Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Aces Away
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Aces Away Phantom by Circumstance

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Timestamp: Same time as Paint the Silence > Shields & Chains
FT: Gavriel Phillips-Shomer & Niles Sinclair


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Rye had woken up on the wrong side of the bed earlier in the morning, reaching out to JP like clockwork the way he always did when they slept in the same bed. Unlike their usual routine, the spot beside him was already made and had gone cold long before Rye came back to the waking world. Once more, the anxious man was left feeling off balance and like he was missing cues that the rest of the world could follow with ease. The coming turn of the weather had his shoulder aching something fierce, and waking without his lover at his side was another nail in his mood’s coffin. The final nail was the long list of notifications on his phone alerting him to the events that transpired while he had slept soundly against JP’s chest.

From Handsome Ransom:
Bro
Y do none of u Doctors’ kids care abt blood
R yall ok???
Oh
And I’m gonna have to tell Creed n Jokes so I’m telling u for ur half
Puff went to see Niles I guess?
We met his sisters n Autumn says things must not have gone right
She also said ur his only friend rn
Which is fuckin sad but whatevs
I know we don’t talk much anymore but I thought u needed to know


From Oh You Got Jokes Huh?:
Hey, any chance you can keep an eye out for Puff when you hang with Sinclair? We haven’t heard from her too much and Ran just told me she saw him recently.
Hope ur doin good

Rye sighed and scrolled to the next batch of messages, seeing it was from Niles’ younger sister Carrie and wondering if he would get more information.

From Care Bear:
ur friends
Ransom n the 2 bros.
Rlly only talked 2 Ransom since the 2 got issues
tho, tnt did save me i’ll give him dat
and tov is a drunk, bet he’s a fun time
anyways, none of dat matters
c niles please, he up 2 some shit
It’s Autie btw *kissy face*

What followed was a wall of text explaining Autumn’s part in getting Natalia into the Sinclair house and everything wrong with the relationship between her older brother and one Cece Cleary. Every sentence had him wanting to sink further into JP’s pillow, but his duty as a friend had him standing up and opening the door to the hall. His family’s noise downstairs helped him feel a little more centered as he shuffled to his own room to grab a change of clothes before claiming the shower. Once out, he took his sour mood and left the house with a kiss on the cheek to his mothers and less pep in his step than usual. One of his mothers, Robyn, tried to stop him after the goodbye kiss to inform him of a change to come but as she called out for him, the door shut, separating parent from child.

Gameplan:
See JP at MSM
See Niles
Chew Niles Out

Unfortunately for his mental list, MSM was busier than expected, and with his current train of thought Rye didn't have time to wait around for the line to die down to talk to JP about his leaving this morning. Heart heavy and cheeks feeling hot with toxic emotion, he left the store and headed over to Scott Street without even being noticed amidst the crowd by his lover.

Gameplan:
See JP at MSM
See Niles
Chew Niles out

Arriving at the Sinclair house twenty minutes later, Rye turned the volume in his earbuds down to a background level and knocked quickly on the door to the large house, face devoid of emotion as he stared at the pristine white wood that separated him from his wayward friend.

Niles wouldn’t answer the door. Having gotten home not too long ago, like an hour or so from Boston, he was decompressing in the attic. In his right hand he twirled a drumstick and waited for Good Times Bad Times by Led Zeppelin to blast in his headset. Unbeknownst to him, his best friend had just arrived at his front door. The attic window was open because yes a storm was coming but it was humid as hell.

He lifted his foot off the hi-hat, opening and closing it, opening and closing it, and in a matter of seconds he was in rhythm to the song. The drum was the heart-energy of a song and it was the one thing that brought comfort to the doctor’s son. The musical vibrations taught his brain how to flow and be peaceful. He had a raging mind and it seemed as of late he needed his drums more than usual.

For the night, he was able to not think about his women problems but now that he was home he needed to keep himself busy. It wasn’t like anyone was home. It was just him and his solitude. As the music filled the air without effort, his mind jumped between Natalia and Caitlin.

Man, he sucked.

His mother would hate seeing the man he was becoming but he couldn’t help himself. There was something about getting a rise from girls, especially girls that were into him. He liked pushing their buttons and seeing what they would do next. Caitlin was turning out to be kind of a bore. Such a good girl, still in love with her ex. Both the living and dead one. He knew she lost someone, she called the person a friend, but the way her eyes lit up he knew there was something more. He just didn’t have a face or name. Natalia, though? She still thought about him. After all these years… and that made him smile. He still got it. The best she ever had.

From Care Bear:
oh, use spare key
we not home
dolly’s was callin’ us

Rye sighed at the new texts and kicked the doormat over a couple inches to reveal the Sinclair’s spare key. Once he fully took his headphones out, he realized Niles must have been on his drums in the attic and wouldn’t have heard his knocking anyways. Content with his friend’s beat filling in for his own music, the younger man climbed the stairs to the attic and stopped in the doorway to let the other finish out his song, arms crossed and leaning lightly against the doorframe as the vibrations tingled along his skin. He took the moment of obliviousness his friend was in to examine him closely.

The burn scar all along his left shoulder and back had healed rather well, all things considered. The damn thing reminds him of hospital nights in stiff chairs waiting for his friend to heal from an injury Rye could never have saved him from in the first place. The curly haired man was well aware that many of his insecurities come from failing friends, but being aware of a complex and falling victim to it were two very different things. He’s gotten past the fact that he wasn’t there for Niles that night until the other boy was already hospitalized, and he knew the other man held no grudge against Rye as they had spoken earnestly during those hospital nights. Likewise, Rye knew that there were scars beneath Niles’ shorts that he couldn’t have helped avoid either. Or the metal plate in his skull. Or all the damn broken bones. The past was the past and each time Niles got a new scar all Rye could do was promise to be there for him in his hospital room and to be better. For next time.

For every next time.

He could handle more hospital stays if it meant not forever losing another person he cared about.

As his friend finished the song, Rye clapped steadily to gather his attention, keeping his eyes on the other man’s face and lips before he held up Niles’ discarded shirt in case the man wanted to cover up.

“Good Times Bad Times?” He guessed, not crossing the threshold into Niles’ space until the man acknowledged him.

Gameplan:
See JP at MSM
See Niles
Chew Niles Out

“Yeah,” Not even surprised at this point, everyone seemed to be using the spare key nowadays, Niles grabbed his shirt and threw it on, leaving his drumsticks on his drum set. “It’s been a minute, Rye.” The doctor’s son stood up and closed the distance between him and his friend, opening his arms, “Mind a sweaty hug? If not, I’m all yours.”

Gameplan:
See JP at MSM
See Niles
Hug Niles
Chew Niles Out

Damn him, offering hugs right off the bat. Priorities straightened out, Rye threw himself around the taller man and squeezed him so tight his shoulder strained and forced out a quiet whine of pain. Most of it from the physical pain, some of it the pain of being separated from one he loved for so long. Text really could never be enough for someone as tactile as him. When Niles whispered a soft, “Missed you, buddy,” against the top of his head, hot tears sprung to his eyes which he quickly and pettily rubbed off against his friend’s sweaty chest. Pulling back, he smiled brightly at Niles before replying.

“You could’ve answered a few more texts if you missed me so much,” He replied, just enough scolding in his tone to keep it playful. For now. “I’m sorry I’ve been so busy since returning.”

“Ey, you got a life,” Niles shrugged, stepping back and giving his friend space. “I’m a shitty friend, I know. I’ve never been good at texting.” Stepping back a bit more and dropping down, Niles found himself slouched on the futon, arms wide, and gestured with his eyes for Rye to sit next to him. “This was an unexpected visit. I’m going to assume you’re mad at me about something so what’s up?”

Gameplan:
See JP at MSM
See Niles
Hug Niles
Cuddle With Niles
Talk To Niles
Chew Niles Out

“Well you’re not wrong,” Rye scoffed wetly, following his friend and turning around to flop onto the futon with his back against Niles’ arm and shoulder, tilting his head back onto his shoulder to stare up at the slowly rotating ceiling fan. “I’ve seen your pictures of you and Caitlin Cleary on JP’s Insta,” Rye, unlike most of his Northside peers, didn’t use any social media aside from what he glanced over his step brother’s shoulder on slow and lazy nights. That and the rare occasions where JP genuinely believes Rye needs to hear certain gossip. “And I’ve got to say that she’s a surprise. Seems your sisters agree enough to call me in as reinforcement. I was content to let you realize you were being a creep liking all of Natalia’s posts, but then she deactivated. I was going to wait for you to text me about your girlfriend, but then that got fast tracked by your sisters.” Rye sighed and closed his eyes, laying out his facts with nothing but a level tone and honest air. “What’s going on in your mind right now, man?”

“What do you mean?” Pulling his arm from under Rye bringing it to his lap, Niles fixed his gaze on the boy beside him with narrowed eyes. “Is it the fact that I got a cute little redhead as a girlfriend that weirds you out or that I started trolling Natalia after she broke into my room, went on my bed, and yelled at me for trying to get myself out there? It’s funny really.” The annoyance washed over Niles’ face. Once again, he was getting confronted about stupid shit when he just wanted to relax.

He crossed his arms, in defensive mode now. “You come in and instead of being like hey, Niles, how’s school been treating you? Hey, Niles, you look fuckin’ good. I see you’ve been to the gym. Nah, I don’t get that. It’s hey, Niles, why the fuck are you dating this girl and talking to Natalia? I don’t see where I’m in the wrong when Caitlin and I have gotten close the past year. She understands how it feels to lose someone close and Natalia’s butthurt I went public.”

She understands how it feels to lose someone close Intended as a barb or not, Rye found himself narrowing his eyes at the comment. That’s a stupid reasoning in his mind, as damn near every person in Edenridge has lost someone close to them, including Rye and over half of their year. And his wording, the defensive goading… Rye mentally sighed and thought, I hate when he gets like this.

He tried to center himself, making sure there was no snap in his tone when he said, “Look, I texted you all those questions, I complimented your rockin’ physique in our last video call. I’m not going to play this game where you talk like just enough of a dick to rile someone up and then thrive on the aftermath. I love you and I’m trying to check up on your mental health and status. That includes your other relationships just like it always fucking has,” the smaller man turned to meet Niles’ eyes. “When people text me because they’re worried about you, that means it’s time to really worry, or at least clear out the dirt surrounding whatever gem you’ve actually found. You know I’m not here trying to break you down, so don’t throw your walls up against me.”

