet, grunting some more but not just from being tired. His limbs were stiff and they cracked in the painful, relieving way that made Marco’s desire to move quickly be halted for a few steps.

And when Marco nearly tumbled, Emil caught him, holding his brother steady. “Easy bro! You’ll reinjure yourself if you get up too fast.”

Along with being a smartass, Emil also was the King of Inappropriate jokes. Good thing Marco had thicker skin and also liked to joke inappropriate from time to time. “Very funny. But not as funny as that mop on your head.” Ah there was Marco, the rare jokester who could roast his brother if he wanted to.

But Marco didn’t have time for jokes right now. As much as he enjoyed going back and forth with Emil and as much as Emil enjoyed their ball-busting tango, Marco had to shower and get dressed. Luckily for him, the shower was the only thing he had to take care of.

And nearly fifteen minutes later, he was out of the shower, clean as a whistle and dressed. Marco opted for comfort over style. He considered maybe wearing one of the many League-related shirts, but it was one thing going to a convention and another going to a place where most of your friends you went to high school with were going to be there. Not that they would judge him or that Marco thought they would, but in recent times, he had become a hermit of sorts. The only few people he was regularly seeing was Roddy, Lanie, his baby goddaughter Rylie, and, as of this morning, his ex-boyfriend.

As Marco walked out of his room, he did so at his own pace. His leg wasn’t bothering him so he didn’t need to pace himself that much but he didn’t want to push it. About the time he made it to the living room and went towards the kitchen to grab himself a water, he passed his mom by. As they went to say hello, there was a knock at the front door. And because she was the only one in the room, Marlena checked the peephole for the visitor's identity before diligently answering the door.

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Unbeknownst to Danilo, his face was mean-mugging as he stared at the door. Sometimes, he just couldn’t hide his feelings. This was one of those times. His Quadrifoglio was waiting by the curb in a much calmer state than its owner. Danny was still seething at his interaction with his cousin. He was not wrong. At first, he did feel like he fucked up but after a whole car ride to his ex’s house, he started to think that she shouldn’t have pushed him as far as she did.

Tiffannie was wrong.

The next time he saw her he would have some choice words, maybe make her cry even more, because he could care less! Right now? Right now he was pissed. When the door flew open, his dark gaze met with the intimidating and strikingly hot mother of Marco. In past instances, Danny made sure to leave his attitude at home. However tonight, his mood was written all over his face, and was even more noticeable when he grumbled, “Hey, Mrs. Castillo-Brady, is he ready?”

Marlena couldn't help the way her arched eyebrows locked together in a frown, or the sudden feeling of concern that came over her. In the years she had known Danilo, this was the first time the young man had expressed this irritated demeanor in her presence. From the way he was tensed up, the deep scowl in his expressive face, and her own experience as a mom of teen boys, the Mexican woman could tell that something was bothering him. She knew better than to pry (after all, no teenage boy wanted to go into depth about their feelings with a maternal figure of all people), but she was also aware that in cases like this being gentle and kind could go a long way.

With that in mind, Marlena changed her own demeanor to a much softer, inviting one. "'Mrs. Castillo-Brady'? Since when am I anything other than Miss Marlie to you?" the brunette laughed, shaking her head. "Marco's just getting some water in the kitchen right now, but he's ready for you. Would you like to come in or for me to get you anything before you guys head off?" she asked softly, offering the taller, brooding boy a reassuring smile.

In an immediate, ashamed response, Danny uncomfortably rubbed the side of his neck, regretting taking his issues to Marco’s family, “Sorry…” Even if he was still mad, he was now stressed too at how he was coming across and if that would disappoint his own mother. “... no that’s fine, Mrs. Marlie.” He corrected himself, talking slower and watching every word that left his mouth.

Opening his lips once more to add the reason for his mood, he was quick to close it right back up. How was he going to state this without coming across as a dick? Or someone with more issues than he was willing to admit to himself? Saying family problems would only lead her to call one of his sisters, which would lead to them being nosy and asking him what he did. He didn’t need that. Whether or not she would go to them, he didn’t know. But there was a chance. There’s always a chance.

There was also the chance she would walk to their house and feel the somber mood inside of it, discovering how sick his mother really was. Yeah, no. He didn’t need to tell her much. She might’ve meant well, but Danny just wasn’t ready. Instead of disclosing anything, he forced a smile and nervously chuckled, “It’s good to see you. It’s been a while… You look great.”

Marlena's smile widened at both his compliment and the satisfaction of knowing she had diffused a potential situation. Whoever said dealing with and raising boys was hard? "Ay, gracias, guapo," she responded happily, wrapping Danny in a quick little side hug. Normally, Marlie would've embraced him and kissed his forehead like she would one of her own children, but the last thing she wanted was to push Danny when he was clearly in a delicate state. "And don't apologize, sweetheart. We all go through bad moments sometimes. All I can hope for you is that, for whatever it is, you can find a good solution that makes you happy again."

“Yeah…” was all he could muster out when he got pulled into Marlie’s embrace. To be honest, he wanted that hug to last longer but it wasn’t something he’d get he didn’t think. He already set a bad impression, probably ruining his image in her eyes. Asking for another hug now would be weird of him. He was a man.

There was a split second in which Marlie felt Danny's hesitation and resistance to releasing her from the fleeting embrace they had shared. With what little information she could get from his body language and demeanor, she interpreted this to mean he wouldn't be put off by her regular displays of affection-- rather, he was silently asking for them. So Marlena did what she did best. She cupped the boy's face, softly kissed his forehead and wrapped him up in a tight hug, rubbing his back for extra comfort and reassurance like she would any of her three children. In her eyes, Danny was always one of their own.

And as Marco slowly made his way from the kitchen, half of a water bottle in his hand. His blue hydro flask reusable water bottle had been his main one for a few years now. Long before the injury. Marco held it by the hole grip on the cap, dangling it in the air, shaking it as he carried himself to a brisk walk.

And he saw his mom and Danny...hugging? Blinking, Marco wanted to make sure he was seeing what he thought he did. Admittedly, he was probably still sleepy so maybe this was his brain playing tricks on him. But nope, his short mother was embracing the obviously-taller Danny in what seemed like a very intense moment between them. He stopped about seven feet away, looking at them, almost frowning from his curiosity. His first thought, of course, was wondering if Danny was okay.

Marco tried to remember if Danny was like this in the morning. Maybe he was in too much physical exhaustion and pain to register it. Or too hungry, but immediately Marco walked over, coming up from the left, leaning his back against the wall by the front door as he looked at both of them. “Is...everything okay?” Marco asked, his blue eyes dividing their gaze between his mother and ex.

Oddly enough, Danny’s spirit was much calmer than he was when he first arrived. Everything he had on his mind during the car ride here no longer mattered, dissipating into thin air. The affection of a mother, warm and heartfelt, made his muscles at ease. Instead of protest, he leaned into it, even closing his eyes, zoning in on his and Mrs. Marlie’s breathing. He had to meet her halfway because she was kind of tiny, but that was fine... he needed this and he was grateful the matriarch of the house knew how to read in between the lines.

When Marco’s voice ringed in his ears, Danny sluggishly opened his eyes and gently separated himself from his second mother figure. Stubborn, as per usual, he lied through his teeth, but this time it seemed less forced. Likely because he was at peace, at least for now. “Yeah, everything’s great,” he reported. Not one to keep things dragging, he nodded at Mrs. Marlie (his way of saying thank you without saying it), who once again got the message, and accepted his silent thanks with a smile and a conspiratorial wink. Soon after, he peered down at his wristwatch before he scanned his ex, from head to toe, half-smirking while appreciating the sight, “You ready?”

There was still that strange feeling in the air, like Marco had walked in on something intense. Even if Danny said everything was fine and even if the expression on his mother’s face was pointing to it being all settled, which she was, Marco couldn’t shake the feeling making his stomach tumble up and down in its usually sinking way. “Yeah…” He’d say somewhat absentmindedly as he turned and gave his Ma a hug. “I’ll try and be back before you and Pa go to bed.” Marco would say as he’d squeeze tightly, though not too tightly. Sometimes he never knew his own strength.

"Don't even worry about it, love." Marlie smiled as she embraced her oldest son right back. It wasn't until after she had given him a few loud kisses on his cheek that she finally released him from her grip. "I know you're in good hands," she said softly, shooting Danny another conspiratorial wink.

Not one to read between the lines, Danny took the wink from Mrs. Marlie at face value. Playful and trusting, with no underlying meaning. He didn’t think she would know about him in any other light than someone that is like a son to her. It would never cross his mind that she could possibly know, with intuition or by the way her son looked at him, that there was more to the story. Wishing her goodbye and thanking her for her time, Danny felt complete and was fully satisfied at where things ended, ready to lead the charge to his car. Leaving his ex behind, he took wide strides to his car to make sure he got to the passenger's door first. To open it.

Before Marco could follow Danny, Marlena tugged at his arm to get his attention. Once she had it, she gave her son a worried look. “I don’t know what’s wrong with Danny, mi amor, but I can tell that something’s bothering him. He didn’t bring it up, and I didn’t ask, but just make sure that you’re extra sweet and nice and patient with him tonight, okay? And I know you’re all of those things usually, but try your hardest to be like that even more than normal tonight. Don’t push him too hard to tell you anything if he doesn’t want to, but just make sure he knows that we’re all here for him no matter what. Can I count on you to do that for me, tesoro?”

Marco nodded. “Yeah, no worries, Ma! I’ll be extra nice! Like a Super Marco or something.” He flashed her a smile that hid a sense of worry that originated from Marco’s stomach.

Marlie nodded. “Okay,” she told him, smothering him with kisses one last time. Te amo, cariño. Have fun!”

He gave her a quick hug and went towards the door. As it opened halfway and as he saw Danny waiting out by the car, he turned around and looked at his mother. “It’ll be okay. I promise!”

And soon, with his eco-friendly water bottle in his hand, dangling it by the ring on the cap, Marco made the slow descent down the stone path through the grass, thinking about everything. It might’ve been a short walk from it to the street where Danny was parked, but with how deep in his own mind he was, Marco took his time. It also happened to coincide with his ability to skip steps being rare these days.

In the near minute he spent, he thought about, well everything, but obviously the one thing that he couldn’t shake was what his mother said. Danny was hiding something and she wanted me to be sweeter than normal. That thought kept him busy as he looked down, watching his step.

And then he was by the car, looking at his ex for a few moments that felt eternal. Marco didn’t think of himself as a detective like his father, but he couldn’t help but look for any clues on Danny’s face from those eyes that caught him like a fish at sea and that defined jawline that Marco’s skin tingled just remembering when he stroked it. This is why you could never be a detective like Pa. No priorities!

“... you getting in?” Danny dumbly watched his ex gawk at him. Once again, his nervous quirk appeared where he would place his hand on the back of his neck, rubbing it.

“Oh!” Marco was snapped out of his daze. “Y-yeah!”

A few delayed seconds later, Marco shook his head briefly. Whatever daze he had been in was gone and hopped into the passenger side. He made sure he didn’t rush it. Walking may not have been a problem for him, though only if it was short distances, bending and sitting had to be handled with care. But he did it, albeit with a series of grunts in between getting each leg inside the car and adjusting his position until he was comfortable.

Concerned, Danny closed the passenger’s door behind Marco and made his way to the driver seat. When he was settled, seatbelt fastened and engine roaring, he rested his hand on the gearshift and studied the sleep deprived man beside him, “You are 100 percent okay? How much sleep did you get?” It was clear Danny wasn’t going to start driving until Marco gave him an honest answer.

I could ask you the same thing was what Marco wanted to say, but he wasn’t like that and he promised his Ma that he’d be nicer than usual. So he’d shrug instead. “You mean other than my leg being a pain?” Marco laughed, leaning into the car seat. “Okay but seriously, I’m doing great! You don’t need to worry. Hakuna Matata!” Marco jokingly bumped his shoulder into Danny’s by putting weight on his leg to lean that far and then with a hard grunt, he realized that was a mistake. ]“And I slept decently enough. Nothing to fret about there.”

“Uh-huh.” Not buying it, but choosing to leave the conversation where it was, Danny took the car out of the park and started driving off, “In the back is a lunch box. Nina made some dinner for us. You can start now, or we can eat in the parking lot before we deal with tonight.” The italian casanova chose to act like he hadn’t been in a mood for the past hour and instead instructed, “Connect your phone. Play whatever you want.”

“Sweet!” Marco grinned, whipping out his phone as if he was waiting for permission and he scrolled down his playlist, stopping at POP/STARS and put it on repeat. “I promise you’ll love this one!” Marco said as he pressed play and the beat kicked in.


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After hearing POP/STARS a million and ten times, to which Marco kept singing in somewhat off-key harmonies, some idle chatter, and surviving a mostly quiet dinner in the parking lot of Edenridge High (the old one) with his ex, in the closeness of his car, Danny found himself staring ahead of him, at this ghost place they once had some of the best memories at, together. The windows were down where they both could feel the nice nightly breeze, and after a calm, self reflective moment, he tactically grabbed the tupperware that once had Pasta alla Genovese in it and cleaned the insides of his car. Before they would inevitably enter the gym, walking into something beyond them, he inquisitively asked his once-upon-a-time-lover, “What do you expect from this?” His guilty conscience briefly took surface before he brushed it away with a groan, “Whoever is behind this is sick. As if this town hasn’t suffered enough already.”

Marco was quiet and looked at Danny, blue eyes inspecting his ex. He then examined the sight before them and wasn’t sure if he felt the same ping of guilt that Danny was seemingly overcome with. What did occur was a flashback of the pain Marco endured from that fateful day. His stomach turned from the thought of it and Marco’s hands tightened inside his jean pockets. “Yeah…” He said in an absentminded breath, almost like he wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted to say.

Marco’s hand trembled inside his pocket. It trembled because seeing, and more obviously, hearing Danny speak in such a way made him want to console him. This, added to the concern that had not lessened despite the change of topics or lack thereof on the way here, Marco looked at his hand and then looked around. Marco thought about grabbing his ex’s hand, but he just...wasn’t sure in all honesty. They were alone, but he also knew Danny and that fear of being discovered. But at the same time, Marco wanted to do something to take his ex’s mind off of the darkness around them.

“That Pasta was really good!” Marco stated almost abruptly and he smiled. “What was the name of it again?”

Figures Marco didn’t have the slightest idea of what would be waiting for them inside the gym. Danny should’ve thought before asking that question, seeing how Marco experienced that trauma, he didn’t. Way to be inconsiderate, dude, he thought to himself. Some things just never change about him.

Opening his armrest box between them, Danny grabbed a small travel pack of antibacterial hand wipes. Once he pulled out one for himself, he offered the pack to Marco and explained, “Pasta alla Genovese. It has neapolitan beef and onion ragù in it.” Once he was done, he pushed his dirty wipe into the small automotive garbage can, hanging off the back of his arm rest.

“I’ll tell Nina you liked it,” he stated, wondering if they should head in now, before there was another uneasy moment where they sat in complete and utter silence, not really getting anywhere in conversation. Clearly, it’s been awhile since they’ve spent this much time together and although Danny felt like he was handling this situation well enough, it still felt like there were words left unsaid and that they were dancing around each other to avoid confrontation. Afraid they’d hit an emotional cord and say things they might regret later.

Biting the inside of his cheek, watching his ex take the wipes graciously, Danny pulled away and assertively and apologetically vocalized, “Sorry for bringing you here. I never even asked if you wanted to come.” All Danny thought about this morning was he didn’t want to do this alone. He didn’t consider how Marco might’ve felt or if he was even planning on coming in the first place. “I appreciate you coming to this…” With me.

A series of long moments filled nothing but gazes of longing and silence in the air went by them and all Marco could think about was how nice Danny smelled. How did he just now pick up on it? And how nice he looked. Was Marco so distracted by the gnawing concern eating away at him about whether or not Danny was okay that he truly hadn’t noticed that he was wearing an assortment of clothes that was doing everything right.

Instinctively, Marco would place his hand on Danny’s, squeezing it even though he didn’t know what he was going to do or say next. “Danny.. ” I wouldn’t have come without you, was what Marco wanted to say, but instead, he said, “I’m glad to be here with you. I think it’s good we’re here. You know, I mean even though it’s tough and hard, being here with each other, it’s good for both of us, ya know? To face troubling things with someone by our side to make it easier.” Marco knew he was rambling and he laughed nervously.

Distracted at Marco saying his name for the first time this whole night, Danny peered at his lap where his hand was grabbed. He sat there, voiceless, as the boy next to him talked and talked about how he liked being here, together, with him. Subtly and discreetly, he didn’t reject the gesture. Instead he tightened his own grip and looked away out of the driver seat’s window, wordlessly enjoying it. Worried if he let go, he would never get it back.

He focused on the three girls walking, striding, and hopping to the gym. The one he immediately could pinpoint out was Jillian, but then again, it was hard to miss her when she had beautiful red hair. Keeping his mind on the girls talking and being overly high-spirited, one with a vodka bottle in hand, the other a wooden stick, and the last her phone, Danny found it easier to conceal his embarrassment. With his free hand, he covered the bottom half of his face, hiding his smile, and just looked away. Out the window. Waiting.
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LovelyComplex

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A @metanoia & @LovelyComplex Collab || Featuring Danny, Marco, Poppy, & Jade
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How much time passed?

Marco wasn’t saying anything, yet they were still sitting there, holding hands. Danny didn’t turn to glance over, nervous at the image of Marco intensely staring at him, waiting for him to react first. The feelings of the past twisted and turned in his stomach, as he imagined how the boy next to him loved him.

Like a puppy, Marco was devoted, playful, and trusting. Too trusting. It was kind of sweet, but Danny didn’t think he deserved any of it. His ex was so unbothered and calm, carrying such a forgiving and beautiful soul. Then there was him, and unlike his ex, Danny preferred to be strong, afraid to reveal his own fragility. Although he would never admit it, he is well aware of how vulnerable he is. All his weaknesses and flaws seemed to shine when Marco was around him.

Was that weird?

It was like…no matter how much time passes, when he sees his ex, he feels distracted, as if he was falling deeper and deeper in this hole, with the light far out of reach. Was that a proper way of phrasing this? Falling deep… in a hole. Probably not. How do you explain this feeling? It was so overwhelming and felt like he had to walk forever just to get to sweet relief.

Longing?

Was that the word for it?

Not realizing the time was nearly eight, Danny picked up the sound of a motorcycle. He didn’t fully register it until he saw the color red and two girls parking right next to his vehicle. Immediately and abruptly, he released Marco’s hand and found himself turning his engine off, pulling his keys out the ignition, and bolting out the door, not saying a word to the person next to him.

Leaving Marco to his own devices, he gleamed at the newcomers, his fellow classmates of 2020, “Jade, is that you? And…” He took a moment to scan the girl tightly holding the blonde, who wore a large male hoodie (reminded him of someone) and had lustrous dark hair. Oh! “Penelope?”

The sound of Jade’s harley clicked off, its final purrs lingering even as Saint Danilo himself called out to her and Poppy. “Well, isn’t it Edenridge’s favorite Choir Boy!” Jade remarked, smiling, clearly teasing Danny. “And who is that you have with you?” The sultry blonde narrowed her blue-green eyes a bit, honing in on the male in the passenger seat. It took her a few seconds and she silently acknowledged it was Marco.

And she quickly remembered his reason. And then she had a thoughtful expression on her face, one that she tried to hide but it was clear. She was thinking about how Marco was one of Charlie’s victims and he was here. “Looking good, Marco!” She called out to him, offering the boy with the scruffy facial hair as he looked at the two ladies on the bike.

“Oh, y-eah! I mean thanks!” Marco looked at the one behind Jade on her bike, blinking as if trying to figure out if he recognized her.

Thank goodness she had a biker helmet on because Penelope was ill prepared for this. Getting off the bike, on the opposite side of where Danny, Danny’s car, and Marco were, Poppy shuffled herself in Jade’s shadow, where her friend’s form mostly hid her. Dinner helped calm the storm that was boiling inside of her. It was still there but food really helped appease the rage. Now all she could feel was anxiety.

Okay.

What did her therapist tell her to do? Imagine a good memory so her nervous system could calm down. Let it embrace feel-good brain chemicals… positive vibes. Positive memory. Positive. She was her own lighthouse. Positive. Think happy thoughts.

Instead of happiness, the nostalgia of the parking lot came rushing into her, like a crashing wave, only causing her to curl up even more and lose courage. Going into a catatonic state, Poppy was completely still and wordless. A corpse of a girl. Attempting to break out of it, reengaging herself with the world around her, she fought with her own voice inside her head. If she couldn’t handle the parking lot, what makes her think she could handle the gym? Was she in over her head?

Before Poppy’s mind went into deep despair, Danny laughed at Jade’s witty comment, “Very funny. It’s good to see you guys. And hell, you look good too.” As if he noticed how frightened the other person, who he assumed was Penelope, was, Danny decided to distract her mind with something everyone loves. Sweets! “Hey, you want to be the first to try Nina’s cannolis? Here, give me a sec.”

Going to the backdoor, he opened it and reached for the box with cute, yet clearly spiritual words to his class written on it: Blessings of grace and peace be with you today and every day. Before exiting, he looked at Marco, “...you coming out?”

Marco absentmindedly shook-nodded his head as if his brain had two completely different answers. But after a moment passed, he committed to the latter, since it felt like the most obvious of choices. And, given the drastic change that he noticed in his ex when he saw Jade and Penelope show up, playing a role like they had when they were “dating” was for the best. Or at least, in that moment, that’s what Marco told himself. “Yep! Making my way out now!”

With a grunt, Marco exited Danny’s car one partially-leg at a time, his grunts escalating into ones of genuine, albeit severely temporary pain. But what mattered most was that Marco was out and he managed to walk a few steps to the back as he looked at Danny. He did his best to not gaze at Danny like he usually did but simply as his friend, which he was. Though, even he couldn’t deny those long moments spent holding his hand were nice. “Do you need any help?” He asked.

“No, you’re good. I should be the one asking you that question. Did I park too far?” As he waited for Marco’s response, Danny closed the door behind him and opened the box for Jade and Penelope to grab a treat. He had forgotten to bring enough napkins… maybe the school had some. The big brother-senses tingled as he looked at Poppy, so he had to ask, “Is she alright?”

“No worries!” Marco smiled, waving away Danny’s concerns. “I’ll be fine.”

About the same time Marco spoke, Jade discreetly bumped her elbow into Poppy’s arm, quickly looking at her sister before looking back at Danny. “Don’t worry ‘bout her. She’ll be fine.” That was something Jade hoped she was right about. “We’ll take a couple of those cannolis, though.” She returned her assertive gaze onto Poppy. “Right, Pops?”

Cannolis? Cannolis were positive. The nudge and the word cannoli did the trick because she recalled a memory of Maxine and her attempting, horribly, to make some. The kitchen was an absolute mess but they did nothing but laugh that whole night. Finally, she took off the motorcycle helmet and hooked it on the handle of the bike. Securing her face mask, Poppy softly whispered, “That sounds yummy… thank Nina for us.”

Danny had to lean in to hear what she said, but instead of making her repeat herself and ask why she was wearing a face mask, he simply treated her like normal. “Fantastic and of course! Hey, you pick first.” He gingerly brought the box closer to her, as if he was approaching a scared child, and patiently waited. Poppy looked in the box, up at him, back to the box, back at him then hesitantly reached to pick one for herself. He didn’t do anything abrupt to disrupt the clearly troubled girl. Instead once she happily had her treat, he steadily shifted the box to Jade. “The one to the right is the big one. You can have it if you want.”

”Oh, how Catholic of you!” Jade enjoyed teasing him. Maybe she was the bitch, but she couldn’t help it. But that being said, she never said no to the best of any selection. Jade had her pride, sure, but free was free, after all. “But don’t mind if I do!” With a snarky half-grin, she took the Italian dessert into her hands, snapping herself a bite of it, showing no care about the crumbs falling between her fingers and to the floor. With a mouth half-full, she glanced at Pops. “Pretty fucking good, huh?”

Poppy had her back turned to the group, embarrassed to eat in front of them and nodded at Jade, giving her a thumbs up. It was delicious. She wished she could give some to Charlie.

“You know me! Just wanting the Lord to love my giving spirit.” After dramatically rolling his eyes, he winked at Jade, which might’ve been the first time he’s ever done that toward her, seeing how he rarely crossed paths with the southies throughout their highschool career. “We should probably head inside, huh?”

Finishing her cannoli, Poppy wiped her fingers on her jeans and proceeded to cover her mouth with her mask. Turning around, she gave Danny two thumbs up, ready, or so she hoped, to face this dreadful night. Truthfully, she was glad she wasn’t alone. Jade was at her side and these two boys seemed warm. Welcoming. Safe. She liked them. Why did she never become friends with them?

“You two head on in first.” Danny wasn’t going to say it outloud but he was worried about Marco and kind of regretted parking where he did. He thought about giving them the box but then he swiftly changed his mind. Jade would keep all the cannolis to herself. That would’ve been a stupid idea.

Jade exchanged a glance with Poppy, then she looked between Marco and Danny. She may not have been the most observant, but all her time being around pervs at Edge of Sin has benefitted her with something of a sixth sense to tell when someone wanted you around and when they wanted you to make like an egg and scramble away.

"Alrighty then," she said with a breathy laugh. She took Poppy by the arm gently, though still with enough assertion within her tug, as she'd lead her and Pops away. "Guess we'll see you inside." One more glance and Jade left with Poppy.

As he watched the girls walk away and he was left alone with Danny once more, Marco looked at his ex with a curious gaze. In the back of his mind, he was thinking why he sent the two away but there was a moment when Marco looked into Danny's earthy eyes, the grounded element that always told him what he needed to know without asking and he just frowned.

"You know…" Marco began, pausing momentarily as he tried to find the right words he wanted to say. So he took in a breath and continued, "I'm fine. And you didn't park too far. Really, if I could sprint to match your pace, I can walk steadily to the gym. So you really didn't have to send the girls away like that. I mean, it seemed they really wanted to chat with you. If anything, I could have walked ahead so you could catch up." There he went again: rambling and putting his foot into his mouth again. It really was amazing that Marco had it down to an artform.

Relieved he didn’t have to explain himself too much, seeing how Marco already knew what was on his mind, Danny gave him a disapproving glare, “I can talk to them later.” Holding the box of cannolis with one hand, Danny took a moment to survey Marco’s leg before meeting his eyes once more, “Thinking back on this morning, the way you were breathing, you hadn’t run like that in awhile. Don’t try to lie because you’re piss poor at it. Not only did you need a long cool down period this morning but I haven’t seen you jog in a minute. You used to do it routinely. We don’t know how long we will be here and what to expect so I want to make things easier for you. You’ve put enough pressure on your leg, Marco, so please get back in the car so I can bring us closer.” Danny made his way to the other side of his car, unlocked the door with his free hand, and opened it for Marco once more.

As much as Marco wanted to fight Danny on it, he knew it would be a battle with much resistance. That and, even he had to admit that hearing the harsh truths took him a few long moments to process. At first, especially on his face, Marco was shaking his head, half sentences of denial leaving his lips, albeit in a raspy tone, and him just trying to pass off what Danny had implied as simply not true. But his ex knew him better than most.

And that was the part that equally frustrated Marco as it did result in his quiet surrender.

Even as he got into the passenger side door, grunting as he climbed inside one painful leg at a time, he almost sulked about the hard truths Danny spoke. And he knew he was right. Before the accident, before Marco was shot by Charlie Decker's bullet, a simple sprint wouldn’t have forced him to be out of breath so quickly. And maybe that was the pill that was hardest for Marco to swallow. The fact that he was such a gifted athlete, so passionate about fitness and maintaining his body as if it were a temple, in the state he's in now where he's on the verge of being overweight and cares less about appearance as the days go by, he couldn't help but think about how far he's fallen.

On some level, he might even blame himself for being out in the field that day.

No, don't go there again. Dr. Patel said to never go there.

Whether Marco was aware or not, when Danny was sitting next to him in the driver’s seat, the concerned look never left his face. He just knew Marco needed comfort. Instead of saying anything, and yes the cannolis were safe in the backseat, Danny started up his car and casually rested his hand on Marco’s leg, gently squeezing it. Once again, he made zero eye contact and focused on the task ahead. Getting a closer parking spot. As he leisurely drove, he contemplated his actions. He didn’t understand why he felt like he needed to do this but here he was taking more chances than he had since senior year.

Marco was so deep inside his own head that he hadn't registered the touch of Danny's hand on his leg nor the grip it had on his thigh. It wasn't until he looked down, eyes almost widening at the sight of his ex's hand gripping the boy's thigh and he softly smiled.

Silence remained even as the vibration of Danny driving the car closer to the gym produced the only sound. When they were nearly there, Marco smiled still, but this time, he partially raised his head up to meet Danny's gaze. "Thank you." That's all he said. That's all Marco felt he needed to say.



“Danny really has gotten bad at being subtle, huh?”

Jade was still laughing even as she and Poppy were slowly making their way to the gym. She didn’t know what the relationship between Danny and Marco were and frankly, a couple of Northside boys didn’t have any effect on her either way. She was cool with the two of them but didn’t really care if he told her to fuck off or not (which he totally did). Maybe Jade would be slightly less annoyed if he hadn’t bribed them with those bomb-as-fuck canollis.

When they got inside the gym, a lot of memories came flooding back. Mainly Jade suffered through her senior year, losing all of those friends she had once held so close to her heart, being ostracized because of her kept loyalty for Charlie. Between Decky and Keisha, who both lost brothers because of Charlie. She knew that they hated him and she didn’t blame them. If she were them, she probably would, but she wasn't. She wasn’t because she couldn’t even think about how she could completely forsake Charlie. He was…

Everything. And guilt was a funny thing. Guilt for abandoning him and letting high school drift her away into other circles. Guilt for not seeing what she may have been able to prevent. Guilt for failing both Charlies in her life, but most importantly, she felt guilt that she couldn’t see what might have been right in front of her.

And as her hand, which was gripping Poppy’s, tightened its grip, Jade’s heart tightened and she felt something of a tightness develop in her throat, making breathing just a little more difficult. “Fuck,” she expelled in a raspy tone. “We shouldn’t…”

And that’s when Jade saw Decky, she started to panic. “Fuck fuck fuck!” Nevermind every one else who was around. “When the hell did he come back!?” Jade turned to Poppy almost in a panic.

Poppy had been in a trance as they shuffled their way to the gym. She remembered this walk all too well. Especially on that day when Charlie told her to meet him in the gym. Her insides were conflicted, doing summersaults. Finding out about the letters put her in a state of shock and anger, talking to old classmates gave her anxiety, but now? Now she felt numb. Or her defensive mechanisms were doing it’s damndest to not react with a PTSD episode, especially when they entered those big doors and she could imagine the sight of Charlie, Roddy, her father… as if it was only yesterday.

Something on the inside knew she wasn’t ready for this memory. Instinctively, Poppy looked up and smiled, seeing someone that was hard to forget.

Mr. Beau had appeared out of nowhere that fateful morning and pulled her into his embrace, shielding her from the horror that was happening in front of her. While she knew he would never say his frustrations he had about her father and the police on duty, for not securing the area and making sure others weren’t around to witness the finale of the worst day in Edenridge history, Poppy also knew he did whatever he could to be a light in broken kids’ lives. Kids like her.

Even if it cost him his job, his sanity, or his own life, Mr. Beau was always there. Ready to help. Without him, she would be jobless. If anything, he was the one thread keeping her connected to the good parts in herself. Jade tried her best to take care of her, but Mr. Beau? He was there for her, guiding her, when her parents weren’t around. He reminded her what made her such a wonderful human being and that the darkness in her may not go away but will one day motivate her to do great things.

Instead of shutting down, Penelope shifted her body to her best friend and grabbed Jade’s other hand, so that she was holding both. Squeezing them, she comforted, “I don’t know, but we’re going to be okay. We got this. Hey. Look at me.” Poppy released one of Jade’s hands to place her cold, thin fingers on the blonde’s cheek, “I’m not going to lie to you. This fucking sucks but we need answers. We’re soul sisters, okay? And we will be okay. I promise you, as long as we have each other we will be okay.”

Going on her tiptoes, Poppy wrapped her arms around her friend and pulled her into a hug. She didn’t care if people saw from a distance because love was love and she wasn’t going to hide how she felt towards anyone anymore. She lost her chance with Charlie; he died without ever hearing her say she loved him. She loved him so fucking much. Hell, Little Danny went without Poppy ever having a chance to say see you later. So many lost words. So much regret and missed opportunities. So much…. selfishness. Poppy wasn’t going to give up on the people she loved.

Not now. Not ever.

Never will there be a day where her friends don’t know how much she cares about them. Never. “We got this, love.”

She was still in panic mode, but it was mostly internal now. Poppy’s comfort had worked and what was even more important, she was right about them needing answers. The letters had to stop. Whoever was doing this needed to be stopped and Jade made promises to herself and Poppy that they’d find out what’s really going on. “You’re...right.” She mouthed out, squeezing her sister as tight as she could without hurting her sister. Jade had to take this moment to really indulge in what was a two-way street support system. Just as much as Jade was Poppy’s entire world, the thing that kept her afloat, when she really sank low, the blonde relied on her sister more than ever. “You’re absolutely right.”

Jade released Poppy from the hug and took in a few breaths. She looked at the scene unfolding and was wondering just what the hell was about to happen. She saw Mei and Aaron. The latter had flipped off the former and Jade sighed. And then she sighed in a way that caught some of her internal panic and she didn’t want to deal with that just yet. “Let's not bother with them right now. I’m...not ready for that.” Her voice was drier than it should have been.


Originally, Marco had thought fighting Danny on his I’m-not-taking-no-for-an-answer “suggestion” to park closer to the gym so it would be easier for Marco to walk was the right thing to do, but as he found out, just walking from the car and the twenty feet they were away from the entrance to the gym was proving to be a task that he wouldn’t have been able to complete if Danny wasn’t by his side, helping him when he can.

And that brought Marco back to what Danny had said. His hard truth about how he really wasn’t doing good physically. The pill that he had to swallow with a dry mouth about how a simple jog — or in his case earlier today, a sprint — took him out of commission for several hours and it took nearly thirty minutes for Marco to make it home with Danny’s very on-hands help.

It was the same when they got to the gym, though when they walked in, Danny took more of a concerned friend approach by making sure Marco was okay. And he understood. Alone, Marco and Danny could be as comfortable near each other as they wanted, but it was back to regularly scheduled programming when people were around.

Not that Marco minded it.

They were at the bleachers and an already out-of-breath Marco had to take a seat on the nearest available spot on the first row of bleachers. Aside from the deep breaths he took in after sitting down, Marco saw what he could only describe as the real-life equivalent of the chat section of a League game. “Well, that doesn’t look good,” Marco commented. He took in another breath as he lazily gestured towards the scene involving some of the Southies.

Glancing over to the girls standing not too far from them and watching the scene unfold, Danny could tell Jade didn’t want to deal with all the bullshit, but with the smaller girl… her eyes diligently viewed everyone, as she contemplated her next move. “He has a bat, Jade. I can’t just let him do some dumb shit. I just know my dad and co are a block or two away waiting for this to fall apart.”