Sighing deeply, Niles’ deadpan expression never turned away from Rye. In the past six hours he was doing fine mentally but now that someone was bringing it up, he was getting frustrated. He didn’t want his first hang with his best friend to be about his mental health. Unlatching his crossed arms, he pressed his fingers against his temples before answering, “What do you want me to say, dude? Thanks to this you’ve confirmed my theory that Autumn was the one to tell Natalia where to find me. Thanks to this I know none of my sisters and best friend care that I’ve finally gained the courage to ask someone out instead of fuck them and move on. I get it, she’s not Natalia. You’ve never liked Natalia anyways. But really, I’m just trying to live in the moment for once and Caitlin helps with that.” At this point, Niles was picking at his fingernail skin, no longer looking at Rye. Fidgeting and trying to contain himself from saying or doing something stupid.

Rye watched Niles fidget and gently covered his hands with his own, allowing Niles to grab them to fiddle with so that he would stop picking at his skin, a technique the larger man had often used on Rye himself. He wouldn’t deny feeling a pang in his heart at hearing Niles say he thought Rye didn’t care, but he was well aware he’s been caught up in his anxieties and the Belmontes and JP. He’d been neglecting checking up on his more mentally vulnerable friend and that was something he would have to swallow and work through. Today was the start of that. But the other thing…

“I never hated Natalia, she hated me,” Rye corrected, not even upset over the admittance. The twin of his best friend has never quite warmed to Rye’s attitude, which Jokes had personally found odd given he and Rye share a large repertoire of puns and one-liners and the Serpent was most certainly well liked by the woman. “I was looking out for you both when I gave you an outside perspective on your relationship. But something I really remember from all of that? She really didn’t like Caitlin Cleary,” Rye tapped his friend on his palms to drive the point. “I’m not saying that you don’t get to be happy, and I’m not saying you don’t get to live in the moment. But do you feel like you can trust her, are you comfortable enough to be the real you with her? Are you really happy right now? GTBT Isn’t usually one of your ‘Chill Vibes’ songs.”

Niles would always know, no matter his mood, that Gavriel Shomer’s words alway come from a place of deep feeling. This is the man that would do both of their homework assignments together with the shitty little hospital lamp, showing Niles that even when he was lost at sea there was still someone there willing to be his lighthouse. Their friendship had never been anything sexual, or even complicated; they are brutally honest with each other but they can also spend an entire day together and barely speak at all. Most people’s social batteries drain, but Gavriel and Niles could always gravitate towards each other and recharge in each other’s comfortable presensces.

Easing up a bit, turning his hands over to tightly hold the other boy’s smaller hands, Niles stayed silent. Bouncing his right leg up and down, he took the next couple of seconds to think about what he would say. And there, finally, Rye broke through to him. Past the barrier and straight to the Niles he knew and loved. “When am I ever happy?”

His dark gaze focused on the snare drum as his leg continued to bob with his erratic thoughts. “She cut me out, like I meant nothing. Like what we’ve been through meant nothing. All I did was stop the sex. I couldn’t do it anymore.” Letting go of Rye’s hands, Niles gritted his teeth, “You saw me. I was dragging her down. The moment we weren’t a thing? She becomes popular and senior year, crowned queen-fucking-bee.”

Leaning back on the couch once more, he closed his eyes, admitting his ill intentions, “At first, Caitlin wasn’t meant to be a good thing. It was something I knew Natalia would notice, and look at that?” He opened his eyes, his attention going straight to the ceiling fan. “She came straight to me.” He shook his head, in disbelief. Their last interaction being a lucid dream in his mind.

“But I started to care…” He acknowledged. “Cailtin is so fucking sweet, it’s sickening. I do not deserve her. But she gave me the time of day. She saw me. And her pain, I get it everyone has lost someone but what I saw? She didn’t hide it. She didn’t pretend. She loved someone so deeply and it shines through her very being.” Turning his head to Rye, he gave a half smile, “I guess I fell for the fantasy of her and her grief. How well she handles it. How she can still focus on others more than herself. How unbothered she seems. But then on our first date, Mikhail fucking ruined it. Like he did with sleeping with Natalia.”

Huffing out another sigh, blowing his curls up, Niles grumbled, “Serves me right, I guess? For not being honest.”

“It wasn’t a matter of holding her back, and you sure as hell aren’t nothing, Niles,” Gavriel insisted strongly, dropping his now free hand to Niles’ knee to steady its rapid pace. “But if you started any part of your relationship with Caitlin under false pretenses then nothing will ever feel real. I don’t know what Mika was doing busting into your date with Caitlin, but maybe see the red flags for what they are and end this gently. You can love the idea of a person, but if you start dating them then you’ll resent all the pieces of them that aren’t how you thought they’d be and that’s not fair to either of you.” He took a deep breath and made sure his friend was looking at him before he continued. He wanted him to see the sincerity and love when he said his next piece. They’d talked about his dating life and overall relationships before, so it wasn’t a line that hasn’t been trodden all over before.

“Dude, you know I love you and you know I hate seeing you upset, but you're still in the process of healing. You can't keep tearing the scabs without consequences. Think about what you're doing for a damn moment from the perspective of anyone else. Her being the first girl you go public with? You're being toxic to yourself, to Cece, to Nat and I guess Mika now too. I don’t know if he’s just being extra protective of Natalia right now, but I do know that I’ve seen him fighting and I do not want to see his anger any more directed at you than it already is. If anything with this goes wrong-” Rye’s breath hitched, his grip on the other man’s knee tightening as tears gathered at the edges of his vision. He’d been doing a lot of crying lately, he thought absently as he kept his distressed gaze on his friend. “If anything goes wrong with this, I-I don’t know how many more times I can handle sleeping next to you in a hospital bed,” his voice broke at the end he looked away, face burning. He could honestly barely stand hospitals as is. Visiting his mom, sure; helping her with first aid on a random serpent in the Gardenview kitchen, no problem, but sitting on a chair waiting to hear if a loved one would survive, or wake up, or waking up in a bed himself? He hasn’t been immune to that crippling anxiety since the day he got shot.

Bye bye thoughts of being a volunteer nurse to stay close to his mom. At least on official papers.

“And I don’t expect you to,” Niles affirmed, all the while pulling his pain stricken friend into a comforting embrace once more. Back in the position of how they started before he got triggered. “I might not seem like I’m in a better place, but I am. Maybe not out of the self loathing habit… but unless I get in an accident or piss someone off, the only time you should be seeing me at the hospital is if I’m helping my dad and your mom out. I’m a certified phlebotomist now so I’ll help with blood work occasionally and any administrative backlog. Gotta’ keep myself busy somehow.” With all this talking of feelings, Niles could feel the exhaustion was over him.

Leaning his head against the side of Rye’s head, he shut his eyes and whispered, “Sorry for worrying you.” He didn’t know if he’d heed his friend’s advice of Caitlin, since they only started dating, but he would think about it. Rye was right to say she didn’t deserve to deal with his damage. No one did. Not even Gavriel. Yet here he was being there for him like the good ol’ days.

"I'm your best friend Niles," the curly haired man answered back quietly, tightly gripping the arm that was now back over his shoulder and like he was afraid it would disappear. Like JP this morning. Like Decky after the shooting. Like his father when he came out. Something about him seemed to eventually push away everyone he loved and sought approval from, and he didn't know how to stop it from happening. "I exist to worry about you, love you, and occasionally knock your head back into place," he sniffed, putting more pressure on the connection between their heads for emphasis. Trying to cover a yawn that would reveal his own battles with exhaustion, he closed his eyes and tried to stay in the moment instead of the past. There are still plenty of mistakes to make and fix, instead of focusing on the ones that never can be. Relaxing once more against his friend, Rye mumbled out, "You know it's because I love you, right? You deserve to be really happy, not play at it in public."

“Happiness,” Niles lightly chuckled, feeling his body ease, the weight of his demons lifting off his shoulders, just for a moment, as sleep beckoned him. “What a foreign concept…”

As Niles grew heavier against him, Rye tried not to sigh in agreement. Softly, he held Niles head in place and settled lower against his shoulder so that when he replaced his head, the taller man was rested atop of Rye's instead of against his side. With a small yawn and a grip still on Niles' arm, he let his own eyelids close and put his earbuds back in to cover the ringing silence.

"You c'n learn foreign languages, why not concepts?" He whispered out, only half joking.

Gameplan:
Forget Everything Else
Show Niles He’s Loved
Be With Niles

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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by LovelyComplex
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LovelyComplex

Member Seen 0-12 hrs ago

Timestamp: Before Good Morning Edenridge, early as fuck in the morning.

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“Who’s gonna’ be your date tonight, Mein Mensch?” Eiran Goldstein, one of the many employees under Niles’ uncle’s jurisdiction, chewed on his toothpick at Dom’s Body Shop & Garage. Location, East Boston. He leaned up against the wall as he surveyed the Doctor’s son strolling through the secret underground garage that Dominic Tyler liked to call his very own ‘batcaves’. It makes sense that a highly innovative techie like Niles’ uncle would have state-of-the-art technology to create a secure retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The actual codeword to find these garages was “sanctuary”.

There were at least twenty six of these throughout the United States. When Dominic Tyler wasn’t working remotely for The Hoffman Sachs Group, Inc, based in Dallas, Texas, he was managing his mod/auto repair shops. Consider it a passion project of his. On top of him making good money as a software engineer with the leading global investment banking, securities, and investment management firm, having clients with some of the highest net-worth, he also collected art, constantly attending auctions and private showings. In addition to that, he loves, absolutely loves, motor vehicles. Does love even justify his obsession with the fast and furious world?

Niles took interest in his uncle’s business at a young age - before he knew much about it. Fortunately, his father wasn’t against it. The prospect of his son investing his time learning a family trade was a much better deal than his son ending his life. Since the Doctor’s son gained his permit, he made monthly visits to Boston to help his uncle out. How so you may ask? Well, by racing. An earnest way to get things other people worked hard for and branding it with the Tyler name.

Dom’s BODY Shop & Garage was a good cover for what actually happened underground. Truth be told, Dominic Tyler was someone in the crime world that people highly respected. No men in blue have caught onto his game and that’s because he was unaffiliated, unbiased, and seemingly uninvolved. If you looked at his business papers, his bookkeeping, and his places of business, he was clean. He wasn’t aligned with any top dog, there was no sign of illegal transactions, and if you walked in the shop? Even to the keenest of eyes, it looked like a normal garage. Dominic Tyler was a smart man and those who were big players in the Underworld knew that.

All that matters to Dom was providing amazing customer service to well paying clients, while offering a reformed program for ex convicts. There’s an unspoken rule when it comes to the name Dominic Tyler. He’ll offer you the best services for your rides and clean up (emphasizing on BODY shop), the only thing he asks of you is to leave his immediate family out of the business. Niles was an exception. That’s his nephew, not his sons. Leave his wife, his two sons, and his daughter alone and he won’t be forced to retaliate. You don’t want to make a smart man angry. Let’s just say Dominic Tyler knows how to ruin lives and it doesn’t usually end in death. He prefers long, agonizing suffering. Death is a kindness in his book.

Playing a dangerous game is part of the Tyler name not because Dominic has anything to gain from the game but because of the thrill of it all. He’s good at what he does and can manage like a boss, having implemented strong individuals in each of his shops. People he considers family, in charge of taking care of their domains and giving him reports when things go astray.

Before Dom built his resume as a successful techie, he was a mechanic and an engineer first and foremost. An excellent one at that. Now he has garages where his team of infamous gearhead junkies, well known full-throttle, ex-convicts, and legendary racers run and build on top of his legacy, creating their own. He takes good care of them and they obtain parts, connections, and hot wheels, through any means possible, flipping what they get and building on the value and worth.

That was the Tyler way of life and Niles was part of the reason why the Boston branch was booming. Niles raced, illegally, and brought home some of the rarest finds. Was it immoral to strip them from everything they had if he beat them fair and square?

Who cares if it was.

He was winning in the end and that’s all that mattered.

“You know I have to take her out,” Niles strolled beside the red 2,500+HP Lamborghini Huracan. They called her Desire. “She never fails me, and she certainly won’t tonight.” Hearing the keys coming his way, fast, and with no warning, Niles shifted his body and caught them like a baseball. There was no hesitation or flinching, like he expected it and used his fast reflexes to respond. Turning his head, he smirked at the sexy asian girl, “Hey Hiriko, does daddy know you’re out?”

“No more than your dad knows,” Hiriko Styles in a midriff top and pink ripped jeans blew a large pink gum bubble, mischievously looking at the Doctor’s son. Sucking the gum in, she snapped it, chewed, and glanced at her boyfriend, Goldstein.

“You takin’ her this time. The guy you up against ain’t the most ethical; he’s from Pinehurst, you know how they play. So, I’m sending insurance. If things get dirty Riko will take care of you like you take care of this babygirl here.” With his toothpick in his mouth, Goldstein glided his finger on the red beauty, proud of her journey. She's been here the longest and Niles was attached.

“A streetcar named Desire.”

“Clever ain’t I?” Goldstein smirked while making his way to his girl, briefly taking his toothpick out of his mouth. Pulling her in, he deeply kissed Riko in front of the boy, giving no fucks of the PDA. The family she was adopted in controlled a huge part of Edenridge National Laboratory but unlike the rest of her family, she chose to learn the art behind cars. She either commuted from the Styles mansion or slept at his apartment. They had a good thing going and her spirit was absolutely on fire. Goldstein trusted her with his life and he knew she would protect Niles from any harm if a race went wrong. She came in clutch in the most opportune moments. Pulling away from the kiss, he brushed her hair behind her ear and smiled, “You bring him back home safe, yeah?”

“I always do,” Giving a teasing wink, Riko blew her man a kiss, which he responded by catching it. He watched her longingly as she swayed her hips from side to side and went into the passenger’s seat.

God, he was a lucky man.

“Hey, Pink Slip. Take all they got!” After returning the toothpick in his mouth, the older man casually saluted with his pointer and middle finger. In silence, Niles nonchalantly nodded and entered the car. Goldstein went to a door pad and put in a four digit code. Soon after, a secret garage that was camouflaged with its surroundings went up and revealed a secret tunnel. This tunnel would lead to a platform that would bring Niles up to the East Boston Skatepark.

Desire was gone in seconds.

“Get ‘em boy.”

There was no time for rest. Immediately as the car vanished from sight, Eiran’s phone rang. When he saw who was on caller ID, he answered, “Ayo boss. Uh yeah, yeah. Shipment went smoothly. Got another one at 6 AM? Shit, you love keeping me busy. Oh! For real? I’m sure Hector would like to see you. Yeah, I think that’s great—” Goldstein surveyed all the expensive street cars in his garage as he listened to Dominic jump between his personal life and his game plan for the coming months. The quota he wants his branches to hit. “— Consider bringing your wife and kids. I hear Edenridge is a fucking mess. When is it not? I mean... you right. You totally right."

If there was one thing Goldstein learned was this man never slept and if he called you at 3 AM in the morning, you fucking answered. His time was precious and honestly, he did too much. He was the guy who balanced his personal and work life by micro napping and just always on the go. For an old guy, Dominic Tyler still had way too much energy. Must've been the good sex his wife gave him. GOALS.

"You got business partners in town? No shit. I'm sure that means good things, Dom."

Once the lights were off Goldstein turned on his heel with furrowed eyebrows realizing his work would be picking up soon if he wanted to meet his boss’ expectations. Something was brewing in the Underworld and he was a reformed convict simply trying to survive and provide for his family. He had a better deal than most goons. Dom was a good boss, just ambitious. Stil, he treated everyone that worked for him like family and that meant everything to the Jew. His family was limited, his past was dark, and he's been five years sober. That's got to mean something. Working for Dom was Goldstein's way of choosing his family. If his sister wasn't such a psychotic bitch, he'd likely have more family, which reminds him. He needed to call his brother, the one that lived in Seattle not in Boston with him, and see how the fucker was holding up with his business endeavor. He missed him.

Family, man.

They were everything to him.


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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by metanoia
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metanoia I want to..WIN!

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Timestamp: After Shields & Chains
FT: Mordechai Boaz, Penelope James, Jade Taylor
Allegra Cardenas, Viva Cardenas, and Chai Boaz-Cardenas

@metanoia @Aces Away @LovelyComplex
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As soon as Jade hung up with Poppy, she felt like she was left with more questions than she had before she called her soul sister. Before it was just about reaching out. About no longer being in the isolation Jade put on herself by pushing those closest to her away. But as it would happen, things just got a lot more complicated. Yeah, as if her life wasn’t already confusing and tangled enough.

But she couldn’t think about it. Jade knew it and she couldn’t waste time -- not when someone whose connection to everything happening in Edenridge was even crazier. The newest batch of letters came and that psycho was going after some of those Northies. She didn’t know who exactly was going to be affected. It was about that David O’Hara. Jade didn’t know him ona personal level, but if they were about to go through what everyone went through last month, Jade felt bad for them, but she had more important things to focus on.

So she took a shower. Admittedly, as she stood in her shower, as crappy as it was, the water pressure was pretty good, she thought about what Poppy told her about Charlie’s sister. Mitena was her name, right? Jade couldn’t help but think about how cute that name was. Fitting that Charlie would have a sister with a cool name. She smiled, finding comfort at that. She didn’t smile at a lot of things lately, but that made her crack one.

But that wasn’t the only thing she lamented on. Scott Street. She seldom ventured there. Only a few times when there were parties or, ya know, when she had a group project with some of those privileged northies. Their houses, especially the Belmontes, were almost as big as the entire Lost Souls apartment buildings combined. Not height-wise, but the space surely. Or maybe she was overestimating the land their house sat on. Jade almost failed math, so that could be why.

Point being, she was perplexed about that. Why on earth did they need to go there?

With a sigh, Jade finished up. She dried her body off and wrapped it in a long body towel. She only had one but it did its job. She touched up her hair for a few minutes, blowdrying it then giving it a decent brush. Then she went over to her closet, trying to figure out what would be an appropriate outfit. The past few days have been hotter than a damn sauna, so probably no jeans. Even though she would prefer to, it was summer and she didn’t feel like sweating to death from her back to her ass crack.

In the end, Jade went with an outfit that consisted of an Iron Maiden shirt, some short jean shorts, a blue plaid shirt, and even though she just knew it was a bad idea, she grabbed the jacket her Uncle Charlie went. Sure wearing black on black on black might’ve been a bad idea, but lately Jade felt exposed. Except for her Sunday breakfast…dates with Anya she hasn’t felt protected despite the Devil of Eden stating that’s exactly what he was doing. Just thinking about his cold eyes gave her the chills, so she needed to wear it, her long term comfort be damned.

Tying the plaid shirt around her waist and slipping the Jacket up, Jade just applied a little makeup, donning her trademark raccoon eyes style and grabbed everything she needed for the trip: her phone, purse, and what the hell, a pocket knife that she’s been carrying around her since Saturday. It was a simple knife and one that Glass got for her. She didn’t tell him why she needed one and, thankfully, he wasn't the type to pry too much. All she knew was she could go to him for that sort of thing. Ever since her encounter with The Devil, Jade felt she needed it.

Poppy’s place wasn’t that far from the Lost Soul’s apartment complex. When she left, it only took her about fifteen minutes max to get from point A to point B. The James’ house was every bit a house that brought her comfort as it always was. She may have been a stranger lately, but she always could feel her spirits being lifted whenever she was near it.

She gave a quick knock. A few of them, in fact. Maybe she didn’t need to since she was practically family but that was fucking rude to just waltz into someone’s home, regardless if they saw you as a daughter or not. After about ten seconds, the door opened as Jade saw the familiar face of Poppy’s mom, Victoria. “Long time no see, Mama Victoria.” Jade flashed her a small smile and an equally small wave. “Is my long lost soul sister around?” She asked the matriarch of the James family.

“Kitchen,” Victoria instructed before apologizing, “Sorry I can’t stay and chat.” Victoria adjusted her purse hanging from her shoulder, and slipped past the tragic blond girl. In her hand was the new letter. The one about David.

Giving her daughter’s friend a half smile, Poppy’s mom dismissed herself, not one to waste time, “It’s good to see you, Jade. Help yourself with whatever and if you can, try not to be out all night. Who knows what these letters will do to this town. I’d rather not find out you three are in the hospital.”

As the older woman walked out and made her way to her car, Penelope called out from the kitchen, “Did you eat anything?” Inside the kitchen, she sat at the table, tearing a biscuit to shreds and not eating it. Across from her was Mordechai, who held Chai, and the person looking inside the fridge, Allegra, had Viva closely in tow. Penelope didn’t look up from the bread. It was clear as a cloudless sky she had lingering feelings toward her friend holding his baby boy. Feelings of uncertainty and hurt.