“I can try to diffuse the situation,” Danny offered, as he placed the box of cannolis on Marco’s lap.

“I can… go with you.” While a little scared of her own immediate response, pretty sure she wasn’t ready to handle the crowd, Poppy knew the only people that could manage Decky were people that understood him. If she focused on him, and just him, ignoring the rest of her surroundings, she could prevent a panic attack.

“I’ll be back.” Gazing up at Jade, she gestured for her to sit next to Marco, who could use the company. As much as she would love to stay at her best friend’s side, Decky had weapons and he knew how to use them.

With that decided, Poppy trailed a little behind the big Italian boy. The closer she got to all the people, Decky, Kylee, Mei, Jillian, Aaron… the more nervous she became, the more her throat itched. Shaking her head, reminding herself why she was here, she picked up the speed, passing Danny and darting to the kid with the metal bat. “Is that your solution? Is that still how you solve problems?”

Clenching her fists, staring at the boy’s back, feeling a suppressed rage, Poppy thought about how if Charlie never got involved with the SSS, he might’ve not fallen so deep into depression and gone mad. Her voice, while muffled behind the face mask, echoed in the gym with almost ten people in it. People could hear her if they really wanted to. “Are you… stupid?” Her voice cracked.

Instead of interrupting the girl’s tangent, Danny let her take the floor. She might’ve been only talking to Decky, but her words felt like they were directed to all of them. Including him.

“Do you really think whoever is behind this will show their face tonight? No. This isn’t getting solved tonight. We might get a lead or this could all be a stupid prank. It’s like highschool hasn’t ended and we’re all being turned against each other. Drama. Fucking drama. Can we just cooperate to see what this is all about? Can we just calm-the-fuck-down? As if we hadn’t lost a lot already. Stupid. Fucking stupid.” At this point, Poppy’s breathing started picking up. This is the most she publicly talked in front of anyone, let alone her old peers. Why was it so hard to talk? Why did she have this fear, this mental barrier holding her back? Heavy breathing, she closed her eyes trying to calm her heart rate, her right hand resting on her chest. It wasn’t time for an attack.

Although the girl was struggling, Danny was impressed with the words she said. When she started hyperventilating, he looked over to the Southie boy and politely requested, “Can you, uh, find her water? Or just take her over there… a bit away from here.” Away from the crowd.

If the fountains were working, he would direct them to those but water might be limited in a building that hasn’t been used in a couple years. He knew anxiety from his niece, Danielle. These were clear signs of a panic attack rushing in. Poppy was doing the right steps to control herself. Not only did she recognize she was starting to panic, she started deep breathing to reduce the symptoms, closed her eyes to not look at the environment with a lot of stimuli, and if he could guess, she probably was saying a mantra in her head.

Believe and breathe. Believe and breathe. Believe and breathe.

Not waiting for a response, Danny crossed his arms and looked at the rest of the group, “Well that was a handful, but I agree with her. How about for the meantime, you guys go get yourself a cannoli, if you like that sort of stuff, and chill. Sounds good?” Gesturing behind him where Marco and Jade were as they chomped on a cannoli (yes Jade got herself another one), he sighed, “This isn’t great, I know. But we’re all here for a reason. So, let’s be patient and see it through.”

After he said his addition to Poppy’s spiel, his eyes fell on Jillian and he dumbly waved, happy to see his friend, who had mixed feelings towards him.


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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Venus
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A @BrutalBx & @Venus Collab
Featuring Roddy Callahan & Lanie Lancaster


After much poking and prodding from his parents and an asshole ripping phone call from his big brother Francis and current partner Joaquin, Roddy made his way to the Hole in the Wall for his date/not date with Lanie. He couldn’t lie: there was a deep set fear that this could possibly be a big mistake. But after speaking to his family, who all absolutely adored Lanie, Rod felt much more comfortable with his decision.

He had never intended to ever even break up with her. Hell, how could he, Roddy Callahan-- one of the biggest outcasts in Edenridge High-- realistically break up with blonde bombshell, cheerleader, Miss Popular, Elaine Lancaster? It was an enigma how they even ended up together in the first place. The only reason Roddy had even ended things was because he felt like half a man: unable to walk, unable to so much as hold his child without his hands trembling from the early onset arthritis. Now, he had both somewhat under control, and he was looking to rectify his mistake.

Their night together had progressed better than expected. After a nice, hearty meal and a few drinks they were laughing and joking just like they used to. There was Dutch courage flowing through both of them-- but maybe that’s what they needed.

”You remember Sophomore year? That 80’s dance that the school had? I found some photos of that the other day...I burned them instantly.”

His date-not-date immediately groaned and erupted with laughter. "You did the right thing, then. We probably looked atrocious," Lanie commented cheerfully, taking a long sip from her beer bottle. "The ones we took at prom are forever my favorites though. We looked really good in them, even if it does look like I'm hiding a basketball under my dress," she said with another laugh, referring to the way her form-fitting dress had hugged her 20 week-old pregnant belly back then.

"You looked great and you know you did. You always do,” Roddy took a sip from his ice cold beer before leaning back into his chair. It was a strange but wonderful feeling to be able to civilly sit with Lanie and just enjoy each other’s company. His baby blue eyes drank in her beauty and a smile crossed his stubbled face. "Besides, you went to prom with a guy in a flipping wheelchair. Just be glad I didn’t wear those blue ruffles like my dad wanted me to.”

Elaine's smile widened, and she let out another nervous little laugh. It had been a while since Roddy had complimented her like this, or looked at her in the way he was doing now. He would always say she looked great and similar things every time she visited, but Lanie knew the difference in tones and intentions when she heard it. And although it should've made her happier than she already was, there was no denying the suspicious feeling starting to creep up on her. What could Roddy possibly be up to?

"I mean, there was quite a bit of distance from your house to the school, you know? Just because you would've left the house with the ruffles didn't mean they would actually make it to prom," she told him with a wink, taking the last sip of beer from her bottle and gesturing to Gary Cleary to bring another round.

Rod could feel a slightly flush in his cheeks. This was really the last thing he was expecting when Lanie got back into town. He honestly thought it would just be more of the same hostile civility that had become their norm. He didn’t blame her and he knew it would take a lot for him to get back into her good graces but the butcher's boy was willing to put in the work. Even if nothing came of it romantically, he still held on to the belief that them even being just friends would be the best thing for their baby girl.

"So, I’ve been thinking… How would you feel about heading back to the old school tonight?”

The school shooting was an interesting topic for Roddy. On the one hand, he got shot and it basically ruined his life. Yet on the other hand, if not for the shooting, Lanie wouldn’t have entered his life, his little princess Rylie wouldn’t have been born and Marco would be his surrogate brother.

“I overheard that weird goth chick from the cheerleading talking when I went to the bathroom. Apparently a load of people are going there to find out who's behind all this letter business. I’m kinda curious and it’ll be a bit of an adventure.”

Elaine immediately raised her eyebrows at her ex. There it was. "You're not serious," she said, scoffing in disbelief as she scanned Roddy's reaction for a 'gotcha!' moment. Was this his idea of a joke? But when she couldn't find any and assumed he was serious, her features hardened into a mask of anger. "You’re joking, right? You have got to be kidding me… Why on Earth would I spend my night snooping around that old building trying to find out who's the creep sending out pages of a dead psychopath's journal?" she snapped, blazing fury seeping from her words. "I read the first few sentences of the first letter I got and I threw it in the fireplace to burn, just like I've done with the rest of them, and just like I hope Decker is doing all the way down in Hell."

Roddy couldn’t say he was surprised by Lanie’s reaction. Hell, any normal person probably would’ve reacted the same. "I get it, hundred percent.” He held mixed feelings towards Decker. They had never had a crossed word between them, if anything he kind of liked the lanky southsider but he still did shoot him, point blank and in the back. He killed friends and hurt people he cared for in such a tremendously awful way. Still, even with all that, Roddy was curious. He had read the letters word for word and Charlie’s feelings and thoughts resonated with him. Maybe his feelings were different to Elaine’s because she wasn’t there. She lost just as much as anyone but she wasn’t there. "I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to upset you or ruin tonight, I don’t know I guess in some way I’m still looking for closure.”

"I got all the closure I needed when they dragged him away in a body bag. I don't need to go back there to mess myself up all over again," she spat, shooting daggers at her child's father sitting across the table. She knew she was coming across rather callous and insensitive, but it was hard to have any sympathy for a man who had killed your 'big sister', your teammates, your ex-boyfriend's little brother who was like a sibling to you too, and who destroyed her relationship with Decky along with hopes and plans they had for the future. To this day, she still lived with the consequences of what the deranged boy had done. Although Charlie had not physically harmed her, Lanie could never quite fully get over the results of his actions.

“I can’t begin to understand everything you went through, Lanie and if you don’t need that closure then you’re in a better place than me.”

Roddy still carried that day with him everywhere he went. Every moment he was alive, he felt the weight on his back. Every night he was transported back into that gym, he could feel the burning holes in his back and the blood pooling beneath his body as he watched Charlie just stand resolute and silent. When he blinked he could see the moment Decker was shot down by the police and the look on his face. He wasn’t scared. He wasn’t angry. It was a look he couldn’t describe, it was a look he didn’t fully understand.

“I can still feel every second of that day. It haunts me. I want to be able to just draw a line under it, but I can’t.” Tears began to well up in Roddy’s eyes as memories flooded his mind. “Maybe something there tonight can help me do that, but I don’t-- I can’t-- do it without you.”

Roddy's admission and display of vulnerability disarmed her. For as long as Elaine had known the youngest Callahan son, he had always been the type to hold his ground when faced with adversity. There were very few times in which she had ever seen that strength falter, and it had only happened when he felt at his lowest points. It was a trait she had admired about him at first, and him confiding all of these secret feelings in her had only solidified their budding romance. Unfortunately, it was this same resistance to show weakness when he was the pillar of their small family that eventually led to the demise of their relationship.

For Roddy to have allowed himself the luxury of exposing himself like this, at this moment in time, meant that he was serious about every word he said. Her former boyfriend was pleading for her help-- and Elaine wouldn’t dream of doing anything other than that.

"And you won't have to…" Lanie declared, reaching out to take Roddy's hands in hers and locking her stare with his. The angry fire that had been burning in her eyes had been replaced with one of determination, and an absolute resolve to do what it took to defend the father of her child. "I told you I would always be here for you when you need me. And when I said I'd do anything for you, I meant it. No matter what happens, I'll always be in your corner. You don't have to do things alone all the time, Rod. You're not Superman. As much as you would like to, you can't carry the weight of the world on your shoulders without collapsing underneath it. Let me help you take some of that weight off you. Please."

Carrying the weight was a familial trait. John Callahan was the strongest man that Roddy had ever known and was someone that he had always aspired to be. Francis Callahan was the bravest man that he knew and if he had half of that courage, Rod would be a different man. For too many years, Roddy had compared himself to his father and to his brother and seeing them be, as Lanie said, supermen was just a fact of life that he had to accept. Then again, neither man had Lanie Lancaster and she was someone that that made it all worthwhile and she was showing why in that moment.

"Thank you.”

The fighting Irishman looked down at his beer and then back to Lanie. He was ready to face this unknown, especially now that she had made it clear that she was on his side. He grabbed the glass and downed the entire thing.

“Fuck it, let’s do this.”

There was a strange sense of strength and renewed determination within Lanie as she exited the pub, drove on and arrived at the old school building. She was well aware that the circumstances which she was about to step into were far from ideal. There was a high chance of coming across many people she was either estranged from or did not hold in the highest regard; of having to deal with their nasty looks and snide comments. But, for Roddy, Elaine was willing to let things slide so he could heal and find closure.

With their hands tightly interlocked together, the young couple took in a deep breath and stepped into the gym.

As their footsteps echoed across the room, an empowered Lanie felt ready to take on any challenge…

Until her blue eyes fell on the dark locks, chiseled face and lanky figure of none other than Mordechai Boaz.

I feel like I’m going to be fucking sick…
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Venus
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A @Venus & @LovelyComplex Collaboration
Featuring Tiffannie Taccone & Father Joseph Connery


I could say the Rosary
And pray to have you close to me
But haven't spoke to God in a while
Don't think I believe in him
'Cause baby, some might call this sin
So take me down to Hell with a smile


The tense encounter with Danny had left Tiffannie with all kinds of negative feelings. As soon as the door had closed behind her, she had collapsed on the bed face-first, and she’d snuggled up to her giant teddy bear while she shed her tears. No matter how hard she tried, Peach couldn’t point out which of her actions was the one that had triggered her cousin so intensely. The way she had acted wasn’t out of the norm. Any time Danny had a date, she would press him for the details, and after being vague for a few seconds to pique her interest further he would dish out everything. If anything about his stories seemed too fantastical or didn’t make sense, she would call him out on it like she had done today, and he would simply laugh at it and reveal the truth of what he’d been trying to embellish in the first place. Danilo and her had been thick as thieves since before she could walk. They trusted each other with things they would disclose to nobody else. What was so different about it this time around?

The more Tiffannie thought about it, the less sense everything made, and the more hurt and confused she felt by it all. She was desperate to interact with someone who, if not understood, at least offered her some comfort and a safe space to speak her mind. Someone who would kiss her and snuggle her and make her forget all about how her mean cousin Danny had growled at her like some rabid dog. Someone like...

The name came to her instantly.

Ten minutes later, the determined blonde was making her way up the concrete steps of Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows; Edenridge's only Catholic church. Any regular parishioner without ulterior motives would know to enter the church’s main building through its massive double doors at the top of the steps. But Tiffannie, of course, was not just any regular parishioner. So after making sure she wasn’t being followed, the young woman turned right and quietly followed the discreet, semi-hidden path that led to the vestibule alongside the adoration chapel. Once she had arrived, Peach gave a few short knocks on the wooden door and patiently awaited for her access inside to be permitted.

Father Connery had finished his early dinner not too long ago in the clergy house, with his fellow brothers, across the street of the church. He could still hear the classical instrumentals of Tchaikovsky’s Valse Sentimentale ringing in his ears, even now when all that surrounded him was the emptiness and silence of his church. Not even the organ was alive to make these barren rooms filled with warmth and dimension. Music, after all, was a universal language that was pure, intimate, and full of joyous healing.

Joseph’s job was to tend to Christ’s flock. Through his ministry, he could guide, protect and correct them, but most importantly show a deep love, allowing the Lord to reach the souls of mere men. He and his brothers were the most precious collaborators, caring for God’s people, educating them in the faith and of guiding, for without them who would feed the flock? And yet, even with such value, such importance, as a man of God, he knew he was weak. Unable to chase perfection because he was flawed and a stain among his people.

Joseph Connery was a sinner.

He would never be a man for himself. Without his oath, he was a lost soul like the rest. He must dedicate his soul, his compassionate heart, to be the light in the darkness, the bearer of the cross, and a sympathetic ear. This commitment, this promise, was so that he could solely live in the realm of the invisible, to provide the visible with the truth of an allegory. A promise to not take a wife, to not hold lands, to not father children, to not wear crowns and win any glory, to live and die at his post, a pledge until death.

Even so, as he kneeled in the chapel, holding his rosary, whispering prayers to himself, he was not thinking about living for the spirit of God nor the baptism of two beautiful Italian children that would take place tomorrow evening. He could care less about planning, writing, and conducting all elements of weekly church service, like evaluating the liturgical calendar and making sure he and his brothers kept with church tradition. No. What was on his mind was his curse. For his facade of strength went crumbling when he was presented with this temptation. The devil didn’t come dressed in horns, he came in disguise as the one thing he wanted the most. A woman.

Once his eyes were open, alerted by a knock on the side door, he rose up and clenched his fist around his necklace. “Forgive me, Lord, for I have sinned,” he recalled two nights ago and felt guilty of how weak a man he was. He placed the rosary on the altar and unhurriedly found his way to the side door. Since there was no service tonight, he had no need to wear his cassock. So instead, he wore his black clerical shirt with a tab collar inserted, black pants, and a black belt and dress shoes to match.

When he opened the door, he smiled at the unexpected (yet sort of expected) sight and teased his guest, “This might be a new record for you. It feels like only yesterday you were here, knocking on my door, just like this.” He didn’t expect she’d come back for more so soon. They usually kept things discrete, spaced out, for obvious reasons. Glancing at the clock on the ceiling, making sure they would be left alone for at least an hour, he returned his kind gaze to the woman that stood before him and soothingly added, “It must be urgent. Please come in.”

In response, Tiffannie shot Father Connery a blinding smile and skipped right inside, waiting until he closed the door behind them before standing up on the tips of her toes to briefly press her lips against his.

"You look nice," she complimented as she stood in front of the taller man, crossing her arms in front of her and letting her blue eyes run up and down the chiseled frame she knew was hiding underneath all the layers of clothing he currently wore. "Love that monochromatic look. Very… Clean and polished. I personally prefer you with nothing on, but this is okay too, I guess…" the blonde teased with a small shrug, shooting Father Connery a playful wink while biting her lower lip.

His mother used to tell him that opportunity may knock only once, but temptation leans on the doorbell. No matter how much he looked temptation right in the eyes, he simply could not defeat it. He was tested in the presence of Tiffannie and lost all self control. Something that was so wrong, felt completely right and he didn’t want to let it go.

Rather than speak immediately, he let the sweetness of passion talk instead. Pulling her in, crushing her tight within his grasp, letting his love transcend the great works of the composers he listens to in his chambers, he gave into his primal instincts. Aiming to leave her breathless, he fervently brushed his rougher mouth with her tender lips until they were challenging each other in a lovers’ dance. Who could be more intense, more in charge, than the other? The moment was fast-paced, heated, and in front of the eyes of the Lord.

Only she could bring out such a savage. His grip loosened a bit, as his large hand trailed up her back and through her hair. When he could hear her gasping for air, he pulled back, but did not release her. With lustful admiration in his gaze, he slyly grinned, “That could be arranged if you lead the way.” He brought a handful of her hair close to him, taking in her scent and cherishing the sight of his Sin. With hunger and desperation, he expressed, “Oh how I’ve missed you.”

After spending thirty minutes worshipping each other’s temples, Tiffannie laid resting on her darling Joe’s chest, nestled contently between his burly arms while he absentmindedly played with her hair. When she had first met Father Connery during her first service at Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows four weeks previously, the LA native had no intentions of getting involved with a man of faith. Sure: Tiff wasn’t shy of entangling herself with taken or married men who were often a few years her senior (her impressive track record proved as much), and the holy father was ticking all the right boxes for her. He was handsome, intelligent, charming, and the way he spoke so passionately during his sermons made her daydream of what his husky voice would sound like hissing sweet or nasty nothings into her ear. But as tempting as the challenge behind the pulpit was, even a girl as adventurous as Peach knew where to draw the line.

And yet…

It had been the priest himself who made the first move, and the not-so-holy father who was guilty of pushing the boundaries during every consecutive visit since then. What had started out with some harmless conversation and a little flirting escalated into a few rounds of passionate kisses and teasing caresses, which escalated into more heated exchanges behind closed doors, and had quickly climaxed into them completely giving themselves up to the forbidden fruit of their sin: their clothes strewn all over the floor and holding each other close just like this once everything else was said and done.

“I really wish we could do this every night,” Tiffannie whined, looking up at Father Connery with her big, sparkling doe eyes. “I hate having to be away from you like this.”

“I know, my dove.” Father Connery was a guilty man and his crime was being enraptured by a woman he may never have all to himself. Still, he would cherish the embraces she gave him and relish this fleeting dream. One day, he would gain the strength to let her go. That day wasn’t today.

As selfish as this was, he couldn’t bear the idea of her not returning into his arms. He knew she had other lovers. She tells him everything in confession. He wasn’t naive and knew his place. He knew her flaws, weaknesses, and insecurities, and yet, he chose to be a selfish man. Against all odds, he chose to give into his wants and needs.

If he was her consistent rock, that waited for her return, perhaps she would realize that all she needed was him. Was that hopeful thinking? That a man of God could get away with spreading the word, while always having his Eve at his side? Absolutely. Breaking old traditions usually came with a price. Nonetheless, while they were in the shadows, he believed they could get away with anything. Her body was his sanctuary and he refused to let go. No. The day he let go would be the day she deliberately wanted him to. Until then, he would feed his greed and make her his. “Are you feeling better? You looked… distressed earlier.” As she looked up at him, gleaming, he delicately kissed her forehead.

He was a fool.

A fool for love.

Although Tiffannie let out a deep sigh, she ultimately nodded. "I'm okay. It's just… I had a fight with Danny earlier. He glared and growled at me and left the house before I even had a chance to try and figure out what I said or did wrong…" she admitted sadly, her beautiful features settling back into a crestfallen expression. "I love Danny. He's like a big brother to me. I don't want him to be mad at me. I don't like it when people are mad at me."

“From what I know about his family, especially his father—“ Joseph laid there, continuously entangling his fingers with her hair, staring at the ceiling, and speaking with certainty, “—a Belmonte goes out of their way for others, but when it comes to themselves they’re blindsided. I’m sure Danilo will come around. I’ve never considered him a malicious type. I doubt he would intentionally hurt you, or anyone for that matter. Give it time, Little Dove.”

"I know... I'm just worried that it was all my fault because I pushed him too hard," she continued, her lower lip at the verge of starting to tremble again. "All I was doing was just playing around like I always do asking him about who he was going out with, and he's never acted like this with me before. I really didn't mean to make him upset…" she repeated, tears starting to pool up in her blue eyes once more.

Lifting her head to look up at him, he whispered, “Shhhh.” Once he gave her a heartfelt kiss, he assuringly smiled, “Do not carry the blame when you’ve done nothing wrong. Some things cannot be resolved over night.”

Affectionately squeezing her, he continued to coo, “I’m one of the few people that know what your family is going through. Be patient with him. I doubt it’s easy… knowing God wants to take his mother home. And who knows? Perhaps, whoever he is dating, and this is only a hunch, he isn’t sure his family would approve. Have you thought about that?”

"But Uncle Taz and Auntie Silvia wouldn't care if Danny dated a Southie or someone from a different race!" the blonde was quick to interject loudly, her eyebrows pulling together into a frown. "They're not bigots! Plus, Danny's definitely their favorite child. Unless he's, like, hurting people that don't deserve it, I doubt there's anything he can do wrong in their eyes." And she was sure her Belmonte cousins would agree with her statement as well.

“I suppose you’ll have to find out what he’s hiding, huh?” Father Connery teased, as he shifted their position where her body was completely laying on him. Playfully, he grabbed her hair and pulled her lips to his, nipping at it. “I know what can get your mind off your troubles.”

The perky blonde raised a playful eyebrow. “Really? And what’s that?” Tiffannie asked the father with a girlish giggle and a knowing smirk.

“Me.”

Bless us, O Lord, and these, thy gifts, which we are about to receive through thy bounty.
Through Christ, our Lord.
Amen.
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by BrutalBx
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It’ll be quiet.

That’s what Colleen had told him to convince him that moving to Edenridge would be good for them. She had grown up there originally and as Antoine neared his retirement and the kids flew the nest, she was feeling particularly nostalgic. Beau was still unsure, he had been police all his life, homicide to be precise. He had seen it all and done it all and in contrast to many of his compatriots, Antoine Beauregard had lived to tell his story.

He was often asked by younger members of the force, what was the secret to his clearance rate and to his success? The answer was fairly simple; Beau lived by a mantra, a code that guided him in everything that he did “Nobody no victim that don’t matter”. He had decided long ago that irregardless of whose case file crossed his desk, he would work it, work every angle until justice was served, the right people paid for their crime and that the families of the victims got closure. Colleen being the wordsmith she was, she managed to twist Beau’s mantra even in retirement “Nobody no child that don’t matter” It was how he ended up teaching English at Edenridge High, the building that currently sat before him. Sitting in his parked car, with all the lights off and lurking in the shadows was not Antoine’s idea of a fun Friday night. If he wanted to stakeout a place he wouldn’t have left the force in the first place.

It’ll be quiet.

She said it again when he started the teaching gig. She had gone to the school way back when so it was fair to say that Mrs Beauregard wasn’t aware of the trouble brewing within its walls. Colleen was oblivious to the chaos that had ensnared the Boston youth. She didn’t expect to take said troubled youth into their spare bedroom but then she should have known that Antoine always brought his work home with him. He is a simple, humble man who just can’t switch off from helping people.

This was probably why he was where he was right now; watching his former students head into their alma mater one by one, in search of some form of truth and closure. He didn’t need to be there. The kids were old enough to look after themselves but Beau just couldn’t help it. There was something about this class, he just had to watch out for them; Mordechai, Penelope even Charlie. Charlie was his biggest regret. He saw the young man all the time, he could always transport himself back into his classroom talking to Charlie about Hemingway or Kerouac. Charlie Decker for all his flaws was a special boy, an intelligent boy.

Beau glanced down at his passenger side chair and the gun sitting there. He didn’t want to be the one to bring a gun back into Edenridge High but if someone was targeting these kids, he needed to take care of them. They were his kids. Nobody messes with his kids. He blew the smoke from his lungs from his ever present cigar chomping.

”I got you kids, I got you”
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Hedgehawk
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The arrival of Mei and her gang had signalled to Aaron that his safe space had been compromised. There was no way he could come back here again without someone knowing where he was. Finding a new one was going to be a nightmare. While frustration was the current order of the day with Mei’s arrival, it switched to fear when Decky arrived smashing his baseball bat around. This wasn’t right. Why were they both armed? Aaron hadn’t yet clocked onto the fact that Jillian could turn her vodka bottle into a weapon at short notice.

Aaron began to very rapidly eye up everyone in the room, making sure that no one was moving towards him. Currently everyone was on the otherside of the gym, and Aaron would do whatever he could to ensure that they came nowhere near him. He still hadn’t come to any conclusions as to why these people turned up. Had they finally had enough of Aaron, decided he was guilty and decided to take justice into their own hands? Well, that fits Mei perfectly, but Decky and the others not so much. Decky could be here on the orders of ReyRey, but that doesn’t explain Mei and the bitch squad.

Things only became more confusing when they were joined by Danny, Marco, Poppy and Jade. Seeing Jade in person only caused Aaron to feel even more mixed emotions. Seeing the one girl in Edenridge he called attractive suddenly entered, caused the blonde male to get butterflies, however it was immediately squashed by the realisation that more people had arrived, when there should have been no-one but himself. Listening to Poppy talk was strange. He couldn’t quite make out what was being said, but he continued to eye his ‘no one on my side of the gym’ rule. To help him implement it, he picked up one of the old dodgeballs from a sack that he kept next to his, sometimes to use a pillow, and in times of need, a kindergarten level of defence measures. If anyone even tried to come near him, he would throw one of the balls at them. Even if he was throwing one handed… and it wasn’t his lead hand. Yeah, it wasn’t going to hit anything, but at least it should scare people off.

Poppy's words however did not really compute with Aaron. Something was missing here. There was something they all knew that Aaron didn’t. Maybe they weren’t here to put him on trial and execute him. But Aaron sure as hell couldn’t work out what the real reason was behind this evening reunion. Roddy and Lanie arriving caused Aaron to panic further. This wasn’t right. People who should never be in the same room, were. Right now it should have looked like a Royal Rumble, but everyone looked just as tense as Aaron was. He lowered his throwing arm slightly, so he didn’t look as threatening, well, as threatening as you can be when holding a dodgeball.

This would be the point where a normal person would say: ‘What the Fuck is going on in here?’. However Aaron didn’t have that avenue open to him. He couldn’t engage in conversation with his former classmates and trust him, he had tried. His tongue was pressing against his upper bridge, but no amount of air being pushed through was causing a sound to appear. His only hope was to look as confused as a deer caught in the headlights, which to be fair, wasn’t exactly as difficult as it sounded for Aaron. He needed to know why everyone thought it was funny to invade his personal space.
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Aces Away
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An @Aces Away, @LovelyComplex, & @metanoia Collaboration || Featuring The Lost Trio

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Mordechai had tensed when he registered the footsteps behind him, but he had already heard their voices echoing from the bleachers. He knew they were there from the moment Jade's panicked exclamation shot through the tense silence, and he also knew couldn't turn around yet. Not without breaking.

But then Poppy spoke up from just behind him, her voice muffled and quiet, but just as demanding of attention as ever. And as she started to tear into him all he could do was turn to stare at her, taking in her haggard state and mentally comparing it to his own. He could barely see any of her, but she was definitely even smaller than before and her eyes were sunken and a bit dull- though they gained a bit of fire as she ranted. Her clothes were swamping her and-

And that was Charlie's hoodie hiding her frame.

He tried to ignore the way his heart stuttered and stopped before kicking back into high gear, but at that point Poppy's breathing had picked up too, and Danny Belmonte was stepping in for some reason. Mordechai couldn't help but bear his teeth in a sneer at the other man despite him being completely civil, but he tucked the bat between his knees and dropped the broken liquor bottle to the floor in order to rip off his own oversized hoodie, exposing his scarred arms and fresh track marks, as well as the still vibrant Serpent's tattoo on his left shoulder. Left in a tank top, Mordechai put the bat casually back over his shoulder while tossing his hoodie lightly over Poppy's head so that even if she opened her eyes she would be fine. He turned her around, arm across her shoulders in order to lead her back to Jade and whoever else they'd shown up with.

"C'mon Pops, you fuckin' got me, told me off good. Let's both go sit an' calm down, yeah?"

Wrapped in a cocoon, known as Decky’s jacket, Poppy took in his scent. It was musky, a little sweaty, and naturally earthy. No distinct cologne. Then again, she wasn’t good with brands even if he was wearing Old Spice or Axe. If anything his scent reminded her of woodwork and camping. It also made her feel safe and warm. His scent, such a simple thing, brought in feelings of old and reminded her that she still had loved ones alive and well. He was alive and well.

Mordechai’s familiar and reassuring presence had given her the extra measure she needed to become focused and functional once more. Part of her was sad because instead of greeting her childhood friend with pleasantries, appreciating the sight of him, she scolded him, like she had done many times in the past. Well, unlike then, she wasn’t calm and composed. If only she could go back in time when interactions like this didn’t feel so daunting.

As she stood there, his arm across her shoulders, she wondered if he knew how she was feeling. How desperately she needed to isolate herself because of the all-consuming information that overloaded her mind. People. All the fucking people.

They weren’t her friends, they weren’t people that cared about her, and they didn’t know her. They didn’t care about her story. Or Decky’s. Or Charlie’s for that matter! All they cared about was forgetting and twisting the truth because no one wanted to hear that they could’ve been a villain in someone else’s story.

Did he understand that?

Poppy wasn’t blind. She saw the hurt and she knew everyone lost somebody. In the process, they also lost pieces of themselves. Pieces that needed to mend, but once the glass was shattered, nobody had it in them to put themselves back together. So... why not work together?

As simple as that notion sounds, it isn’t that easy. Some people wanted to act like their pain was worse than everyone else’s. Some people wanted to run away. And some people, like herself, liked to pretend it was only just a dream. When push came to shove and they could support one another, the first thing they wanted to do was play the blame game or attack, attack, attack.

People. Fucking people. They sucked.

Instead of being protected by Jade’s shadow, Poppy was now in Decky’s safe bubble, a dark, comforting blanket, and without saying any immediate words, her hand closest to her friend reached out of the jacket and grabbed the end of his tank. Clutching the cloth, she tugged at it and apologetically whispered, “Sorry.” Clear guilt in her tone.

What a sad state she was in, where her brain chose to be a coward, giving her little to no voice because she was nothing but an empty shell. An absolute nobody. Did he see how much of a mess she was? How much of a mess she was without… Charlie?

"Fuck, Pops," Mordechai replied, pulling her into his chest with the arm around her shoulders and dropping his cheek on her head. "Ain't got nothin' to apologize for, you were right. 'M just strung out and itchin' ta beat some fuckers into the ground. Had to be some Northie fuck that thinks they're bein' cute, I swear." He mumbled into her covered head.

His thoughts beat around in his head like a boxer, screaming at him for leaving Poppy to get this bad, whimpering that he had to take care of himself; what good would he have been if he'd just killed himself a week after the shooting? He had to get away!

He shouldn't have gone. He should have bucked the fuck up. He made the right choice, getting the toxicity that was him out of their lives. He was the root of all their problems. He had to be.

He betrayed his brother, their friend, and it lead to Charlie sweeping through Edenridge like the Angel of Death through Rameses' Egypt. His own time away was less of a 'let my people go' and more of a 'my people are better without me.' Coming back was more selfish of him than he let on, even if it did hurt him non-stop in the process.

He deserved everything coming at him.

Danny Boaz had deserved none of it.

He took a deep breath to fortify himself, to make sure the mask doesn't break despite all the cracks, and then pulled back only enough to get them to start shuffling back to Jade and who he now saw was Marco.

"'Sides," he finally added once he got back out of his head. "I prefer y'all's company anyway." he hoped that they ignored the strained tone he spoke in, given that the two Southie girls would be the only ones able to detect it. Shakily, Mordechai finally met Jade's eyes, letting nothing show but not being able to hold back the shudder that shook him, and by extension Poppy. "Hey, Harley Head, long time…"

”Hey..y-eha, it has…” In a very uncharacteristic way, Jade’s voice was shaky, almost as though the blonde had no idea how to respond to a simple greeting from her old ex-friend(?).

The pit in her stomach that made her feel like she was sinking had gotten worse. She literally felt like she was being swallowed up by the memories of that night, the friendships that tore themselves apart from a series of inactions on her part. The gnawing pain that left her heart in shambles, yet hearing Mordechai’s deep voice call her by that name.

Harley Head.

He still calls me it despite everything?

As she looked away from Decky and down into her lap, thumbs twiddling with each other, she heard the groans coming from her left and she saw Marco do as much as he could to silently self-excuse himself, but as he slid down the bleachers, the silent aspect was nearly impossible. She rolled her eyes and then found herself returning to Decky’s gaze. She couldn’t avoid this. It had been nearly two years since the shooting and a year since she set eyes on Decky. If nothing else, she needed to confront this particular obstacle.

Before she opened her mouth, she wanted to ask how he was. She wanted to ask if he was taking care of himself. Wherever he was, she wanted to know if he had good accommodations. But one look and the old Jade, no matter how rare of a sighting she was, came through and she said, ”You’re skinnier than I remember.” She didn’t know whether to laugh or hit herself for saying that, of all things. “Have you been eating?”

Mordechai let out a humorless chuckle before having the grace to look a little abashed. "I eat when I can afford to," he offered with an uncomfortable shrug, trying not to shift so his tank would hang differently, maybe make him look more filled out. He knew he was kidding himself anyways, he'd lost pounds in the double digits and he was never a bulky guy to begin with. After he had left New York, Allegra and the kids, he had struck out on his own again while keeping in contact as best as he could- and that had always been shitty at best- but he constantly found himself scraping by in a way he hadn't had to since before he joined the Serpents. He was hungry, broke, and nostalgic, as well as high enough when he had been asked that he agreed to return. Mordechai never makes promises, but he does his damndest not to back out on his word when he gives it. "Had a good corner run every now and then, or some of the truckers I was hitchin' with would stop at a fast food place."