Regardless of how she felt, Poppy would bury it like she did everything else. No matter how hurt she was, she wouldn’t let the constant secrets hold her back from seeking Tena out. She needed this more now than ever. Penelope wanted to feel good for more than just a moment and not feel like she was useless, replaceable, and not worth anyone’s time. Too sad to cry, too tired to get up, too angry to fight, so many emotions she constantly battled that she thought she had left behind. Nibbling a crumb, Penelope blankly stared at the rustic wood design of the table. She was Penelope James, goddammit, and she was a badass with a fire impossible to put out. She had to remember that.

Jade honed in on Poppy’s voice, smiling at her, and absentmindedly said, “Didn’t get the chance before I left my place--” It was then she noticed a few additions. A girl, who was pretty hot mind you, looked to be around the soul sisters' age and she had a little girl close by. “I don’t think we’ve met,” she said to the cute brunette with the little girl. “The name’s Jade.” For a brief minute, Jade met eyes with the little girl. Now, she didn’t have the most experience with little kids other than the kid that She-Wolf and Cueball had together. That little boy was a few years older, Manuel was his name, but this little girl seemed a lot more well-behaved. She leaned down, putting on her most family-friendly smile she could. “And who might you be?”

Viva laughed but stayed wrapped around her mother’s leg like a koala, releasing one arm of its grip so she could wave at the newcomer. Allegra finally popped her head out of the freezer, sucking salaciously on a grape popsicle and holding another one in her hand. As Viva shoved her face into her mother’s leg, the woman looked down to her daughter and let the popsicle leave her lips with a lewd pop!. She shook her head and crouched down, holding both popsicles in one hand and grabbing her daughter around the waist with her other. Once the girl had settled on her mother’s hip, Allegra stood back up to height and shifted her right side forward a bit to present the two year old to the blonde so that the other woman didn’t need to continue bending down.

“No baby, ya don’t just wave. You gotta reach your hand out and shake hers, tell her your name back and say ‘nice ta meet’cha’,” the brunette directed, bouncing her daughter a few times when the girl just continued to hide her face. In a sing song voice, she added, “If ya don’t introduce yourself ya don’t get a popsicle.”

Immediately, the girl’s hand shot out and almost caught Jade on the nose, saved only by her mother casually leaning back a few inches. “Hi Jade! You’re weally pwetty! I’m Viva! Viva Gavwiel Cawdenas Boaz! Nice ta meet’cha!”

“Sorry what?” That caught her off guard as she blankly stared at Viva with a dumbfounded expression on her face.

Mordechai, who had been drinking coffee and reading a book over his son’s head while the infant rested in his lap, promptly started choking on his drinks, spraying the warm liquid everywhere. Including, to his dismay, the top of his baby boy’s head.

“Ah shit!” He cursed, holding his son to his soaked chest and kicking his seat back to get away from the mess at the table. With his son now crying and both of them covered in caffeine instead of ingesting it, Mordechai let out a longer string of curses and headed towards the bathroom, still coughing a bit to clear his throat of the shock. “Hey J, I’ll be back, sorry,” he rushed out as he passed the blonde, slamming the door behind him. Faintly, the sound of running water began to filter out of the closed door.

“Ha!” Allegra laughed once he’d disappeared, popping the popsicle into her daughter’s mouth before setting her own down to hold her hand out to Jade. “That’s the first time she’s used his last name,” She explained to the other two women in the room. “That boy can’t handle anything new happenin’, I swear. Anyway, I’m Allegra, it’s nice ta meet’cha finally. You can call me Legs or Bambi if ya want.”

She was still trying to process the fact that Key might’ve had a daughter, she shook her head as it was mentally blown. “Had no idea he was a papa now.” Shaking her head again and laughing, knowing first hand that what she said about Key was the absolute truth. She met Allegra in the eyes. “Cool name, Bambi. You can just call me Jade or J or whatever tickles you the right way.” She had to admit this was a lot to take in. Two kids and then Bambi, she didn’t know what to make of it. “I honestly didn’t know Key had a daughter. And a boy too? I am so out of the loop.”

“This one is just by action,” Allegra answered, nuzzling her daughter’s cheek before jerking her head towards the bathroom door. “That one was all him and me, though. His name’s Chai.” Looking Jade up and down, Allegra picked her own popsicle back up with a wink, tossing out a, ”And I bet we could find out what tickles me the right way very easily-”

“Legs,” Mordechai cut off as he opened the bathroom door again, shirt missing and his son cleaned off. The other occupants of the room would be able to see that he had filled out and already developed more muscle since the last time they were all together. They could also see all his torso scars in stark contrast to his light olive skin. Almost all of them. Because Chai had calmed down considerably and was laid gently across his father’s chest and shoulder, eyes closed and thumb in his mouth. The way he was rested, no one could see the large brand that spanned his left breast and collarbone, despite all of them knowing it was there. Only Mordechai would ever really know if that was intentional or not. “Please stop tryin’ ta fuck all my friends, seriously.”

“Seriously?” Allegra scoffed back, purposefully swirling her tongue around her treat to further aggravate the man. You’ve fucked most’a your friends, why can’t I?”

“We’re not havin’ this conversation again,” He grouched tiredly, sending a weak smile to Jade and moving closer so she could meet his son. “Hey Harley Head, this is Chai Boaz.”

Rolling up her bread in a paper towel, barely with an appetite, Poppy got up from her seat and tossed her food in the trash. Letting her friends play catch up, Poppy exited the kitchen and made her way outside to her family’s porch and took a seat on the stoop, placing her backpack beside her. Pulling up her phone, she took to her instagram account which she rarely used and tried searching Natalia’s name, only to discover that the account had been deactivated. Huffing to herself and her bad luck, Poppy pocketed her phone and fetched On the Road. She needed something to do to keep her mind off of things. Might as well read one of Charlie’s books that she’s read countless times. It was one of his favorites. Something that resonated with him at a young age.

The only people that interest me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’
On the Road, by Jack Kerouac

Mordechai stared after their Street Angel as she silently made her exit, distress and exhaustion warring on his features. Turning back to the women still in the room, he flinched a bit under Allegra's glare before explaining to Jade, "I've…made a few mistakes already this mornin'."

As Jade watched Poppy leave the kitchen, she didn’t even have to know that Key may have done something to know that something happened. It caused her to frown as her gaze lingered to the front door. She wondered what happened? If it was just about what Key did. Sure, there was a lot to take in: he had a live-in, two kids where one was biologically his and one wasn’t. Jade thought maybe it could’ve been about Charlie’s long lost sister, but she didn’t have enough information about that to say for certain. All she knew was she left one hell to the start of a different layer of it.

“We all make mistakes, Key. Don’t let them bring you down. Hell, I pretty much isolated myself away from everyone for a whole month and I called Poppy this morning and now I’m here. So let me be the cautionary tale: you might’ve fucked up, but that just means you have all day to make it up to her.” Jade leaned close and reached for Mordechai’s hand, squeezing it assuringly. “Ya hear me, Key?”

“I hear ya, Harley, thanks,” The man replied, squeezing her hand back. His son cooed against his shoulder as the tired man held him, opening his eyes again to land on the unfamiliar figure in the room. “Oh, I think he noticed ya.”

“Then let her meet him, Ken,” Allegra spoke up softly, having stayed silent between the friends’ exchange. She put a hand on Mordechai’s shoulder and nodded towards Jade encouragingly.

“Oh- uh, right,” He looked down to his son and the area that he covered on his father’s chest, reluctant. Allegra’s hand grew a little heavier and he cleared his throat before taking his hand back from Jade in order to gently lift his son and lead him towards the blonde’s arms. When Jade received his son, the man quickly threw his right arm across his chest and gripped his left shoulder, covering up as much of his scarring as possible. “He looks like…he looks like Danny, fair warnin'.”

“I noticed that..” The blonde said in a low tone, seeing the similarities between Danny and baby Chai. She supported with one arm under him and another at the base of his neck and head. She smiled sweetly at the boy, those eyes undeniably a Boaz trait. “You’re just the cutest, aren’t you?” Jade said in a very uncharacteristic tone for her. Her usually dulled, mild-toned voice was high and very playful. “Of course you are. Just look at who your papa is! He’s quite the charmer.” She grinned at Key. “I’ll be your Auntie Jade. When you’re old enough, I’ll teach ya how to get all the girls in the world. Or boys. Or anyone your little heart desires.” She grinned wider and took to a slow rocking motion with Baby Chai in her arms.

Mordechai’s tired eyes warmed at the sight of his baby in his friend’s arms and Allegra disappeared from the room to go grab Mordechai a new shirt, Viva looking between her mother and father dividedly until she eventually closed her eyes and ran headfirst into his legs. The sober serpent bent down easily to bring his daughter back up with him, settling her on his hip so she could be a part of the conversation.

“Aside from isolatin’…how’ve ya been, Jade?” Mordechai asked sincerely, absentmindedly swaying side to side as Viva laid against him.

The Angel Princess hesitated from answering Key’s question. A lot had happened. A lot nobody knew about. A lot that Jade wasn’t ready to talk about, or maybe it was more about feeling uncertain that she can talk about it. “I’ve just been trying to keep my head above sea level. Even that I’m not sure I’m succeeding at,” she chuckled, looking down at baby Chai in her arms, smiling at him. “It hasn’t been easy, Key. I’ve been staggering back and forth between holding it together and falling apart. Today’s the first day I’ve actually felt the closest to myself than I have the past month.” And even now, Jade wasn’t sure just what that really meant - to be herself. She didn’t know when the last time she felt like ‘herself’.

“I can understand that,” the dark haired man empathized, going over to the counter to grab some paper towels with his free hand and start the struggle of single-handedly cleaning up the mess he made in his shock earlier. Jade understood harder drugs a little more, or at least she saw them in a similar manner to Mordechai moreso than Poppy and Charlie had. The two of them had done coke together more times than he could count back in school, and she usually needed a blunt to wake up and pass out just as much as he did. As far as he was aware, she’d never touched smack like he and Sonny had, and he once again found himself proud of his friends’ strengths as much as he was sick of his own weaknesses. “I dunno if Pops told ya, but I’ve been clean for like three weeks now. Been in a sorta isolation myself while it was happenin’ but Legs, Pops, and Badger all kept me in check until the worst of it was over. Doesn’t mean I’m not still cravin’ everythin’, but it means I can actually be here in the moment for my kids, and that actually makes me feel somethin’, y’know?”

It was said with his head down, staring at the counter he was cleaning so they didn’t have to meet each other’s eyes and see all their ugly truths just yet. The two deeper into the criminal element of the town from the start have too many things to say to each other for the time they have left alone. It was always their way; awkward empathizing and bland admittances that could have others balking. The Grease Monkey and Harley Head, always shoulder to shoulder in the dirt, looking forward or down instead of at each other.