He cleared his throat instead of letting the sentence fall into an awkward pause. It was weird, it was wrong, but it was right in a way that Mordechai hadn't known was wrong before. Having Jade and Poppy around him settled a buzzing in his chest he had gotten so used to he thought it was normal. They were standing in the gym where their classmates and loved ones lost their lives or sanity, drawn like moths to a flame by some jackass klepto with a photocopying fetish and surrounded by people that had different approaches to the same thing: stop this shit.

But for right now, he was secluded in the corner with his Harley Head and Street Angel, just like they would always be secluded at their lunch table before it all fell apart.

"Uh, Sunshine said you were workin' at the Edge, so you might be- I'll be around with Sunshine y'know?" he stumbled, wishing to swallow back his words. That was real great; Hey, I'm back, be seein' you with my gang boyfriend at the strip club

”Yeah. Been there for almost a year now, ever since Charlie--” Jade caught herself almost immediately, ”--My uncle, I mean, he got locked up. Bogus-ass gun charges.” She spat on the Gym floor as a bit of emphasis of the unfair circumstances of her uncle’s arrest. ”Anyway, yeah I had to think of a way to pay bills. And Rey Rey hooked me up with a job.” At some point, Jade realized she was getting way off-topic, so she’d draw it back and away from her personal problems. ”I’m sure R2 loves that. I mean, you being back. Have you gone to see him yet?”

Mordechai's grip on Poppy tightened for a brief moment as bats and blood flashed across his mind before they were roughly kicked back to the dark corner were they belonged. In return, Poppy leaned on him, using her warmth and touch as emotional support. He let his shoulders relax a bit at her casual tone and nodded. "Sorry to hear about your uncle, he's a good guy. I saw ReyRey this afternoon. Hence the busted lip," his laugh was still rough but this time it rang with sincerity. "It's been nice...seeing the old crew. Still got my stops to make though."

He glanced around the room, taking stock of everyone's whereabouts before finally bringing himself and Poppy down to sit on the bleachers. He'd spent a few nights sleeping in them back when everything was still shit with his parents, but now they were cold and dirty, with blood that's been washed away but never removed. Never one to be good with it in the first place, Mordechai dropped the small talk.

"What do you guys want me to do about whoever is behind this-" he waved his hand vaguely. "With, of course,planning and an alibi." he threw in the last part quickly, Poppy's rant still in the forefront of his mind.

“We wait,” Penelope chimed in, poking her head out finally to the brightness of the gym. Eek. She hated seeing the light, but she knew she had to stop hiding and being a weirdo. Resting Decky’s jacket on her shoulders, she shook her head, “We don’t have enough information and I really don’t want you two getting hurt for something stupid.”

Pops’ last comment made Jade chuckle. She couldn’t place it, but as she looked between Poppy and Decky, she couldn’t stop herself from laughing. It would be between the two of them to do something so idiotic as to react without all the facts. “When you’re right sis, you’re absolutely right.” Another laugh came as Jade leaned back as much as she could without completely falling back into the row behind her. She lazily drew her gaze to Decks, who held it. “And if we are going to do something stupid, wouldn’t you prefer to know who the person responsible is and not deciding so blindly?”

Poppy shook her head, surveying her classmates, even glancing at the door where Roddy and Lanie were, "Unless it’s more than one person.” while she agreed with both Decky and Jade that there was someone guilty and that they needed to do something about it, she was and always will be the inquisitive type. She felt like there were more questions that needed to be asked and that they shouldn’t assume only one person was behind this. Everyone was guilty until proven innocent. They just needed to find people with strong enough motives and push them to talk.

Following Poppy's gaze, Mordechai's breath caught in his throat and refused to leave, his whole body tensing like he'd stepped on a live wire. Lanie was still beautiful, still straight-backed and determined, and still everything that Moredchai had to leave behind before he ruined.

He had to have known, deep down, that he was never good enough for her. There were always small sabotages he created before even realizing it, and he loved her unlike anyone else- because she was unlike anyone else in his life. Her and Danny's well being demanded he do better, so he did. But Mordechai had lost not just a brother, but someone he raised since birth, and that's not something you get to just live with. If he had stayed he would have dragged down Lanie and everyone close to him in the inevitable spiral of despair and grief. He knew he left selfishly, but he also knew that even back then he was aware it was for Lanie's own good.

Because he was no good. It's why Allegra was raising Chaim alone and they were only ever just friends. It's why Charlie got lost and Danny was killed and his world imploded; when you build a whole world out of duct tape and glass shards it's bound to fall apart or cut you up at some point.

If possible, he hugged Poppy tighter like he would shatter if he moved, and harshly tore his gaze from the blonde and back to his girls before Lanie caught him staring. This was becoming a lot and he definitely didn't get high enough before coming here, considering this was only the beginning. He couldn't even register Roddy Callahan's presence attached to Lanie's right now. Nope.

"Well, it's not like there's no experience hidin' bodies in our little trio, and I got a friend in New York who knows a few tricks too." he offered, voice suddenly scratchy. "But we have to beat them into the ground on principle first, for twisting Ch- for twisting him like this," his tone was a boiling pit of lava and acid. "More conspirators just means more curb stomps."

Taking in Decky’s facial expressions as he one, held her tight, and two, used his words to hide his inner turmoil, Penelope sighed. This was a face she hadn’t seen in a couple of years and he felt like yesterday. If yesterday was a feeling, that would be what Decky felt like to her. As if nothing had changed.

If anything, he had more baggage, she didn’t doubt it, but as expected, he dealt with it all the same. Continuing to use his chest as support, she turned away from him to intensely look at their class. How much has really changed? Were they truly cursed? Was this town so fucked that there was no way out? No light at the end of this dark tunnel?

Frowning behind her face mask, Poppy started to impatiently tap her right foot on the bleacher in front of her and fidget with her hands. The questions started flooding her mind as the clock continued to move forward. Was it eight o’clock yet? Who were they waiting for? What were they waiting for? How long would they wait here, expecting a sign? Was this really going to help? Or was this supposed to cause more disruption in their little town? As if they didn’t have enough bullshit going on. Why would someone use a dead boy’s journal? What was there to gain? And why…why did Charlie know so much? Why didn’t he tell her?

And then, instinctively, Jade force-grabbed Poppy’s hand. The blonde looked at her, then to Decky. She didn’t say anything. She didn’t offer some final words to ease their anxious spirits, because Jade was just as anxious as they were. But in the short time she and Decky talked, before Poppy came in and did what she always did best and guided them both into a safe middle, Jade realized something. You hype something painful and that’s uncomfortable to face, thinking it’ll be the end of the world, but talking with Decky and trying to face the awkwardness head-on, Jade realized that he was in as much pain as she was.

And maybe it was her own insecurities hindering what was right in front of her, but now she could honestly say that, when it really mattered, the Southies had each other’s back. And that gave Jade’s anxiety a fifteen-minute break and it allowed her to actually smile for the first time. A genuine, authentic smile.


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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by BrutalBx
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Rod didn’t know whose grip was tighter his or Lanies. Each held onto the other for dear life but for very different reasons. The memories that reverberated between all these walls held a different type of weight for Elaine than they did Roddy. Pick a classroom and he could likely tell you who bullied him in there and how; but he had gotten over that. The memory that plagued him in the present moment was one in the very gym where he now stood with an amassed who's who of Edenridge, Massachusetts. It was in the very spot that Kylee Grimm was with her friends. It was the memory of a boy who did not look scared or angry. It was the memory of a boy who was floating, who was empty. That boy wasn’t there anymore but like the last breath of a dream he still held on through memory and that was where Roddy Callahan found himself; in a memory, seeing the face of Charlie Decker after being shot by him in the back. He could still feel the warmth of his blood pouring from the holes in his spine. He could still smell the iron in the air and weirdly the smell of old gym socks.

Even in that moment, as he lay on his front he crawled towards Coach O’Hara, a man he had no love for, who himself was face down on the ground of the court he poured so much of his life into. Within those seconds, Roddy wondered if Charlie would try his luck again and finish the job. He didn’t get an answer to that question as the police swarmed the gym and cut Decker down. Even now, the butcher’s boy wondered why he ran back into that school. There was less for him there than there was for Charlie.

Why? It was a word here that meant many different things to the broken kids in a place called Eden?.

As the seconds ticked away, Mei got more and more pissed off. The crowd in the gym was growing and interpersonal arguments were starting to take hold. High school drama that the idiots of this town still hadn’t gotten over. She wasn’t here for Charlie, as deep as a connection as she wished she had with the departed, it just wasn’t there. Tonight was about Allison and the secrets that some pieces of shit were hiding. The dark goddess tightened her grip on her weapon and bashed it against the nearby bleachers to create a loud crack.

“All this shit needs to stop” She commanded “We’re here to figure out whose sending those stupid fucking letters and based on the cavalcade of non descripts here, I don’t think it’s any of us. Not even fire starter over there” Motioning with her wooden “sword” towards Aaron, Mei decided that if no one else was willing to step up and sort everything out then she would do it; it’s what Allison would’ve done. “So where are you? Come out, come out cumdumpster!”

Miss Midnights challenge seemed to be accepted as what little lights were functioning in the old building shut and the long dormant speakers crackled and sizzled into life.

Interviewer: So, Allison. You’re fairly popular here at Edenridge. As the old saying goes, the real world is a little different from those hallways. So what’s your plan when you graduate? It’s my understanding your boyfriend is heading off to Yale! Are you intending on following?

Ally: While I do love Franny I do have my own plans. I’m not sure which college I’ll go to since I’ve got a few offers but I think I want to go backpacking, really deep dive into a less privileged world and give back because lord knows I’ve been blessed and I want to share that but first, we have to beat Pinehurst of course! Go Celtics!


The distorted sound of the speakers gave way to a series of overhead projectors springing into life as footage was sprayed onto each of the four walls. Allison’s laughter echoed around the room as the video played the Pinehurst v Edenridge game of December 4th 2016; the night Allison died. Her fits and giggles soon shifted to the song that Mei had chosen and swiftly to the sound of gunfire before everything fell to an eerie silence and darkness. A final projection showed a still image of Allison on the court and a number written on the bottom:

Callahan: 16 - 7 - 5
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Hidden 28 days ago Post by Fever Dream
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Having just had a refreshing shower, Anna wrapped a towel around her torso and stood in front of the mirror. She stared at herself momentarily before reaching for the comb to untangle her hair in case she had any knots. It had been a hell of a day, but at least it was coming to an end. At that point, the young woman heard her phone go off. The device was downstairs, and she was slightly annoyed at the fact that she had to make her way down to it. “Yeah yeah, I’m coming, just give me a minute will ya.” With just a towel and her slippers on, Anna began her descend down the stairs.

Unfortunately, on the way there, Anna slipped on one of the steps. Her first instinct was to reach for something to grab on to, but it all happened too quickly for her to be successful. Anna cried out in surprise a split second before her body toppled down the stairs, hitting the various steps and also the wall as she went down. Once it was all said and done, she lay at the base of the stairs with a broken arm and a few tender spots which would eventually turn into bruises. Predictably, she was knocked unconscious as a result of the fall.

The original caller was Anna’s father. He’d reached out to check up on her, and on his end, he figured she was busy at the time. For the next hour and a half or so, Mr. Donovan would attempt to reach her a few more times, but during each instance, the call would end up being sent to voicemail. That’s when he began to get a little more concerned as it wasn’t like her not to pick up the phone, or at least, return his calls at some point. But it wasn’t long before Mr. Donovan arrived home and found his daughter sprawled out at the base of the stairs. Right away, the police as well as the paramedics were called and Anna was rushed to the hospital. The police stayed behind with Mr. Donovan to ask him a few questions, meanwhile the status of the young woman remained undetermined.
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Hidden 27 days ago Post by Venus
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Venus Loves it ♡

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A @Venus and @Aces Away Collaboration
Featuring Elaine Lancaster, Danny Boaz & Mordechai Boaz in happier times.


Sometime at the beginning of June 2018...


Decky rolled his shoulders a bit to regain circulation as he woke, not daring to move more and disrupt the two bodies under his arms. Leaned up against his chest under his right arm was Lanie, the slumbering girl, limply holding his hand in hers while she remained tucked into him with her feet underneath herself. To his left, Danny had passed out on his shoulder, and Decky had slowly moved his arm from the back of the couch to wrap around his younger brother. Tonight was the first night that they were officially staying in the Lancaster’s care, and the first night of summer vacation; the Boaz brother’s had all summer to get accustomed to living with the Lancasters before Decky and Lanie entered their Junior year of highschool.

The shitty sitcom they had been watching was still on despite the late hour, and Decky could swear it was the only show that played on that channel. The flickering light that glowed off the faces of his two favorite people in the world made them look as otherworldly as they sometimes felt to him, and the silence of the house- had her parents come into the living room and muted the TV?- gave him the clarity he needed as he looked at his girlfriend’s soft features.

She had gotten him clean, she had gotten him safe, which in turn was allowing him to fully separate from the Serpents. She’s begun to open up to him a world never thought he’d see.

Fuck, I Love You...” He whispered into Lanie’s blonde locks, letting it out like releasing a breath.

Elaine couldn't pinpoint exactly when exactly she had dozed off into DreamLand. The last thing she remembered was snuggling up next to Mordechai for some cuddles while they watched TV before her eyelids started to get heavy. Resting her head on her boyfriend's chest usually meant that the sound of his heartbeat, the rhythmic rising and falling of his breathing and the soothing warmth of his embrace were the perfect combination for Lanie to fall asleep. She had thought that the show they were watching would be interesting enough to keep her awake. But clearly, the level of comfort and safety her boyfriend's presence provided her conquered above anything else, because she had fallen asleep in the end.

The blonde had been in that weird stage of light sleep verging on wakefulness when she felt Decky's figure slightly move underneath her. She had been just about to shift her position to get more comfortable and go back to sleep when she heard him mumble something she couldn't quite understand, his warm breath on the top of her head.

"Decky?" Lanie mumbled groggily, her eyelids flickering a few times before fully opening to look up at her handsome boyfriend with sleepy eyes. "What's going on? Is everything okay?" she asked him in a whisper as she gently rubbed her eyes, trying not to wake the still slumbering Danny on the other side of Decky's chest.

"Um, yeah, yeah," he assured her quietly, face heating up a bit. "I just, ah, I think I love you?"

Fuck, why did that have to come out like a question? He was sure of it a second ago! He still is! But now she's awake and staring at him with those sleep hazed eyes, cheek pressed against him and god, how did I get so lucky and-

"I really love you…" he said, more firm in his words this time, but his body tensed a bit as if to prepare for a rejection.

The first time he said it, Lanie couldn't believe it. She had just woken up, after all, so she figured this was all part of her half-conscious imagination. But when Decky repeated the words, with a firm and absolute certainty she could hear emanating from the depths of his chest, the girl had no doubts that she had heard him correctly, and that he meant every single word.

From the moment she and Decky became close friends, Lanie hadn't been shy about the use of the L word. Part of her nature was to make sure her friends felt loved and appreciated, so casually telling them 'Love Ya!' came as easy to her as saying hello or goodbye. When they had started dating, the meaning behind the word changed, and Lanie had found herself expressing it more often and fervently. She had never heard him say it outright (she'd been determined in not forcing him to do or say anything he didn't want to) but the reciprocation of the feelings always showed it in his actions. But to get this vocal confirmation was, beyond anything else, the ultimate expression of his love and trust for her.

Finally, without a doubt, Elaine Lancaster had completely captured Mordechai Boaz's heart.

Elaine stared at her boyfriend in wonder for a long moment, the sound of his voice admitting his love for her still echoing loudly and clearly in her ears. She tried to etch every single one of his features to her memory, refusing to let herself forget this moment. The way his locks of silky dark hair fell on his forehead, how his deep brown eyes were looking down on her with infinite amounts of affection, his straight nose, the full lips that always gave her the best kisses… And before either of them knew it, the green-eyed girl buried her face in his chest and started to quietly sob.

Decky was in no way prepared for that reaction, and jerked his face away from Lanie in surprise. Unfortunately, at that angle it meant the side of his head met his little brother's with a skull rattling speed. Danny's eyes flew open and he flailed out of Decky's grip and towards the end of the couch, eyes wild as he put a hand to his bruised temple.

"Decky! Wha-" his frantic gaze landed on watery green eyes and, against all odds, his eyes widened further. "What did you do?!" Danny asked, and if Decky weren't feeling so bombarded himself he would have spared a second to think about whether or not the Lancasters had thin walls.

"I don't know!" He yelped back, hands facing out in defensive gestures as he twisted to stare between the two, rapidly trying to assess the situation. "I don't fuckin' know, Danny! Help me fix it!"

"Fix it?!" The younger boy squeaked. "We don't know how you broke her!"

As much as Lanie wanted to stay clinging to Decky's chest savoring this very special victory, it was obvious that the Boaz brothers were both very overwhelmed and genuinely concerned about her behavior.

"I'm okay, guys," Lanie told them with a shaky laugh, wiping away the tears that had rolled down her cheeks. She took a moment to give both Danny and Decky a look full of infinite affection before she elaborated on what had just happened. "Sometimes I just cry when I'm really really happy-- like right now. I'm sorry if I scared you," she said apologetically, kissing Decky's cheek and Danny's forehead. "It's just… Having both of you in my life just makes me really really happy. I love you two so damn much right now… I want you guys to never forget that."

The face mirrored by the Boaz brothers was somewhere between ebbing panic and building discomfort as their cheeks burned red. A look at each other brought everything in order and Danny got up and moved to the other side of the couch, gently wiggling into the space between Lanie and the armrest. Together the two boys enveloped Lanie and Decky pulled them all back so they could rest against the couch. Decky cleared his throat and kept his eyes on the ceiling.