“Wait what!?” Jade’ sudden shift in mood, as well as where she was looking, came like a speeding train through a building as she had her blue were solely focused on Key. “That’s fucking amazing! Seriously, I’m so happy for you!” If she weren’t holding a literal infant right now, Jade would’ve hugged him. There was a part of her that wished she could’ve been there for him, but she was glad that, at the least, good ole Mika who proclaims he doesn’t give a fuck does, in fact, give many fucks was. “Having something -- or rather someone -- to exist for is what we all hope to get someday. And I bet with how much energy I’m sure these two are having, they’re keeping you pretty fucking busy--sorry, didn’t mean to curse in front of the little ones.”

“Don’t worry about it,” He laughed fondly. “We don’t censor around them. That raisin’ was already in process with Viva before I met Legs…Chai’s been wakin’ me up most nights, Viva used ta when we were in the apartments together but she grew out of it. Keeps me from the nightmares but has my mind wanderin’ all the time,” He dropped the dirited paper towels in the trash and grabbed the lysol wipes from under the sink, unable to meet Jade's eyes both from her praise and his own admissions. Viva clung tight to him through all the movement, arm flung around his neck and popsicle in her mouth as she listened to things she didn’t understand. “It’s hard not ta disappear at four in the mornin' just ta get a fix and stop my head from spinnin’. Until two weeks ago Legs locked the doors every night so she’d wake if she heard me tryin’ ta unlock ‘em and leave. Woke everyone up by raisin’ hell the first time it happened.”

Jade laughed at that last part and she could feel it - she put her whole chest into it, which shocked her not only because she laughed that hard but that Chai wasn’t bothered in the least. Jade even heard some approving sounds coming from the little Boaz in her arms. When she settled down, Jade just looked at Key. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to laugh but that’s what I call extreme tough love right there. Cares so much that you are under the supervision of Warden Bambi.” She cackled some more.

“Yeah yeah, laugh it up,” Mordechai grumbled, no real heat behind his words. He’d glanced up to check on his son at the boy’s noises and he could swear he felt his heart melt on the spot. The infant, while he was cooing happily, was actually almost asleep with his face turned into Jade’s chest, fist raised to his mouth as he suckled happily on it. His son didn’t just fall asleep in anyone’s arms, and it’s been an amazingly reassuring experience to him for the boy to do so with Mika, then Poppy and Sly, and now Jade. It made him feel like he’d somehow made a right choice every now and then, with his son already being such a good judge of character, so comfortable in the arms of the people Mordechai meshes with the best. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Allegra return and toss her now finished popsicle stick in the trash. He calmly set Viva down and watched as the girl ran to her mother before catching the tshirt he’d been tossed and throwing it on in one quick movement, once more hiding his designation in life from his loved ones who thought more of him. “Thanks Legs.”

“No problem,” the seductress offered, smiling at Jade with Chai in her arms. “As cute as this is, I think your little gang had a goal today, right?” She reached for her son gently, waiting for Jade to deposit him in her arms. “I’ve actually got an appointment of my own.”

“What,” Mordechai glanced at her strangely. “Where?”

“An old friend’s in town and I’m gonna take the kids to early lunch. You guys always missed each other in New York, don’t worry about it,” Allegra dismissed his worry easily. “Now, your plans?” She asked the both of them, arms still out to receive Chai.

Handing over the nearly-sleeping little Boaz, Jade’s arms returned to her side when Bambi had him safely and securely in her arms. “Not sure about the specifics but Pops said something about Scott Street.” The blonde didn’t understand what was so important, but certainly there had to be some reason for them going there and not straight to Blue Hill. Suppose they’d find out when they get there.

"Yeah, apparently we're pickin' up Pu- Natalia Belmonte," Mordechai clarified for the blonde. "Apparently she and Hard Times knew each other better than any of us thought. I uh, didn't realize Pops didn't know she hung around the Serpents. Legs is right, too, we should head out to her. I have a feelin' there's a long day ahead'a us."

“I’m sorry -- but what did you say?! Suddenly Jade’s understanding of everything she thought she knew about this situation had been swept right under her. Natalia fucking Belmonte and…Charlie!? And he had a sister that he never told any of them about? Internally she felt like someone just punched her in the gut the more she was finding out about this situation, but she just had a bewildered expression on her face. “Yeah…let me just get some food. Last thing I want is for her to yell at me because I got too distracted falling in love with my new favorite nephew.”

Truth be told, Jade needed to do a bit of binge eating to make up for all of the simultaneous surprises she seems to be finding out in such a short amount of time. She needed carbs. And lots of them. “You know where they keep the donuts? Oh and chocolate milk? In the mood for sugar and more sugar.”

"Uh, yeah of course," Mordechai responded with a furrowed brow while Allegra smacked her own forehead in the background while mouthing, "Twice in one day?" to the ceiling. Realizing he'd dropped the ball on telling more than Poppy about Natalia all those years ago, the sober fool just closed his eyes in resignation before moving to the cabinet Jade requested and throwing open the doors. "Sorry, I did it again. I can't really remember who all knew what back then. I uh…I can't really remember a lot of it actually." A constant mix of drugs, blood loss, and concussions will do that to a mind, especially one that was young, traumatized, and still developing. It was hard for him to admit it, that he was more checked out for most of their lives than anyone realized; that the bad memories always spring so vividly to the forefront of his mind but the mundane, the everyday routine, had been blitzed out by herb, H, and liquor. He had almost no memory at all of his first time getting clean for Lanie and the Emancipation, but he does remember she looked like she'd seen hell for the first time once he'd come out the other end and his memory improved. Barely.

He was sober again though, he was working on it.

Jade reached for what she needed: powder donuts. There was a whole box of the mini ones and in a matter of thirty seconds, she poured herself a big ass glass of chocolate milk. Whether or not it was healthy for her wasn’t the top of her priority list. She needed something to combat that sinking feeling she was getting in her gut and pointless calories always did the trick. Plus, who didn’t like donuts and milk? There’s no more iconic duo in the breakfast world.

She turned around, looking at Key, shaking her head. “No, don’t apologize. You didn’t do anything wrong but tell me the truth. It’s just hard to fathom right now. Maybe it’ll all make more sense when we hear it from the Belmonte’s mouth.” She flashed him a smile and took the damn box with her, which is to say it wasn’t a large one but big enough to know just how many donuts were in it. She also had the glass of milk in her hand. “Let's go, okay? Find out together.” In truth, she was hurt but only because this was one of many things she felt she wasn’t entitled to know because of the distance put between her and Charlie.

"Yeah," grabbing his bag off the floor and closing the distance between him and his friend, Mordechai put his hand on her shoulder. "Together."


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Timestamp: Midday Monday
FT: Sylvester James
Victoria James
Clayton Costigan

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____________________________________________________________________

On her desk at Well Loved Wonders laid all the letters thus far since Charlie Decker’s journal was taken. Including the one that was not Charlie at all. No, it was written by a young Northsider girl in love with the late David O’Hara. Victoria James sat at her desk drinking black tea waiting for her husband to show up. She had texted him prior to leaving the house. She was contemplative, dazed out... who knows how long she's been sitting here, waiting, wondering when, because the letters would, start targeting what was hers. It was only a matter of time.

Fixatedly, she stared at a picture of goats on her wall. Her small office wasn't anything worth note in terms of interior design. It was a room with a desk and a chair, with some thrifty decor like the picture of goats to add character. The woman didn't spend too much time in her office and it showed. Some rustic farm aesthetic in a dreary, plain room and call it a day.

When the office door opened, her dark, empty eyes went from the picture to her husband’s exhausted yet smiling face. He made his way to her and placed a paper bag from the popular bagel food truck, Schmear is Here, on her desk. It didn’t take long for him to notice that look on her face; the one he’s seen more times than he’d like to admit. The type of look that was unrelenting, unforgiving, and unwelcoming. Victoria’s gears were turning and one look at that face would make anyone feel like they were in a cold, steel prison and the only escape was to do what she said because she held the key.

On top of that, he saw the letters laying on her desk and her pocket knife stabbed into one of them randomly, piercing her desk. All the letters that were bringing emotional distress in his house, in his neighborhood, and in his town… she no longer was going to hold her tongue and patiently wait for a resolution. That much he knew. “What’s up, baby?”

Leisurely, Vicky took a sip of her drink, watching the heat inches away from her face. Placing her mug down, she glanced up at her husband and calmly asked, “Should we admit her?”

“Admit who?” Sly’s posture straightened and his expression changed from receptive to alarmed. “Penelope?” He questioned, his tone ever so slightly disapproving.

“Yes, our daughter. I think it’s long overdue, don’t you? And with these letters…” She placed her hand on one, sliding it on her desk in a circle, “... she’s not doing good, Sylvester. Who knows whose next after this string of who fucked David O’Hara letters. Do you want Penelope to find out the reason why Charlie never committed to her? I’m sure he wrote about that.”

“Vicky,” Straining at the leash ever since Charlie shot up the school to keep Poppy from getting sent away, Rocky exasperatedly sighed and went beside his wife, kneeling down so they were at the same level, “She’s getting better. She’s eating more everyday. She’s got her friends. She’s got us. She’s got Ronnie. Hell, even Shannon’s told me she’s improving. Said she’s gained some sense of clarity since she took it upon herself to see Charlie’s grave. Let’s not take that away from her.”

Tilting her head back slightly, making her gaze follow down her nose, Victoria attentively watched her husband, who did his best to comfort her worry. “And what if it gets worse? These letters..." She breathed, trying to contain the rising tide of emotions in her thin frame, “We have no idea what this fucker knows. We’re not always there to protect her. She might have taken two steps forward but what if she finds out, I don’t know, that Charlie had a fuck buddy or something and she meant absolutely nothing to him? What if everything she’s ever done for that worthless piece of shit she’s given her whole heart to turns out to be a waste? What if—”

“Victoria,” Sly interrupted in a commanding yet hushed manner, grabbing her hands from moving around, noticing her teeth gritting and her claws coming out. “Have you been taking your meds?” If his wife was digressing mentally, maybe he really should consider going on a sabbatical to protect them. That thought wasn’t on the forefront of his mind because he and the rest of the Edenridge police were already spread thinly. And as long as this person was still out there with these letters, he needed to continue to serve. He had no choice. He owed it to Rhonda for… well, for killing her son.