"I love you too," he said, avoiding Danny's gasps and wide eyes, as well as the blinding grins that followed from both his brother and his girlfriend. "You fuckin' saved our lives, Lanie. You've been building me up from a cracked foundation from the day we met in the library." His arms tightened around the two people that made up almost his entire world- gotta leave space for Sunshine and the Southies after all- and he let out a large breath. "Fuck I'd probably die without you two. Broken heart is a thing, right?"

Danny gave a light giggle and tiredness began pulling him back to sleep, his head now rested in the crook of Lanie's neck and arms still tight around them both. "Well we aren't in Southie any more, Decky, you don't have to worry about my early demise every day now."

"Yeah," he replied sarcastically. "Because Northie's ain't fucked up in their own way. They just get you back legally 'n' shit."

"For once in your life, can you please ease up and simply enjoy the moment, you salty little Sugarcube?" Lanie joked, rubbing the tip of her nose against Decky's own before kissing the top of Danny's sleepy head. Danny's resulting laugh at Decky's resigned grimace rang softly in the quiet space. "I'm not letting anything bad happen to you both under my watch. I don't think I'd ever forgive myself for it…" she trailed off as the jubilant expression that had been on her face just seconds before was momentarily clouded by a wave of grief.

"No, don't do that," Danny scowled, poking her quickly in the side before going boneless on her so fast that Decky let out a grunt of surprise at the shift in weight. "Decky makes that face too, which means you aren't feeling a good emotion."

"Ouch, Boychik, that hurt," Decky replied with an eyeroll. Danny huffed and pushed himself up, leaning over to kiss Lanie's cheek.

"I'm goin'a bed, you got-" he gestured vaguely to Lanie and Decky. "-this. Love you, g'night." Danny disappeared and Decky looked down to Lanie with a bit of worry.

"You ok?"

"Yeah! Totes!" the blonde replied with a shaky smile, nodding vigorously as if trying to convince both Decky and herself. But then she realized who she was talking to, and quickly stopped herself. Why was she trying to hide how she truly felt, as if Decky was just any other person? If there was anyone she could be open and honest with, it was her boyfriend. "Actually… No, I'm not…" Lanie admitted, turning away from Decky so he couldn't see the tears starting to cloud her green eyes.

“Hey, Danny was right, none of that now.” Decky curled a finger under her chin and angled her face towards his own. “Talk ta me?”

"It's just…" Lanie began, shifting around the couch so she could be cuddled up against Decky's chest. "Ever since you and Danny came into my life I've been so happy. I'm always laughing, and having fun, and I don't feel lonely anymore. And… I just don't ever want to lose you…" she trailed off again, digging her head into the crook of his neck and wrapping her arms tightly around him.

Tightening his arms around her, Decky rested his cheek against the top of her head and sighed. “I just need a little more time to fully leave the Serpents, but ReyRey knows my intentions and Sunshine is ready to step up. After alls done, you me ‘n’ Danny will have a long life together.” He wouldn’t promise, he never does because he has seen too many broken over his life. But at the very least he can let her know his intentions.

That’s all you have, sometimes.

His words brought Lanie out from her hiding place in Decky's neck just far enough away to face him. "You promise?" she asked him, cupping his face with both her hands and looking up at him with nothing but hope for their future in her green eyes.

“I-” Decky pulled back with a grimace, looking away. He kept his eyes cast aside but didn’t loosen his arms around her. “I can’t say that, but I...I can say I...I can say that I hope, and I don’t take that lightly.” he declared while tightening his grip on her.

Lanie should've known better than to ask for promises. It was a pointless thing, and an even more foolish stance to take considering the place they resided in. One day, you could swear eternity to one person, and the next day they would be gone. In a town like Edenridge, where tragedies seemed to be lurking right around the corner, hope was basically all anybody had anymore. And knowing that Decky still had hope in him, especially taking into consideration where he came from, was certainly good enough for her.

"Okay," the blonde said softly, taking a long, good look at her boyfriend. She made sure to etch every single one of his features in her brain with the greatest of detail before she finally spoke again. "I love you," she whispered, gently pulling his head down in her direction by the chin and locking their lips together in a deep kiss.

Decky followed willingly, allowing the kiss to be soft and searching rather than the frantic way he really wanted to act. He felt so amazing yet at the same time, he realized he now had that much more to lose. Pulling back from the kiss, he swiped his thumb gently over her cheek.

"I love you too, Lanie."
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Hidden 25 days ago 25 days ago Post by LovelyComplex
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LovelyComplex

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A @BrutalBx, @LovelyComplex, & @metanoia Collaboration || Featuring: The James Sisters, Jade Taylor, Charlie Decker, & Allison Davies
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____________________________________________________________________________________________

December 4, 2016, Pinehurst, MA

In a well kept 2000 Toyota Camry, Maxine James steadily drove on the highway to get from Edenridge to Pinehurst, for a game everyone at their school was looking forward to. Tonight was going to be fantastic because it was a mental breather from her strenuous AP level classes. She knew she aced her Latin exam which was something she was freaking out about for two weeks now.

Thank goodness she had help with studying. Nolan was a lifesaver and now she would be repaying him for his efforts by meeting him at the game and giving him some delicious goodies she labored all night making. They didn’t look pretty but they tasted delicious and that’s all that matters! Her and her sister weren’t necessarily the cooking type but at least Max can say her food was edible.

Not too long ago, Nolan had texted her that he reserved seats for them and had a little surprise for her. Maxine couldn’t help but blush at the thought of what it could be. Looks like they were on the same page of surprising each other, as per usual. She enjoyed spending time with him and she was glad he liked her company too. Whatever the surprise was, she knew it would make her smile. He was good at doing that… making her smile.

Maxine’s radio was on one of the early 2000s stations and once He Loves U Not by Dream finished, which made the girl’s younger sister, Penelope, in the backseat nervous, she decided to turn the knob for something more… hip. Nice and old fashioned styled radio. Nothing smart and fancy about her car. Suddenly and almost abruptly, Get Low by Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz vibrated through the old car, bass booming. This could work. This could definitely work.

Knowing that tonight might be a special night for her little sister, Maxine decided to turn the volume up. Grooving in the driver seat, shimmying her shoulders from side to side, she enthusiastically and comically sang to the music letting her inner gangsta out. Max hoped this would ease her sweet pea’s nerves. It was a good song to scream to, which could do all these pretty ladies in this camry some good.

Turns out Charlie had something special for her sissy. Whatever it was, it better be good. There was a part of her that prayed he was going to ask her out. Because if so: FINALLY! Yet, Max knew better than to get her sister’s hopes up because what if Charlie choked and didn’t. He was a procrastinator after all and probably didn’t think he’d lose Poppy’s heart, so the easiest thing to do was to push asking her out, time after time. Waiting, always waiting, for the perfect moment. Life was too short to waste your time on anything but love and she hoped in their case, they would follow their hearts to each other. “Come on, Pops! Let it all out. Jade, help please.”

Peering in her rearview mirror, Maxine winked at the hottest blonde in the Southside, gesturing her head to Penelope beside her, who was fiddling with her fingers and looking out the window. Today the wallflower, Little Miss Poppy, was making a statement with her outfit and makeup. Props to Jade for taking her away from the grunge aesthetic for once. Charlie would be DUMB to let this opportunity slip him by because my-oh-my was she freakin’ adorable and dressed appropriately for the wintery brisk. That was important too.

All the bombshell from the southside could do was sigh, alternating her gaze between Maxine and her best friend. For the past several minutes, she bore witness to the intoxicating and equally-cringe “dancing” that the older James girl displayed. Jade was nearly ashamed to admit that she also vibed to Lil Jon. When it came to 2000s hip hop, he was the clear superior right alongside Enimem. Anyone who said different was either stupid or trying to prove a point with their snobbish friends.

“You heard her, Pops!” Jade turned to Poppy, still gazing at Max and then back to Poppy. “Listen, you remember when we binged Naruto?” Jade could just feel Max’s eyes look at them in the weird way and Jade just continued. “Well, do you? Remember when that blonde dumbass was falling and falling? He was about to die and he most certainly would have if he didn’t do what he needed to so he could live. And presto!” Jade made a sound effect to emphasize her point. “He lived to see another day.”

Halfway through that, she lost her train of thought and the moments of silence that came after reflected that. “Anyway, you’re falling down the cliffside and now it’s time to unleash your inner-nine tails, Pops! Summon your Chief Toad!” It was a kept secret that Jade was a nerd. Maybe it was the underdog story of coming from nothing but being accepted anyway that drew her to the story of Naruto.

Was that supposed to help her? Poppy looked at her best friend, completely dumbfounded. The idea of her falling off a cliff was not something she wanted to think about. Even if in the end she would unleash a great power. All she could think of was what Charlie had planned for her tonight. He made things seem extra special. She doubted he’d go into his surprise during the game, but after? What was waiting for her? Was he finally going to…?

No, she shouldn’t get her hopes up nor let the sadness and sorrow of her and him never crossing the what if bridge get her down. They were still young and had their whole lives ahead of them. If tonight was just as simple as him showing her a spot he found in town that he found beautiful for one reason or another, she would be happy. They didn’t need to risk what they had because they wanted to rush their lives together.

Even so, part of her hopes and wishes… they could take a leap of faith, together. “You’re such a weeb, Jade.” Poppy teasingly rolled her eyes at her friend. Not really in the mood to talk about what was going on in her headspace, Poppy decided to sing along to Get Low. Maybe, just maybe, that would help with her nerves. “... now bring yo ass over here, hoe and let me see you get low if you want this thug. Now take it to the floor and if yo ass wanta act, then you can keep yo ass where you at.”

“3, 6, 9, stand real fine. Move it to you suck it on me one mo time. Get low, get, get low, get low!”

By the chorus, all three of the girls were singing off the top of their lungs:



After a couple more 2000s hip hop classics, they reached the parking lot of Pinehurst High, where the cheer competition and basketball game was going to be held. Once the car engine was off, the girls exited it and Maxine did a big stretch. “That was fun. Thank god we’re finally here. I hate that drive.” Amongst the cars and people, Max’s smile turned into a grin, “So packed already! The rivalry between our towns is so wild but it’s great to see all the team spirit.” Turning on her heel to face her little sister, Maxine pulled out her pink rosy lip stain and applied it to Poppy’s lips, “What a cutie.”

And then as Max kept making those finishing touches, Jade’s blue-green eyes found themselves just scanning the parking lot. It scanned and scanned, surveying everywhere. She felt like she was in the enemy’s territory and, technically, that wasn’t not true. They were in Pinehurst, Edenridge’s rival. Jade had always felt immense pride for her school. She may not have been a cheerleader or even in any sort of sport where her loyalty was tested in the most obvious way, but hell be damned if she didn’t have school spirit (do you?).

So there was a tinge of gut-twisting nausea that came over her face when it set in. They were on enemy turf. But something that made the bitter pill to swallow a little sweeter was seeing her old friend. Well, their old friend, but Charlie was always someone she loved wholly. Definitely not that same way that she suspected a certain someone did, but she adored him in every sense of the word.

“So how’s our girl looking Max?” Jade asked, looking back at the James sisters, smiling with an impressed grin when she saw the glowing shade on Poppy’s lips.

“I think she’s going to stop hearts.” Hopefully, one specific heart.

Poppy rubbed her hands together, warming them from the chill, looking back and forth between her best friend and sister. “Okay, okay! Let’s go.” All this playing dress up was exhausting when Charlie didn’t care about what she wore. At least, she didn’t think he did.

“You two go ahead! I’m going to call Nolan.”

Her sister didn’t need to say it twice. Grabbing Jade’s hand, Penelope took the lead as they started heading to Pinehurst High’s gym. When she saw Charlie, she beamed and waved at him from a distance. In the moment, she focused on how handsome his smile was. Not what had to come and not what may never be. Just them, presently.

Charlie didn’t like being in Pinehurst; something about the air just smelled too clean. He knew it wasn’t really a bad thing, just something he wasn’t used to. Sitting on the bottom bleacher, he stood out in a sea of green and white Edenridge Pride. He sat tall, rocking his leather jacket with a moss coloured flannel shirt and his dirty blue jeans. Charlie’s long legs trembled with nerves and excitement; not for the coming game but for the arrival of Poppy and for his shift on the corner.

It was a simple fact of life that Charlie Decker had always been in love with Penelope James. Everyone knew from when they were kids that those two were meant for each other. Problem was that neither would admit to it. At least not until tonight. Reading through some of his fathers old journals had inspired Charlie, he realised just how short and lonely life could be and he wasn’t going to be another statistic like his dad. He wasn’t just going to leave this world without a fight. The start of that fight was letting Poppy know how he felt.

He raised his head from his phone just in time to see Penelope and Jade enter the Pinehurst gym and he felt his heart stop. There was no one else in the room anymore. He watched the girls walk towards him and his grip on his phone tightened to the point that he nearly cracked the screen.

The blonde stood there silently, quietly observing her two friends looking at each other. Charlie always knew how to make that whole broody thing work for him. There weren’t many who could make the jeans and the leather work. Jade had seen many from her uncle’s club and her cousin, too, just look like they were spit out of a cringey OC generator. But Charlie Decker? Yeah, he had the perfect balance.

And she wondered if Poppy noticed this too? What was Jade saying? Of course, she did. The way she stared in silence at him, yeah Jade saw it, yet no words came from either of them.

With a frustrated huff, Jade would break the ice for them. “So, Charlie!” She put on her best half-smile. “Poppy looks good, yeah? I mean, what do you think?”

"She looks gorgeous.” The south side serpent sat in awe for a moment. He wondered why she’d made such an effort and for the briefest of moments he thought that maybe that effort was for him but within milliseconds he had convinced himself it was for one of the basketball players; probably Callahan or Lord, God he hoped it wasn’t O’Hara, that guy was such a dick.

"Sorry that we’re stuck at the front. All the cool kids are sitting at the back”

The genuine sweetness in Poppy’s cheeks from being called gorgeous went away as quick as the color came. Charlie’s attention and eyes didn’t last long on her. She bit her tongue, preventing herself from displaying a frown or showing she was disappointed. “That’s okay, we got a better view.”

Fidgeting with her fingers, as they proceeded inside, she glanced at the court seeing the basketball players warm up. Her eyes fell on Danilo Belmonte, the first freshman to get on the varsity team. A growing star. He was definitely going to do great things in his future and for that, she was a little envious of him. He had it all figured out and money to back his dreams.

Sighing to herself, she shook her head and stopped herself in her tracks. She needed to use the bathroom, or well, no. She just wanted to be in the bathroom to collect herself. Backtracking, leaving Charlie and Jade, she quickly dismissed herself, “I’ll be back! Do you guys want any snacks?”

"I’m good Pops.”





Allison emerged from her bathroom stall, sniffling lightly after a hit of the good stuff. She told herself it was just to take the edge off. It was something everyone did. It’s not like she had a problem. She walked over to the mirror and began to touch up her makeup. Ally had to kill it tonight. Not only was she working with inexperienced cheerleaders but this was her last shot at making a memory. She was the Queen of Eden and there was no way in hell she was going to allow herself to become a never-was. This was her tournament. This was her night.

Entering the bathroom, a detour before she gets some snacks for herself and Jade, Penelope James made her way to the sink next to Allison. When the cheerleader peered at her through the mirror, Penelope simply nodded at her senior and turned to the mirror. Looking at herself, she couldn’t help but feel sad that all her work went to waste. Charlie didn’t see her. He wasn’t ever going to see her. She was completely invisible and it was her fault for thinking tonight would be any different.

She hated mirrors.

Deeply sighing, she undid her cute bun and ruffled her hair. This felt better. This felt more like her. Why did she think pretending to be something she wasn’t would help? Part of her debated taking off all this makeup, right here and right now, but Jade put a lot of time and effort to help her soul sister look like a Northie tonight. In addition to that, Maxine put this cute lip tint on her. Bleh.

Instead, she took off her winter fingerless gloves and turned the sink on. Before washing her hands, she looked over to the girl beside her and smiled, “Good luck tonight. You’ll do great.” Penelope didn’t want to seem rude by just focusing on herself, but Allison and her, they weren’t from the same world.

If anything, Maxine felt like she was meant to be from the Northside. Not Poppy. Then again, Pops didn’t feel like she belonged on the southside either because everyone shielded her from everything and kept her out of trouble. No one wanted her. On top of that, it didn’t help that at this moment she was staring at Miss. Queen-of-Eden who was meant for the spotlight and in comparison to her? Penelope was an absolute wallflower. Just staring at her brought out Poppy’s worst insecurities. Allison was very pretty, especially up close. Maybe Charlie would prefer a girl like her.

"He’s an idiot you know?” The head cheerleader of the Celtics began as she applied a little more lipstick to her face. "Whoever you got yourself gussied up for? Yeah he’s a fool. You look absolutely amazing, even more so now your hair is down.”

Ally couldn’t place the girl that now stood before her. Judging on the finer details of the younger woman’s face she would hazard a guess to say she was probably a southie; they had a paleness to their skin since the sun never shone on that side of town or at least that’s what Nanna Davies liked to say. She popped her lipstick tube back into her clutch before turning to face the small pixie she shared a bathroom elegy with.

"You want some free advice babe? Men, in all their forms, are inherent fools. You are and always will be, in control. You like this kid? Make him earn it.”

After turning off the sink, Penelope mumbled, “Easier said than done.” She felt defeated, even though the night was so young. Equally turning herself to face the taller woman, the James girl surveyed her form and crossed her arms, finding it odd that this stranger was making her feel comforted at a random night like this.

“We’ve known each other since we were babies. And we don’t necessarily have this thing called boundaries, now that I think about it. And, like, how can I be like this?” She gestured at everything that was Allison Davies. “You’re beautiful. Popular. Sexy. Smart! I’m just… me.” Awkward bookworm, with some anger issues.

Allison brushed her hair back, partly as the girl's compliments made her feel warm but mostly just to add a bit of volume. "Sweet pea, you shouldn’t try to be this.” The cheerleader brushed the hem of her short skirt to iron out a crease before taking a step closer towards Poppy.

"There’s millions of me’s all over the country. One at the very least in every high school. Hell, here in Pinehurst there’s Bianca Washington. When I graduate, I’ve no doubt that one of my little girls will take my place and Allison Davies will just be a name in the halls. Trust me, no one will remember me in four years. People will only remember me because my little brother Vinny is a freshman.”

Leaning down slightly, Allison brushed a stray strand of dark hair from Penelope’s face and pushed it behind her ear. "The long and short of it honey, there’s only one of you. You’re a fox and you scream individuality. So here’s what you do, you go back to that boy, fierce and fiery and you show him that you’re his number one and his only one. It may take a while, like I said, men are idiots but if you really think he’s worth it, put in the work.”

Storing Allison’s advice for use later, Penelope kept her thoughts on the head cheerleader’s first spiel. Call it intuition or the ability to read between the lines, but it felt like Poppy got a glimpse of the real Allison Davies. The one that sees herself as forgettable and who has nothing waiting for her after graduation. Through all the confidence, she saw a girl who knew what was waiting for her and hated it.

Penelope was a weird one. Any other girl probably would squeal at the compliments from such a bright woman. Any other girl probably would run out the door to make that boy see what was right in front of her. Any other girl would look at Allison like an idol. Poppy wasn’t like other girls. Tilting her head, with the cheerleader’s smiling face inches away, Poppy bluntly inquired, “Are you scared? To graduate.”

"Terrified.”

Allison stood back up to her full height and reached back into her bag, pulling out her lipstick tube once again and turning it thrice in hand. "I’m not sure what’s waiting for me on the other side of senior year but I guess that’s just something I’m going to have to find out for myself.”

Glancing down at her phone which was resting on the sink, Ally noted a message from R2 and the time. She tossed the lipstick tube over to Penelope and offered the girl a genuine and warm smile. "Something to remember me by.” At this point, she could recall, vaguely, who this girl was which was Maxine James' little sister. Picking up her phone and stuffing it back into her bag, Ally span on her heel and headed towards the exit, stopping and turning she looked at Pops with her chocolate eyes and winked "It’s all yours, Miss James. It’s up to you to choose what you do with it” She hurried out of the open door as the Go Celtic chants began to rumble throughout the Pinehurst gym.

Watching Allison leave the bathroom, Penelope was left alone to think about the moment that just transpired. Her eyes fell on her hand that held the girl’s lipstick. After letting her gaze rest on it, she looked at herself in the mirror. She could use more color. Her makeup was kind of understated. Was this weird? To be gifted used lipstick? Probably. But, Poppy couldn’t help but like the gesture.

Well, here goes nothing.





Returning to her seat, with a cherry cola and an assortment of candy you can easily get at a convenience store, Penelope shuffled her way to the seat in between Jade and Charlie. She had an awful sweet tooth, which was apparent now if you hadn’t known before, because she bought every candy the concession stand offered. Once the drink was placed in between her and Jade, she pulled out an airhead, tore the wrapper open and placed it in her mouth. With the green airhead hanging from her lips, it brought notice to her newly painted hot red lips. “Did I miss anything?”

Poppy’s stature felt taller, more confident, no longer disheartened by the possibility of Charlie not liking her. Her hair was down, her face was vibrant, the color red popping off her pale skin, and she looked at the court in excitement. She was glad she had that talk with Allison. It truly felt like she was in control and if she wanted Charlie to notice her, she would have to make him work for it.

Charlie’s head was buried in his phone. ReyRey was hounding him to get on the corner and get to work. He was biting at his ringed fingers and worried that he’d probably have to cut out early to get there. It was a twenty minute drive to Pinehurst and Charlie didn’t have a car. When he felt Poppy sit next to him he raised his head up and his jaw nearly hit the floor. She was a vision and immediately, he felt like his heart was trying to beat hard out of his chest like a hammer hitting a wall.

"When virtue and modesty enlighten her charms, the lustre of a beautiful woman is brighter than the stars in heaven.” Charlie went into autopilot, quoting as he often did without even thinking about it. Penelope was showing why she was the reason he got out of bed in the morning. "Erm…I don’t think you’ve missed anything, the cheerleading thing is just about to start.”

In a masterful way, when Charlie’s lackluster acknowledgement of what she saw when Poppy rejoined them, Jade smiled at her sister while simultaneously stepping on Charlie’s foot. It was a small act but one she hoped the message could be read clear as Poppy’s beauty was tonight. “Not the only thing that’s about to start.” Jade said in a somewhat low tone. She noticed Poppy made some changes. She noticed that there was a different energy that surrounded her sister. She noticed all of this and wondered if Charlie would too.

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Hidden 22 days ago Post by NeoAJ
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NeoAJ Fine. I'll High Five Myself.

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A @NeoAJ & @LovelyComplex Collaboration, Part 1 Flashback || Featuring: Jillian O'Brien & Danilo Belmonte, small feature of Grace O'Brien

Not that she was expecting a party upon her entry into the old stomping grounds of Edenridge High, but one of the people at the bottom of the list of Jillian’s desired welcoming committee was Aaron Cox. It didn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out why. Mei hated Aaron. Jillian would die for Mei. Ergo, Aaron was now Jillian’s enemy as well.

Not that she had many opportunities to let him know. In terms of personality reversals, Aaron walked… well, hobbled, so Jillian could run. He seemed all right enough in freshman year, but after Ally’s death, he retreated hard. At least Jillian understood the process now. It took a long time to get her there, but she understood. Didn’t make him any less of an asshole though. Especially given the rumors that he was the one who led Charlie Decker down the path of mass murder. He didn’t even have to pay for it with his life. Just people who mattered covered the charge for him. Fucking Aaron.

Aaron apparently felt the same way given his flying finger to start the proceedings. Clearly intended for the Demon Dream Girl, but Jillian briefly extended her own middle finger from her death grip on the vodka bottle in return. Sister solidarity and all. But the numbers were starting to turn. Decky’s appearance in the doorway was unwelcome, as well as the arsenal of weapons he seemed to be packing. But Jillian outmatched him on vodka and the redhead didn’t care about that bat at the moment. A day full of drinking eliminated any fear she might have had from someone notorious as the Serpent. Being afraid was not on her agenda tonight. Not here.

Being sentimental? That was possible.

Jillian was doing her best to portray that image of a woman with nothing to lose and everything to gain via the bottle in her hand, but that was still tough to do as the crowd in the gym grew larger. Especially given she had warmer feelings for this group than was ever possible for Aaron or Decky. At least for one of them…

Of course the fucking doof is here…


____________________________________________________________________________________________

December 4, 2016, Edenridge, MA
A little after school...


”Why are you here, Danny? I thought you’d be at the gym or something?”

It wasn’t strange for Danny Belmonte to be in the bedroom of Jillian O’Brien. Trying to count the amount of times that Danny had been sitting on that bed would be like trying to count the grains of sand on a beach. Since kindergarten, it seemed like there would be a good enough reason for the boy to come over, deliver another batch of baked goods that never seemed to last long when swarmed by the various members of the O’Brien household, and settle in to Jill’s room to do… well it varied. When they were younger, it was mostly just playing with whatever toys they had. Danny would bring his DS and let Jillian have a look at his accomplishments, while Jill would show Danny paintings and various creations. Later it became more for advice as the two navigated the middle grades.

Still didn’t explain what Danny’s most recent call was for. The Celtics’ season started tonight. It was Danny’s first game as the freshman had made the varsity squad.

“Don’t tell me the pressure is getting to you, Danny boy? Worried about the big game?”

Danny worried? Yeah right. He just needed to kill time before he met up with the team. Basketball was his life and taught him a thing or two with how to deal with it. One step at a time, like running, but with the end goal of making the shot. In his case today, his focus was to win. Winning was always a priority for a Belmonte child, especially for the only son of Taz and Silvia. Losing was never on the agenda.

His basketball shoes and sweet threads were a good show of his dedication to his sport. Danny knew he was top tier because he lived and breathed his sport. He didn’t need new shoes. Even with second-hand shoes, for a good price, he ruled the court. It didn’t matter what was on his feet because it wasn’t the shoes that made him shine. It was his competitive and driven spirit that did. As for his threads? What freshmen can say they were on a varsity team? Well, aside from his twin, Natalia Belmonte. She was intense in volleyball and he would hate being on the receiving end of her spikes. They were both stars in the making, they knew it, and one day, everyone would remember their names.

With his gym bag on his friend’s bed, his team’s hoodie on, and black shorts, Danny stretched his arms and had a smug grin on his face. The young jock’s body assumed this world was one where strength was the only thing that mattered and ever since he joined Edenridge High Varsity team, their style of play leveled up to run and gun. Heavily offensive, where they rely on fast breaks while getting many points in. To say it was getting to his head was an understatement and perhaps, that’s why he was here.

He was soaring in the sky but deep down, even if he would never say it outloud, he didn’t want to go so high that he got burnt by the sun. Danny had wings and when he jumped on the court, he was living in the moment and all the cheers and the girls, oh-the-girls, just made him want to show off even more. He loved it and couldn’t live without the attention. Still, he knew that wouldn’t make him a winner. He needed to win. Not even for himself, but for his father.

All his father’s hopes and dreams were on his only son’s shoulders and he couldn’t let his old man down. Danny had wondered if it wasn’t for the past life that Taz lived prior to Edenridge, would his father be a big basketball player too, instead of a lowkey chef in a small town? It was his father, after all, who taught Danny everything he knew.

That was neither here nor there because whatever Danny was doing was clearly making his father happy, so the young Italian boy would continue to optimize his skills in his passion. Coach told him that his flaw was his need to be cool, but being cool doesn’t win a game. If he wanted to reach the next level, and have a chance in the NBA, he needed to think about the team. He had to think of his team. Maybe, just maybe that’s why he needed to see Jillian. She cared fiercely about people and when she thought of the cheerleaders she thought of them as a unit, not just her on the top of a pyramid. To succeed, you need support. Doesn’t matter how high you go because what if you slip? What if you fall? If you fall, having trampled on everyone that believed in you to get to your destination, who’s going to be there to catch you?

Instead of answering his friend’s questions, Danny went to her window to look at their neighborhood and chuckled, recalling his middle school years on the court, “You remember when I touched the net last year? I didn’t care I was in the middle of a game, I just screamed ‘MOM I TOUCHED THE NET!’ I was so happy that I finally achieved something I had been thinking about for years. All that training and hard work paid off.” He nodded, impressed with himself before adding, “I’ve been working on my dunks lately.” He turned around to look at her, intense determination in his eyes, “I think I’mma do a 360 windmill. Just imagine how cool that’ll look?”

Jillian just stared into Danny’s eyes for a moment. Danny would have these gazes, gazes where it seemed like not even Wonder Woman would be able to stop whatever it was that the Belmonte boy had set his mind to. Danny was stubborn, but in that good way where he wouldn’t quit until he succeeded. How many times had he worn Jillian down in order to put Phineas and Ferb on the TV instead of Teen Titans? How many times did Jillian have to tell him to leave the driveway so they could go to the movies instead of trying to make that 10th free throw in a row? How many times did Danny have to be told how many 11 times 13 was? It was rare that Jillian gained a win in those head-to-head battles.

But maybe that was why Jillian was in the position she was now? All those friendly clashes with Danny stealing her own resolve to allow her to be more assertive with others? She effortlessly claimed the captaincy of the freshman team with the support of Liv and Kat and surprisingly Mei given she didn’t think Mei had that much of a preference for who was the leader, and was starting to take charge of some aspects of the squad. Even Allison… ALLISON FREAKING DAVIES herself! She was taking notice of how Jillian was handling her fellow frosh. Would she have been able to pull this off and land herself at the top of the pyramid without the consistent sparring with Danny, and for that matter Grace and Ronan, but mostly Danny? It was hard to say. She was an O’Brien, after all. She was meant to be this kind of leader.

So when Danny detailed his plans for his entry into whatever slam dunk competition he imagined was taking place at the Edenridge High School gymnasium tonight, for a few seconds after he stated his mission, Jillian believed him. All the work he put in over the summer. All the effort she saw him throw into the 1-on-1 battles with Taz, while she watched from the sideline, trying to talk to Danny’s sisters and watching as Talia seemingly wished nothing but death upon her. Maybe, just maybe, that Belmonte boy was going to touch the sky and dazzle the crowd so hard that even Allison Davies had to turn and stare at what she just witnessed.

Then the redhead remembered that Danny barely got to the net as he said, and was going to need more than a two-foot growth on his vertical to make that happen. And she did her best to suppress a laugh. Danny also gave Jillian a lot of practice when it came to being polite in that regard.

“Oh, I can imagine you looking pretty cool out there hanging from the rim after you pull that off,” she confirmed. “Of course, I can also imagine not seeing you for a while after the FBI comes to take you and your Flubber-enhanced shoes away for testing. And while I’m sure that would allow Talia to enjoy not having to see me hanging around with you all the time, I’d miss having you around here, Danny.” Jill finally allowed that laugh to slip through and stood up from her bed. “So I’m going to suggest saving the windmill dunks for the playoffs and sticking with the good old-fashioned two-handed putback for now. Just to keep the heat from the feds off, eh?”

This wasn’t what he wanted to hear. Danny wanted Jillian to believe he could, so he would. Believe in him so he’d have enough fuel to make the great leap happen. It was how their relationship worked! She gave him encouragement, so he could succeed. If she didn’t think he was ready, he probably wasn’t and would get injured by being too ambitious. He hated to hear it. Sure, Danny knew he could use a bit more height, he was still a freshman and had time to get over six, but people were going to be there watching him.

Francis was going to be there watching him!

Francis Callahan, Allison’s boyfriend but more importantly, the best goddamn football player Edenridge High had ever been blessed with. Even before Danny joined the school, he made sure to come to the games with Viv. Like, what basketball was for Danny, was football for Francis. It felt like only yesterday when seventh grade Danny ran off the bleachers, away from his family, just to have the football team run past him, out of the locker room, and Francis looking down at him and giving him a gleam and a high five.

There was no one feature that made Francis so nice to look at. His eyes had this honest gentleness, his smile had this intense glimmer, pearly whites, and his voice was like music to his ears. It quickened when he sparkled with passion and talked about things he loved. There was so much depth behind Francis’ face that stopped Danny in his tracks. How could Danny NOT do something cool? Was he going to waste this game by playing it safe and losing his chance to impress Francis?!

Dramatically sighing, emphasizing on the dramatic, Danny shuffled his way to his friend’s bed and tossed himself over it, where his body was in a plank, and his face was planted in her pillow. His heavy body caused his bag to jump in the air and out of his way, falling onto the floor. Muffled, he whined, “How do you expect me to be cool if I don’t do a dunk?!”

Jillian thought of her first answer, which would be to point out how Danny couldn’t expect to be cool while being such a sook, but that would be impolite to say out loud. Besides, Danny was someone who thrived on encouragement, who needed that belief that people thought he could do things beyond the realm of the normal bonds. Managing to knock his bag off her bed with just a thump fit that bill. At least in Jill’s world. But she had other ways of pumping Danny’s tires.

“There are plenty of ways to be cool while playing basketball without dunking, you know?” she offered. “It’s not just slams that are on the highlight reels my dad watches every day! You could deliver an ice-cold 3-pointer from the corner! You could make a sick no-look pass to Colin Redmond that leads to an easy bucket. Shoot, you know what the biggest, coolest play from the NBA Finals this year was? LeBron James. Blocking. Andre Iguodala. I know because my dad wouldn’t shut up about it!”

This was true. Shane O’Brien was a huge Celtics fan, both Edenridge and Boston, and he encouraged most of his children to pursue athletics. It’s why Kieren played soccer and Ronan played basketball and Heather played hockey. Grace and Jillian were the only two that never actually stepped onto a competitive field in the O’Brien patriarch’s eyes, but at least Jillian’s cheerleading skills got her on the sidelines. Grace always seemed to be the black sheep of the family to Shane, although Jill’s mother usually picked up the slack in supporting the middle daughter’s artistic side. Still, hearing the O’Brien males dissect the night’s action over the day’s breakfast was as regular as clockwork. It was natural Jill picked up a little via osmosis. Plus it helped tailor specific cheers depending on the sport she was pepping up.

“So many ways to change the course of a game, Danny boy. I mean, would dunking be talked about? Sure. But stuffing a ball back in the face of a stuck-up Monarch? Making that punk eat that shot like an egg-salad sandwich? That would be pretty cool.”

With his face buried in her pillow, Danny listened to his friend making a lot of sense. Dunks weren’t the only cool things in basketball. Still, the reluctant side of him wished he had a growth spurt so he could be flashy. Lazily, he pushed himself up and grumpily crossed his arms, “That sounds dope, I guess.”

He didn’t like that she made a lot of sense but it was for the best that he got over himself and took in her advice. As LAME as that felt, perhaps playing a safe move, but still doing a cool move, could lead them to victory AND impress. If her plan failed and Francis didn’t even bother giving him a wink let alone a smile tonight, then, THEN he’d be upset but until then her suggestions to be cool could do the trick. Deciding this was enough focus on him, he glanced up at his friend and cooly inquired, “How about you? Nervous for your girls? Isn’t tonight like that… shiny sparkle star thing?”