Defensively, Victoria pulled her hands away from her husband and brought them close to her chest, “I’m waiting for my refill but this isn’t about me, Rocky.” At this point, Victoria was standing up, her anger seething from every fiber of her being. Shortly after Sly followed suit, standing tall, a boulder between Vicky and the door. When she got like this, she became dangerous. Malicious and coldblooded. He would know. He’s been married to her for years and was put into situations where he had to bring her back, time and time again. That’s what he signed up for when he proposed to her. He knew her trauma and how she coped. He knew there was good in her, covered with so much pain, so much fear, and so much hostility. He knew she meant well and he loved her all the same.

His forehead creased and concern clouded his features. “What do you need me to do?” The one thing he would not do is send Poppy away. She needed her family now more than ever. She needed them. “Do you want me to take leave?”

“No. Don’t do that," Vicky furrowed her eyebrows, frustrated at everything and nothing at all, “And what? Let the other cops fuck shit up even more? They need you, that I know.” Victoria forcibly pulled her pocket knife out of the desk (and letter) and started twirling it with her fingers like a baton. “What’s taking so long anyways? Why is this shit still happening? I never thought you were incompetent, Sly. You’ve always gotten shit done in record time. You've never failed and look where we’re at. There’s still someone out there trying to get us!”

“Breathe, baby,” Sly soothed as he breached the space in between them, preparing himself just in case she used the weapon to defend herself from what she probably thought was an assailant. When she didn’t, he pulled the sharp weapon out of her hand and embraced her, letting his woman bury her head in his chest. As they took in the silence, he closed the pocket knife and put it in his pants’ pocket. “It’s going to be okay. We’re working around the clock to protect the town and find the culprit. I promise, baby, we haven’t slept in months. Me and Clay especially.”

“I’m growing impatient,” Vicky looked up from his chest, her deathly stare bringing shivers up his spine. “Stop it before it hits home or I’ll be left with no choice…” With her razor-sharp nails, she grasped his clothed chest, narrow eyed and resolute. “…I will lose my shit if I lose another daughter. I will not hesitate to do what I need to do to protect Penelope at all cost. You hear me? Don’t waste my fucking time, Sylvester James.” Vicky was scowling and trying to get out of his hold, no longer wanting intimacy the more her frantic mind controlled her words and actions. He didn’t let go. “Figure it out or I’ll take matters into my own hands.”

“Okay,” is all he had left to say. Their eyes met once more as he read into her paranoid, desperate, and angry gaze. The eyes were the window to the soul after all and he could see the raging storm in his wife fighting to escape. He let her initiate a kiss before it was time for him to leave. After a couple more exchanged words, regarding her medication and him reminding her to pick it up, Sly gave his wife a tender, reassuring kiss, left her side, and found himself back on Main.

Standing outside the thrift store, Sly closed his eyes, trying to set his mind right. He was Rocky from the SSS. Reformed gang member and a cop. What a great success story. Started from the bottom and climbed, kept climbing, until he got to a place he thought was high enough. A protector. A guardian. A role model. A huge part of the Edenridge community. Loved and respected. An unbreakable man who carried just about anything, including the weight of this town.

Once he gathered himself, Sly went to the driver’s seat of his patrol vehicle where his partner was waiting for him and slumped in. “Sorry, that took longer than I expected. Had to tend to the wifey.”

Clay had only heard bits and pieces about the James’s home life from Sly. He had never personally met Vicky yet or Penelope; though Roddy had mentioned her a few times in conversation. Based on his superior's stoic face being even more miserable than usual, the young officer could tell that whatever conversation that Sylvester had undergone with his wife was probably not a pleasant one. Considering his own relationship and where he had left it that morning, Clay thought best not to offer any sage advice. “It’s all good boss, I’m just glad to get back out there. I need to…we need to figure this shit out before someone gets hurt.”

“Yeah, no kidding,” Sly grimaced as he buckled himself in and started the ignition. He knew if he didn’t get to the bottom of this his wife’s mental health would undoubtedly get worse. She’s always struggled with these things. It goes back to her trauma from when she was a child and was raised by a bunch of sociopathic money launderers. Add the trauma of losing her siblings, one to the foster care system and the other to prison, Victoria didn’t handle change well. She didn’t handle loss well. She didn’t handle others overstepping their boundaries and trying to take advantage of her well. She didn’t handle much of anything she disagreed with well. And that was Sly’s burden to bear.

Even so, he knew his wife had come a long way from when they were young. All her hard work was for nought when Maxine died. From that point on it’s been a tug-o-war battle between her wanting to do what she wants and him telling her what she needs. As he drove away from the curb, he admitted, “She’s been psycho analyzing the letters. Thinks we’re failing at our jobs. I get it: she’s afraid it’ll get back to Pops, our daughter.” Stopping at the red light, Sly watched as a woman walked across the street with two little girls holding her hands. He smiled, thinking of the days life was simpler. Happier. Better. “Can’t say I blame her. We don’t got much and these letters aren’t even written by Charlie so what the fuck is up with that.”

“Best guess?” Clay leaned his arm out of the patrol car window and brushed a hand through his thick mane of hair. “Has to be a copycat right? Someone inspired by Decker’s letters and is using that whole gimmick to their advantage,” He looked out across the sky towards the oncoming storm. There was a big black cloud hanging over Boston and it was speedily making its way towards Edenridge. “We have to figure this out, Sly,” Clay lamented as his mind drifted to thoughts of his friends, David and Jamie, Coach. All would be torn to shreds potentially by the contents of these letters. He understood Mrs. James' mentality all too well. “This place is already going to hell in a handbasket, it only takes one spark to set the place on fire.”

The light turned green and Sly was off again, reviewing Clay’s words and revisiting that year where his work was cut out for him. Year 2018. Happy New Years! David O’Hara has drowned in the lake. Aside from all the interviews for the investigation, he remembered getting some downtime to go to their last games their senior year (years prior to David’s death). He got to see the Elite shine on court. It was a great time to be alive.

Before the Elite graduated, those were the golden years and now here he was with one of them trying to protect who they could, blindly. They had no idea what they were up against, what monsters lurked in the shadows and played these mind games. But if the copycat theory was true, that meant one thing, “You know we have to talk to all your friends right? The letter is a love letter. I doubt there would be multiples of the same letter laying about. I mean the original one. Not the photocopied ones we all got. David was one of your best friends and if he hid these letters to protect the one he loved, only a handful of people would know about it. Only one person would know where it was. I’m not going to assume anything, I’ll let you pick where we go, but this one is going to hit home, kid.”

“Trust me boss, I already feel like I’ve gone twelve rounds with Tyson,” Clay ruminated in his head upon Sly’s words. The older man wasn’t wrong; they would have to interview everyone. All the so-called Elite. Jamie and Russell would be easy enough to get a hold of considering they were in the eye of the hurricane. Rhett would be fine, he’d be at the bar. Fran, well last Clayton had heard from his auntie Edith, Francis was trekking through the Andes with Joaquin. So trying to get a hold of him might actually be an issue. “I guess we head to the Hole and speak to twenty one first. Save me, he was the closest to Duke.”

“I’ll do my best but I think he’d appreciate hearing this from you,” Sly glanced over to his comrade before subtly praising, “You’ll be fine. I’ve watched you long enough to know you’re stronger than most people give you credit for. They see a goofball, I see a man that cares about his town and all those living in it. Trust your instincts, Clay, and the rest will fall into place.”

It was nice to hear such kind words from Sly. Considering the best he ever got from his own father was “Nice block” when he was on the court, hearing something like that filled Clay with a warm feeling. Though it was quickly replaced by a cold, clammy feeling as he thought of the fact he now had to question the people that he was closest to, in connection with a crime that had haunted them all these years. “Well,” He turned to face his mentor for a brief moment before looking back out of the window at the town they called Edenridge. “Let’s do work.”

“All day, everyday, kiddo.”


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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by BrutalBx
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BrutalBx

Member Seen 4 days ago

@LovelyComplex & @BrutalBx
Timestamp: After Figure It Out
(sometime after lunchtime)

FT: Clayton Costigan, Avery Kaine,
Jamie Lord (O'Hara)

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“I’ll be back in a few minutes, thanks for this boss,” Clay said as he stepped out of the patrol car.

Sly had been so graceful after the interview with Rhett to allow Clay the time to stop and recalibrate and there was no better place to do this than at Swerve Arcana. It was somewhere where he could get lost amongst the pages of fictional heroes and villains. He wasn’t that big on the whole comic thing considering he himself had to deal with the real life stuff every day of his life but it was a great way to escape nonetheless.

As he looked down the street, the young officer noted a familiar face climbing into a black car. What was Wes up to? He’d been radio silent for days. Kylee too, up until today and even that was a very brief conversation. He probably owed her an apology. Had something happened? Had the mixing of business and pleasure finally blown up in their face? Clay knew that Wesley was hiding something from them all. Something wasn’t right. That would be tomorrow 's problem though. Today, it was all about those damn letters. The ones that were directed at his friend, his childhood brother, his guiltiest burden. David. It had already been a day of dredging up the past. From meeting Jamie and finding out about the letters, talking to Lamb and now being forced to interview Rhett. These were his friends, his people. Was this to he his curse as a small town cop? Uncovering the secrets and lies of the ones he loved?! Then there was Cat. He hadn’t reached out to her yet after their encounter earlier that day. He hoped he hadn’t ruined it with her already. The weeks they had shared together so far were the best of his life.

Clay passed through the doorway, narrowly avoiding the latest standee that Mr Kaine had put up to hype the latest superhero blockbuster, Divided We Stand or some shit. It was gonna be on Netflix. No doubt his current charge would want to binge it in one weekend. He glanced behind the counter to see the big blue eyed girl he called his best friend staring back at him, hands on hips like she was about to tell him off for ruining her latest shrine to the inked page. Clay jumped onto the counter and sat down, letting out a large sigh. “Hey.”

“McDungus, surprised you came to visit,” Avery closed the first volume of the new Langley series, Dread, a supernatural, small town Scooby Doo-esque story that gave her vibes of her home itself, and leaned on the counter, looking up at her friend, “Dad told me, about the letter. You okay, buddy?” The letter itself was a god awful read, too mushy for her. Definitely written by a kid but she knew it affected her bestie because of who it involved. David.

“Not really,” Clay lamented as he leaned back on his palms. “It’s funny, we’ve all been getting these damn letters for so long now. People are just ignoring them. Decker, what he did was a tragedy but he was from the other side of the line, you know? To some, it’s horrible to say, he didn’t matter. I hadn’t even heard of the kid until he did what he did. Yet it takes one letter, one sentence, a phrase and an entire world can come crashing down.” The man’s dark brown eyes trailed off blankly just staring out of the window. “That’s what this one is doing to the other side of that line, our side. David’s name is dirt. Coach, Jamie, me, we’ve suffered for his mistakes from the day he died. Now somebody is dragging it back up and for what? What purpose? I mean for God’s sake Avery I had to interview Rhett. Rhett! Fuck!”