Jillian thought for a second, before shaking her head. “Not really. I mean, you know Ally right? You know she’s been drilling the entire squad for months waiting for this moment. I’m sure her and the others are going to be just fine. Better than fine even. The Monarchs are going to take so many Ls tonight!” She shoved Danny’s legs over on the bed so she could retake her seat at the foot. “It’s going to be important on us to set the tone, sure, but we’ve done really well in such a short time. Cece’s come along nicely, Mei just brings this raw fire, Liv and Kat and Lanie are pros at this point, we’re going to set up Ally’s crew really well.” A bright smile beamed across Jillian’s face, thinking about the prospects of eventually being in Allison’s spot, trying to get that Shining Star trophy for Edenridge and making sure they had a dynasty secured. It sounded like a challenge. It sounded like fun. “Between me and Lanie, I think we’re going to have enough ideas to make sure we keep that title in Celtic hands when we get our shot.”

The conversation was interrupted by a knock on the doorframe. “Jill, you haven’t seen my green top with the lace hem, have you? I could have sworn you borrowed it.”

Jill didn’t answer the question yet, merely slightly annoyed by the presence of her older sister in the doorway. Grace would know that even if Jillian had borrowed that top, which was possible. It was a very cute top and worked well with her deep blue skinny jeans. But even if she did, it would have been in the laundry and back in Grace’s dresser a while ago. No, it was likely there was a different reason for her intrusion.

“I haven’t touched that top since homecoming like two months ago, Grace. You sure it’s not still in with your stuff?” The annoyance was well hidden at this point. Jillian was a pro at putting a fake layer of glitter on almost anything she said. “Or you know, not in my room?” The keyword was almost.

“Nah, couldn’t be sure.” Grace shared the trademark red hair her sister had, although the older O’Brien was willing to experiment a little more. A couple streaks of green and purple could be seen in the bangs, for the school colors and … a color she liked. They swayed slightly as she leaned on the door, the bright shades up top muted by the black tank top and leggings she was currently wearing. The top would be doing some work if she could find it. “It’s kinda important. I told Finn I’d be wearing it for his good luck, you know.” The mention of Finn Yates, the junior forward on the basketball team, and the latest in a long string of boyfriends she had in her time at Edenridge, didn’t deter her from taking a long look at the athlete in the room. “Hey Danny,” she cooed in a voice that was too sing-songy for Jillian’s liking. “You ready for tonight?”

By now, one would think Danny was prepared for all encounters with Grace O’Brien. But when he looked at her, he found himself stunned. No matter the day. No matter the season. She was like a sexy drug he imagined having, but had to behave because, like… this was his friend’s sister. When she was growing and he watched her, when he was in middle school and learning more and more about the kingdom of sex, Grace was like a goddamn wet dream. Still is.

Now he was in highschool and he could enter the playing field, but… would she? With him? No. Stop that. Even if he and his buddy Quinn had this game going on and even if he had Grace on his conquest list, this wasn’t where his head should go. Not the night of a game. God, he could shove it in Quinn’s face that he was better if he did have Grace on his list though.

Sexual frustration aside, Danny snapped out of it and goofily grinned, So ready.” Man, no game at all. Unfortunately it was non-existent in the O’Brien household. How embarrassing. Clearing his throat, he eyed the older girl, as her gaze invited him in, and stumbled on his words, “But hey, if you got some extra luck in you…” Danny’s voice trailed off, looking between Grace and Jillian. Sometimes, he wondered why he hadn’t tried getting with either. Then he remembered, he cared too much about the redheads in his life, specifically Cece and Jill, to ever see them as a lover would.

Glancing at his smartwatch on his wrist, he muttered, “Damn.” He had lost track of time. To add to the alarm of the mass text messages because his family had no chill, he could hear honking outside. Jumping back off the bed, retrieving his bag, his phone vibrated, being spammed by his family. “Thanks for the talk, Jillybean. And uh-hm, hope you guys find that green top… for Finn’s good luck.” Yeah, just Finn. Rushing to the door, he found himself stopping for a short moment to look at Grace’s flirtatious smirk. This was unfair. No one should be this hot.

As the Belmonte boy rushed out the door, no doubt to find an ice-cold bucket of water to dunk his head in, Jill’s gaze followed him during his exit and remained fixed on her older sister even after her friend departed. “So Grace, want to explain what that was about?”

Grace just offered a chortle in response. “Relax, Bean. I’m just trying to give your boyfriend some extra motivation to beat Pinehurst tonight.”

“You know Danny is not my boyfriend.”

“I know a lot of things. Like I know Janelle James wasn’t in last period History today. Word is she caught something that was going around after Lauren Hicks hooked up with some Bay boy with a bad case of the ick.”

All Jillian could do was roll her eyes. “That makes no sense.” Janelle may not have been the brightest bulb in the cheerleading squad, but the upperclasswoman would know not to risk anything on this day. Shining Star day. “I bet she just dipped early to help Ally prep for tonight.” A buzz on her Galaxy distracted Jill for a moment from her battle with her older sister, especially considering who sent the message. “See, that’s Ally there. Probably just checking in on how the frosh routine is coming along. So if you don’t mind, I’ll just…” Jillian trailed off when it became clear this was much longer than a simple check-in text.

Grace smirked as she figured out before her younger sister that there were things brewing with tonight’s performance. “Trouble in paradise after all?”

The pale shade of white Jillian’s face had turned confirmed there was trouble. Grace hadn’t seen that kind of look since Ronan swung her around the living room and broke a lamp with her head. “Um… yeah… Ally says all the upper-class cheerleaders are out with some sort of virus and aren’t going to be able to compete and… we’re going to have to do the routine tonight... HOLY SHIT!!! GRACE! AHHHH! WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?!? OH MY GOD! I’m not ready for this! I’m frosh scum! I can’t be the Shining Star tonight! None of us are ready! What are we going to do? I don’t even know what lipstick shade I’m going to wear! Should I just go natural? What do I-”

Jillian was cut off for a second time, but this time it was her sister bringing her back to reality with a forceful clap beside her ear. “Jill! Calm the fuck down, OK? You’re going to be fine. No one gives a shit about your lipstick.”

“Ally will.”

“NO ONE gives a shit about your lipstick! Look, Allison’s been running drills with you since the fall, right? She’ll be able to get you all through this. Girl’s got some will to her, that’s for sure. You’re not as hopeless as you think you are. You’re going to be fine. Just stop undermining yourself and get ready to rock tonight, OK?”

Grace’s mini pep talk seemed to snap Jillian out of the frenzy the news of the impromptu call-up sparked. “OK. OK. You’re right. This is fine. This is going to be fine. We’re totally not going to screw this up for Allison. She’s not going to hate me at all. It’s fine.”

“Jill! Focus! Now, where is that green top?”

The brief moment that Grace took her older-sister role seriously had ended. “I don’t know where it is. Maybe Heather stole it when she came back for Thanksgiving… Grace, tell me you aren’t going to try and sleep with Danny.”

“No! Sis, no. I saw eight-year-old Danny Belmonte squirt a combination of orange Kool-Aid and milk out his nose. Nothing will entice me to give him the Amazing Grace experience.” Jillian wished she didn’t go third person in reference to her reputation like that. It raised expectations on her that she didn’t necessarily want yet. “Now stop focusing on that and focus on getting in gear and getting to the gym.”

“Right. The gym. That’s where I need to be…”


____________________________________________________________________________________________


Why the fuck is he here? Why the fuck am I here?

With Danny now present, and apparently another former friend who abandoned her in Lanie Lancaster popping up behind him, it was clear that there were more ghosts here than in Mei’s last year’s worth of podcasts combined, and Jillian really didn’t care for it. Her grip shifted on the vodka as she screwed off the top and took a long pull from what was remaining. If it wasn’t for the friends she had remaining, she probably would have taken off, withdrawn from this situation and retreated back to her room. But she had to stay. For Mei’s sake.

Jillian O’Brien didn’t say a word as the top went back on the vodka bottle. All she could do is curse the fates that made this situation happen.

...and the letter writer. Fuck them.

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Hidden 18 days ago Post by BrutalBx
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A @LovelyComplex & @BrutalBx Collaboration || Featuring: Kylee Grimm & Roddy Callahan

This gym was getting crowded and the mayor’s daughter was attached to her phone like glue. As she stalked Wesley Silo’s social, she glanced up from time to time at her old peers. Letting out a chuckle when she saw Aaron flip Mei off, she muttered to herself, “Stupid.”

He would never learn, especially when it came to the knockout that was Mei Ramsey, and that’s why he’ll continue to live an isolated existence. He didn’t even try to get people to understand his situation. So, people stop caring. If he wanted to be ostracized, that was his own damn fault. He can’t blame anyone but himself. Aaron was the type to continue to wallow in his despair, blame everyone but himself, thinking people still thought about Amanda and the fire as if it were only yesterday.

Ha.

Funny, really.

No one realized people’s attention spans were short. Did you know a goldfish only has the attention span of nine seconds? Not too different from humans who have the average attention span of twelve seconds. Humans can’t help themselves! They must focus on the next sensational thing. Everything gets buried unless something purposely forces them to remember. In this case, it was Charlie’s letters. How long would this buzz last? Only time can tell.

To Kylee Grimm, all the tragedies of their highschool years were in the past. Sure, it ruined some businesses, broke some hearts, and destroyed people’s ambitions but it is what it is. The truth intrigued her not because she cared about Allison, or Amanda, or any of the people that died that weren't her ex-boyfriend. No, the truth intrigued her because she believed the many people of her little town would start returning to their more primitive nature and show their true colors.

As that Dwight L. Moody quote goes, character is what you are in the dark. She liked the lies and deceit lurking behind each mystery and she wanted to see the chaos unfold. Did that make her a sadist? A sociopath? Maybe a little mad? Possibly. Regardless if that holds merit, she was here to have fun and from the sight of all the lingering tension and unresolved issues, tonight would definitely be fun.

When the Southside Sob Story who lacked balls came in with a bat, Kylee continued to look at her phone, unbothered. She wanted to antagonize, but unfortunately, more people tried to get their voice heard. Decky Boaz was hardly a threat to her and if anything, he was a pathetic loser for leaving his girl and disappearing, without a word. That was a drama flick waiting to unfold. The cripple and the STD-ridden whore stood back while Ms. Forgettable and Mama’s Boy tried to simmer down everyone’s fire. When Danny offered her a cannoli, Kylee shook her head and gave him a gleam, “I’m on a diet.”

Finally, she caught sight of someone worth her time. Her best friend, Roddy Callahan. And his side piece that he had a baby with, but whatever. Kylee didn’t trust Lanie Lancaster because clearly she wasn’t that broken hearted from Decky leaving her behind if she was able to jump on Roddy’s dick and carry his child.

In this matter, her opinions would stay on the inside. Roddy cared about this needy, idiot bitch, who smelt like a baby prostitute, for one reason or another. Don’t ask her why she knows what Lanie smells like, she just does. So Kylee has to tolerate Lanie’s existence, even if Mei had a major fall out with her.

So many points against her, like not being in good terms with her girlfriends, who both were cheerleaders. However the biggest point against her, if it were to happen, is if she ever, EVER broke Roddy’s heart. So many things Kylee imagined doing to her, if that ever happened.

She would rip those pretty blonde locks right off her tiny skull and make her regret ever getting involved with her Roddy. She would slice her long tongue right out of her soft looking lips with scissors and so much more. A little intense, but that is how much Kylee cared about Roddy. She would never fuck the guy but he was all she had before she met everyone else and she’d be damned if he cried over some blonde bimbo.

Extreme thoughts aside, Roddy was here! Excitedly, she started prancing her way to her friend in the back. The cripple had already pulled Lanie aside and went to the corner, leaving Roddy all by his lonesome self. Perfect. Unfortunately, once she was half way, she stopped in her tracks when Mei called out for the culprit. Turning around, she made quick motions on her phone and started recording the creepy audio and the footage that followed afterwards. For now, she wouldn’t go live, but maybe Mr. Reporter would like to see this later on. And well, her father. But Mr. Reporter first!

Listening to Allison really warmed her heart. Her smile, her passion, and her confidence. Everyone wanted to be her. Ha! Yeah, right. Allison Davies was as generic as popular girls came. A pretty girl who lacked substance. Someone who pretended she had more inside of her than just being popular. Kylee subtly rolled her eyes, hating that a dead girl was still living in this gym. Allison had more of a legacy dead than alive. No one knew what this girl was going through but somehow they started caring after she OD’ed. Please. When the numbers 16-7-5 went on the wall, Kylee stopped recording and went back to her original pursuit.

When she turned around, she rested her dark gaze on her best friend and gave a warm, genuine smile. Instead of walking fast, Kylee went into a run and giggled, “Roddy!!!” She really didn’t care if she ruined the ominous atmosphere. She knew her friend and he was probably focusing on his last name on the wall in front of Allison's picture, or the fact that the last time he was in here he got shot, so she would be his shield if people tried to interrogate him. Giving him a big embrace, she looked up at her best friend smiling from ear to ear, “Hey, Shaggy. You okay? We can talk about what’s on the wall next but first… how are you feeling?”

“Erm….I’m feeling.”

It was such a Roddy answer. Dry yet dripping in insecurity. No matter how long he had been friends with Kylee, even with her it was difficult for Rod to really express how he was feeling. Some people could wear their thoughts and feelings like a garish t-shirt, proud and unashamed. The Callahans were not those sort of people. They were many Irish men doing manly Irish things. John had done his best to break the cycle of toxic masculinity and was nothing but supportive when Francis came out but when something is so ingrained into your DNA, it’s incredibly difficult not to succumb. Roddy really wanted to be more open and in some instances he was getting better but there was still such a long way to go.

Roddy remembered the first time he ever met the dark haired gossip girl that would come to be his one true friend, Kylee Grimm. She and her family had just moved into the neighbourhood and like the good little politician he was, Mayor Elect Teddy Grimm was doing door to door meet and greets introducing himself to his constituents. The day was etched in Rod’s mind as it was the day that Russ Lord gave him his first black eye. In a somewhat prophetic turn, it was through the arrival of Charlie Decker and some other southie kids that the beating stopped. Francis had words with Russ of course and it never happened again but that didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

Having been confined to the garden by his mother and forced to pull the weeds, Roddy didn’t expect to see a girl in the doorway staring at him like he had just killed a cat. Being a somewhat prominent business owner and a member of one of the founding families, John Callahan was a prime target for Teddy and sending his young daughter into the Frey to sweeten the deal? Genius chess move.

Zoinks.

He didn’t know why he said it or even when was the last time he had even seen a Scooby Doo episode but it happened and he regretted it immediately. In response, the girl he would come to know as Kylee shouted back, “Jinkies!” And they were inseparable from then on. Theirs was a friendship that was just natural and although they’d had ups and downs, they were always there for each other.

“I don’t recognise that number, Fran’s jersey number was 3 and it’s not a birthday that I know of.”

Releasing her friend, Kylee faced the same direction as him, studying the numbers, “Hm. The only date that would make sense from this would be July 5th, 2016 but if they were trying to be that specific, someone here needs to have known something that happened that day. And either you or your brother were involved, but I’m thinking likely your brother since he dated Allison.”

Still, this wasn’t adding up and the clue felt like a dumb luck thing. Whoever knew what these numbers meant had a chance of not being here, so the culprit was taking a risk and putting all their faith in this one person. Instead of focusing on the numbers, Kylee replayed the recording and listened to the interview, muttering inaudibly to herself. Seeking keywords and signs. Hallway. Plans. Backpacking. Allison’s laughter. Gunshot.

Whether this was coordinates or a password, or multiple people’s jersey numbers, Kylee Grimm could not pinpoint the meaning of these numbers. She was at a loss and this felt like a hit to her ego because she took pride in her information gathering. There might be more clues hidden throughout the gym, but at this point, she found herself no longer caring about figuring out their next lead and would wait it out until someone else had a brainblast.

Ugh. She hated waiting. So while she did so, she complained, “This feels like a waste of time. You have way better things to do, like spend time with your kid. How is Rylie, anyways? Random, I know, but I haven’t seen you in like a week or so? I miss you! Next time we grab lunch together, I can tell you all about Mister Wesley Silo.” Giggling to herself, thinking of her morning show, and how handsome this outsider was, she leaned her body closer to Rods and whispered, “Total daddy.”

He understood what Kylee was trying to do and God bless her she was a saint. Trying to distract Roddy from his family name being plastered next to a dead girl in this B-Movie Teen Slasher that was their life right now was a pure endeavour and such a Kylee move. She knew better than anyone besides Lanie not to allow Rod to get stuck in his own head. He had a bad habit of going twelve rounds with himself in the span of about thirty seconds.

“Rylie Rampage is spending the night with my parents. You know how broody my Mom gets.” It was a simple fact of life that Edith Callahan always wanted a gaggle of kids but complications from Roddy’s birth had put a stop to that. When they befriended the Grimm’s, her jealousy only intensified and she wouldn’t lie and say she hadn’t thought about kidnapping them all, except Lincoln. He was weird and Teddy could keep him.

Roddy’s eye roll was almost as loud as the speakers playing the creepy Allison clues. He had listened to Ky’s morning show, of course he did and you could smell her fever for this reporter like a fat kid could smell a cupcake from half a mile away. Once upon a time it was predicted that Roddy and Kylee might one day be married but all thoughts of that kind of relationship disappeared when he saw her eat a booger in their youth. Nasty gal.

“You’re an actual deviant.”

Grinning at Roddy, Kylee teased, “I know I am,” before raising her eyebrows when she heard Jillian screaming like a sailor. Frowning, she latched onto her best friend’s arm and whispered, “Come on, Shags. Looks like we’ve got ourselves a mystery to solve.”

Staring up to him, she found herself feeling nostalgic, looking back at the good ol’ days, where it was him and her versus the world. All she had was him to call a friend. People didn't open up to outsiders fast. It took getting to high school to give her some kind of social life outside the Callahans, but even then, she didn't feel like she belonged. Honestly, Kylee knew she couldn’t live without him. Platonically, he became her flashlight when she felt all alone. And she loved him.
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