Woah. Okay. Yeah, he was extremely affected by this. Aves glanced at the Marvel section to see Rosie re-organizing the comics, making sure they were by character. The girls briefly met each other’s gaze before Aves’ attention was brought back to Clay. After pushing herself off the counter, she shifted the Langley comic to the side and lifted herself up. Sitting next to him, she stared at the Dr. Strange lifesize cutout standup. With her calm demeanour and mellow tone, she noted, “People ignore them until it hits home.” Nudging Clay with her arm, dropping all clown behaviour, she pondered outloud her thoughts on it all. The letters, Decker, the crashing tide of the past, David. “It’s not about the writer; It’s never been about the writer, has it?”

Thinking to herself, she lightly chuckled at how all the things in this town, no matter how big or how small, affected those in it. How absolutely unbelievable things sounded, like ghost letters haunting and targeting people, and yet they were all true, in this little town called Edenridge. “I…” She contemplated the next set of words, never changing the level of her voice. Avery was such a peaceful spirit, like a warm blanket on a cold, winter’s night, always there to speak her mind but in a way that it didn’t make you feel attacked, “... remember how quick people were to judge David. Someone so beloved like David O’Hara. It took one rumor, a bad one at that, to fuck it up. If there’s one thing I’m learning about these letters, they all hold a purpose. An objective. They all show some kind of truth. At least Decker’s was more… a critique on society. This one feels… angry.”

Placing her arms behind her, Aves leaned back, staring at the fluorescent light, “I guess this might be a weird take but if I had David’s love letters and I was still hurting: what better weapon than words of the past? Force the town to reflect, say they’re all dickwads for ruining someone who in most eyes was… good. That’s my take, at least. Don’t know if that makes you feel better, though.”

“Thanks Aves,” Clay leaned forward and began to rub his eyes in stress and frustration. “I need to look at this from all angles but I think this gets solved if I find out who the girl is. We all had our suspicions,” He jumped down from the counter and glanced back outside towards Sly and the waiting patrol car. “You might be right about that. It might all be a big hoax. I really don’t know. One thing I do know is that I have to put a stop to all this. One way, or another,” He made his way towards the front door and paused for a moment. “Hey Avery, do the heroes always win? In your comic things?”

“If they do,” Avery followed suit, hopping off the counter, and in well earned self confidence, she admitted with a real, yet warm smile, “It’s usually at a great cost. So, no, Clay, they don’t. But hey.” She took her phone out of her jean jacket and swayed it in her hand, “Check your email. Couldn’t send it through text, the content was too goddamn powerful. Just a reminder of what you got waiting for you when it's all over.” She tossed her phone on the counter and shuffled her way back to her post, sending him off with some nerd shit so he can conquer his day, “Quote. The future is worth it. All the pain. All the tears. The future is worth the fight. Unquote. The Martian Manhunter. Take that and kick some ass, dude. And when it’s all said and done, tell me about it.” She casually saluted her friend, giving him the green light to make his exit, hoping she helped ease his stress a little. If not, the email certainly would.

Clay offered his best friend a salute in return. She was a dork. She was a weirdo. She was the antithesis of everything and everyone that Clay had been raised with. Yet she was the closest thing to family and a home that he had beyond his growing one with Cat. He fucking loved Avery. Pushing the door open, the foundling stepped back out into his own personal war zone. Not all heroes wear capes.

Once he left, a customer, the young lad from Godmothers pulled up with a stack of comics, an assortment of Batman. Noice. Avery resumed her day job striking up idle chatter. In that conversation, the young lad had asked for an application. “Wait, I thought you made sandwiches?”

“I do.. but I don’t know for how long. Just trying to cover my tail,” The young lad shrugged as he watched Aves ring up his comics.

Narrowing her eyes as the cash register opened, Aves inquired, “... getting fired? Also, 42.85.”

“Nah, Cat just dropped a big bomb yesterday. She’s planning on selling.”

Shooketh at this news, Avery's mouth went ajar. Was this really happening? The Godmothers was a staple in Edenridge. Everyone needed their sandwiches. With this newfound news, Avery's heart broke a little on the inside. “No fucking way! Please tell me you’re lying.”

Shaking his head, the boy knew exactly how the comic girl was feeling. He went through the waves of emotions yesterday. “Nope. She’s tired of it. I’m just hoping whoever buys it won’t kill the whole vibe. There’s no place like it.” The boy said defeatedly. Avery looked from him to her open register, only to realise she had no quarters. Just when she was going to get a roll, he shook his head politely declining it, “Keep the change, ain’t nothing but a thing.” They exchanged a few more words as soon as the token geek queen retrieved a blank application for him. The more she talked the more she came to terms with the fact that if Clay knew, he’d be upset. Did he know? When the young lad walked away, she proceeded to grab a roll of quarters and open it.

As the lad opened the door, he took a step to one side to allow the next customer to enter. He nodded to the young woman as he made his way by her. He stopped for a second to turn back and look at the newcomer into the den of the nerds. She certainly didn’t fit in there. His eyes wandered across her figure and body before he sharply existed out of Swerve, now with more than enough reading material amongst other things.

Jamie was a little confused. She had never stepped foot in this place before. It certainly wasn’t her sort of place. Not because she looked down on it like so many others do, far from it, she respected the artwork, the writing, the dedication to craft. No, it was simply not her world. She stayed in her lane because it helped her keep her composure. Structure, order and discipline were some of the tools that she used to keep her issues in check. Clay had always highly praised this place as a safe haven for the broken and the misfits. Jamie definitely felt like she had fallen into both those categories and then some. Perhaps whatever was here that Clay found solace in, she could find it to?

She took a step forward and looked upon the girl behind the counter. She was familiar, Avery, was her name. She was very close with Clayton. Prototypical of him really to have a smoking hot bestie. Jamie really didn’t know how he did it. “…erm…hi!” The young O’Hara waved awkwardly.

Hyper focused on the roll, Avery tore the paper from the middle and began loosening it up. When she heard a voice, she mumbled, distracted by the task at hand, “One second…” and during that second she caught a glimpse of who was waiting for her only to be welcomed by a sight she did not expect. “Oh my—” the next moments happened so quick. The paper ripped faster than a speeding bullet and quarters flew and fell all over the place. “—Jamie.” God, her cool points totally went down. Clearing her throat, she apologised, “My b. I uh…” Quickly, she started collecting the quarters off the counter and proceeded to walk to Jamie’s side to pick up the quarters off the floor, “... how can I help you?”

A smile crept up across Jamie’s delicate face as Avery began to fumble around for spilled coins. Brushing a loose strand of her hair behind her ear, she got down on all fours and began to help gather up the quarters “I think it’s you that needs my help right now.” She was doing her best to hide the fact that she still had a minor buzz going from the day drink with the Supreme and the Royal Flush Gang and so far it did seem to be working. Jamie always was a good actress. She scampered around to another section of the store to grab a few loose ones that had flown over there. Turning, David’s younger twin made her way back to Avery and placed all of her gathered monies in her waiting hand.

“My friend Clay? He says this is a place that’s good to tune out the noise?”

“I guess, yeah. We don’t really pretend here,” Aves placed and pushed the quarters in a central pile. Immediately afterwards, she turned to face her heart’s desire and genuinely explained, never looking away from Jamie’s perfect spring sky eyes, those eyes she could get lost in for days, “It’s a good place to get away from all the bullshit.” Taking a couple steps back, she gestured with her head for the woman whose curves were nothing but softness that stood with such elegance and grace to follow. Jamie O’Hara (or Lord now, ew) was a lady through and through and for the first time in a long time, Avery had a chance to be alone with her. “Let me ask you this, Poppins, how do you want to escape?”

Jamie brought a hand to her lip to cover her smile. Poppins. She could see why Clay liked this girl. Avery had no airs or graces about her. Even in this, the briefest of interactions she was being unapologetically her. This was something that Jamie hadn’t been in a long time. Therapy. Medication. Regimentation. They were keeping this bird in a cage and she had convinced herself that it was for own good and the good of everyone else. She was tired. Tired of so much. Jamie was worn down and ready to quit but she wouldn’t, she couldn’t. She would carry on, for her brother.

“I mean…erm,” She looked upon Avery’s freckled face and found warmth. Genuine meaning behind words that could so easily be empty. “What do you guys do to relax here? What does Clay do?”

“Nine out of ten times Clay walks into a cut out, brings his ass to this counter to talk and stuff his face with a sandwich, then checks out some hot chicks,” Though that probably wouldn’t happen anymore now that he was a taken man. It wasn’t Avery’s business to tell anyone that. Cat was still going through a divorce, after all. “He’s an exception, just comes here to distress, rant about a few things, I listen, and then off he goes back to being a hero and taking down villains. The rest of us though? We got stories, we got a game room where kids play Dungeons & Dragons and other fun things, we got an arcade, and we got each other. You want to make a fool of yourself? Go for it. I promise you I’ve done something worse. We don’t judge, we’re just here to have fun.”

Jamie couldn’t hide her laugh any more. As she burst into a brief giggle at the thought of her brother's best friend walking into a cutout or eating food like an animal. “Sounds like Clay. God’s favourite idiot, his sister calls him.” She missed Lamb. She missed Francis and Rhett. She missed David. God she missed David. Now all she had was Russell and that was nowhere near enough. Jamie considered what the freckled beauty had said; about making a fool of herself and the none judgements. Maybe that was what she needed right now? No self serving like Reagan. No pressure like from her parents. Just a little freedom.

“Show me a story?” She tilted her head a little as her face wore a subtle but bright smile.

Was she lucky or was she in another fever dream, far worse than before? Avery Kaine was finding herself melting in this woman’s presence. Jamie shot an arrow to her heart when she freely laughed. God she had such an infectious laugh. A second arrow was shot the moment Jamie tilted her head, looked down and back up from under her lashes all the while asking a question in such a gentle teasing way. Was this heaven or was this hell?

Avery now more than ever had to remind herself that her forever crush was married. There were boundaries that weren’t meant to be crossed that she so desperately wanted to cross. “Hey Ro,” She called out to her friend and coworker, “Take care of the front end for a bit, I’m heading to the back.” All her priorities shifted, no longer caring about her surroundings. Avery hyper focused on the transcendental girl beyond her reach. The mischievous geek exuded high energy as she placed her hands on her narrow waist, mirroring Jamie’s playfully coy smile with a smirk, “Why don’t we make a story together?”

There it went. She walked across the line never to look back. Now it was up to her instincts to lead her forward. Clay was such a bad influence on her but fuck, Avery wanted Jamie so fucking bad right now. Was there a small chance she wanted her too?

What was this feeling? The rush of heat in her neck and cheeks. The quickening pace of her heartbeat. This girl, this girl that her doofus friend had talked about for years was standing before her and the way she was looking at her, she was seeing her, really seeing Jamie for who she was. It was refreshing. She wasn’t looking at her as the Coach’s fragile daughter or David’s sensitive sister; she was just Jamie.

The student teacher found herself reaching out with her hand for but a second. She wanted it. She wanted to taste the freedom but then she saw yet another shackle. A golden one on the second finger of her left hand. Jamie suddenly felt the cold blade of guilt stabbing her in the heart like a curved blade. She was married. Russ had been nothing but good to her and God knew he had put up with so much. He couldn’t allow herself to fall. There was still so much yet to be done. It had to be the booze playing with her head. The sadness destroying her soul. Or maybe she was just self destructing? Maybe it was all of them combined.

Straightening herself up, Jamie felt like her own words were choking the life out of her. “Maybe next time,” She feigned a smile and a laugh, her eyes glassy as the tidal wave of overwhelment came crashing down over her shoulders again. “It was nice to finally meet you, Avery. I’ll…” She turned on her heel quickly, breathing in and out, trying to find her balance. “….I’ll get Clay to give you my number. I think I’d like to come here more often.”

The feeling of rejection sucked. The feeling of rejection from your dream girl double sucked. Even with the ache in her chest, Avery didn’t let the feeling take over her. She knew her chances were slim to none, more so because Jamie was married, and now her feelings were out in the open. Avery didn’t even know if Jamie was gay so really, that was a shot in the dark. There were two silver linings from this exchange, though. Jamie was okay with giving her number to her and she did that without Clay’s help and Jamie didn’t have to live a life full of regret, which was honestly worse than rejection.

“Hey,” Aves’ eyes softened, knowing well enough that she was the selfish one to impose herself on the other girl, having no idea what was waiting for her on the other side, “No hard feelings. I expected this actually. I mean you’re gorgeous, Jamie, so I got carried away.” Avery ran her hand through her hair, calmly containing her emotions and seemingly unbothered by Jamie’s response, “I’m always here if you need someone and I’ll know better not to tease you next time, okay?” Jamie O’Hara looked more practically perfect in every way to Avery. She was loyal, had a moral compass, and knew how to turn down a sexual advance, “I’m just glad we finally talked,” a smile rose from the geek’s lips, not daring to breach Jamie’s space, refusing to make her feel uncomfortable again, “Thanks for that.”

With her back to Avery, Jamie smiled again. Her words were sweet and the meaning behind them was so real. She bit the top of her thumbnail nervously before grabbing her hands together and moving them down to their front, more self-control. “I can see why he likes you,” She moved her body back to face the nerdy girl from the comic store and gave her a sweet and heartfelt smile. “Thank you, for this.” Jamie took a few steps forward and leaned in close. She pressed a soft, barely present kiss to Avery’s cheek before quickly making some strides back towards the door. “Til the next? I wanna hear all the stories.”

Unable to hide her dumbass emotions, Avery widely grinned. This was more than she expected from her first one on one encounter with Jamie. A kiss on the cheek? The fuck did she do to deserve that? Regardless of the logic, or lack of, behind the action, Avery boomed in excitement, “Fuck yeah! Whenever you want. I’m down.”

“Ok then,” Jamie beamed excitedly, “Make sure they’re good ones! Clayton has hyped you up something good, don’t let the idiot down,” Jamie waved elegantly before exiting out of Swerve with a grin from ear to ear.

Are we all naught but stories after all?….

“See ya, Poppins.”
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Venus
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Venus

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TIMESTAMP: Monday - Around Lunchtime
@BrutalBx@Venus@LovelyComplex


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It was going to be a good day. The sun was shining, the yacht engine was purring like a dream, he had his babies with him and Esteban Montero was about to start a grand new business venture. He had made his millions through the Encanto Hotel and Casino chain that he had begun way back when with his beloved. With locations in Las Vegas, Sydney, Havana, London amongst many others, the Encanto is a name revered across the world. Some would question why then that “El Capitan” had decided to open a new location in Edenridge, MA of all places. Surely it would’ve made more sense to do so in Boston itself? Little did many understand, Esteban didn’t make moves lightly. He had a plan. And this time, he was bringing the kids with him.

Ivelisse would be so proud.

They had lost her last year, and if ever there was a pleasant way to go, she did not get it. Young Salvador was the most torn up about it. Esteban knew this, but he had never really had an open line of communication with his son in order to help him grieve. They were two very different people, and most of the time he had relied upon Ivelisse as a mediator for them. She knew how to speak Sal’s language. The tragedy of Sal being the one to find her body at the foot of those stairs was not lost on the businessman. Salvador had never been the same since.

His sweetie, Cassandra, on the other hand, was too much like Esteban himself. The flash of emotion was just that, a flash, and soon it disappeared like a candle flame being blown out. She grieved privately and after they buried Ivelisse, it was business as usual. She was strong, smart and ready to tackle the future and find her place in la familia.

At the helm of the boat as it entered Edenridge waters, Esteban looked behind him briefly. Cassie was probably below deck as all he could see was Sal reading one of his comic books with his AirPods in. His boy was supposed to be going to college, getting his education so that he could, like his sister, find his feet in the business. But, alas, there he was: in the bow of his father’s boat about to start work as a bricklayer on the new hotel. Esteban wouldn’t dare call Sal a disappointment but he wasn’t far off.

El Legado (the “legacy”) of the Montero’s in Miami was legendary. They were hands down the biggest, strongest and most successful outfit in the state. They had their fingers in just about everything and had connections with many other organizations in the US and across the world. Edenridge was no different. One of Esteban’s sisters, the darling Lupe, was married off to a local player by the name of Reynaldo Gonzalez. Originally, it was all part of his father Raul’s early expansion scheme, but it had blossomed into a true love that even Este could not deny. The deal had always gone well, with only a few hiccups that needed outside attention. Unfortunately, now was one of those times.

Reynaldo had abdicated his throne to his son, Reynaldo Junior; and business, whilst still very profitable, had taken a turn for the more violent and messy. Add in these mysterious letters, and it left a sour taste in their collective mouths. It was never any wonder then why Raul felt the need to send some more familia to Massachusetts or back up. Esteban had brokered a deal with the Mayor of this shitstain town-- Grimm his name, a serious player in the New England territory-- to build a new hotel in exchange for it becoming a gun-running Mecca.

Easy job. Great payday. What was not to like?

“Sal? Salvador? SAL?!”

Jumping out of his chair, Salvador fell onto the floor with a mighty thump. He dropped the latest Spike Langley story and pulled out his air pods to look towards his father. “Jesus, Dad, a tap on the shoulder would’ve been fine.”

“Go and find your sister-- we’re nearly there. And clean yourself up a bit. No son of mine needs to look like he hasn’t slept in three days.”

“I haven’t slept for three days…” Sal muttered as he dragged himself to his feet and began to grumble as he walked down the stairs to the lower decks. “CASS! PUTA SUCIA! WHERE ARE YOU? WE’RE HERE!”

One could say that Cassandra Montero was a workaholic-- and they would be fairly correct in that statement. Even as a child, Cassandra had always been determined to put the effort and energy into being the best at what she did, and not spending time on things that could be perceived as unproductive. Any other young woman her age would probably be up on the family yacht’s deck, reading a gossip magazine while tanning in a skimpy bikini and sipping on a frozen drink. Instead, the woman that Salvador Montero was so bluntly calling for was nestled in a plush leather desk chair, typing away on her Macbook Air with her AirPods in the solitude of the yacht’s office. The heiress to the Montero dynasty was buried deep in her work: going over spreadsheets filled with graphs, numbers and documents outlining the business plans for her new endeavor. Not a moment was to be wasted in the pursuit of success-- especially not when she was about to take on her biggest challenge yet.

After so many years of hard work and education, Cassandra’s big break had finally arrived: becoming the Revenue Manager of the Boston branch of Encanto Hotel and Casino. In her new position, Cass would be in charge of defining and executing a hotel revenue strategy that optimized Encanto’s revenue and profits across channels. The eventual end goal, of course, was to take over her father’s role as the head of operations for the Encanto chain as a whole. But every legacy had to start somewhere, right? This was just the first step up the ladder to greatness.

“Don’t be so vulgar, Salvador,” Cass chastised her younger brother, taking a moment to pause her music, remove her AirPods and shut the lid of her MacBook to ensure her brother had her full attention. “What are you yelling about?"

“Dad said that we’re about to dock.” Sal brushed a hand through his growing dark locks as he gazed upon his older sister's head formerly deep in her PC. Their choice in distraction material was just as dismissed as the two Montero siblings were themselves. She loved to crunch the numbers, to think, to see the mathematics that make up the world. Salvador read stories of heroes and villains, epic fantasy and futurist drama. One was rooted to the Earth and the other was flying high in the sky.

“You ready for this Cass? Starting over?”

The dark-haired woman nodded solemnly. "I think the opportunity arrived at the perfect time," she responded in earnest, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. "Being around the house without her there, feeling that emptiness she left behind… It was suffocating. Moving to Edenridge wouldn't have been my first choice, of course-- you know I would've picked a more prestigious town or city. But maybe it's what we need right now. What's best for us at this time."

Ivelisse's passing had been a swift reminder that life was short, and that family was all you had. She had spent so many years absorbed in her own goals and aspirations that she had lost sight of just how valuable it was to have a relationship with her baby brother. So ever since their mother's death, Cass had been actively trying to be a more open, present, honest and compassionate sister to Salvador. Sure: she could never replace their mother. But she could make sure he knew he could count on her always.

“I mean, we have family here, Cass. Uncle Rey, Aunt Lupe, Ley, ReyRey.” The last name spoken causes a smile to cross Salvador’s lips, a rare occurrence these days. Sal loved R2. His older cousin to him was cooler than the other side of the pillow. ‘Too much machismo’, Papa would say. All bravado and no brain. But to the young Montero, ReyRey lived like there was no tomorrow, he lived his life his way. For someone like Sal, whose entire life had been controlled by the Montero name, whatever Reynaldo Junior was doing seemed like a freer way to live. “Plus, all the conspiracy sites online say this place is cursed. I’m into it, a town that dreads sundown.”

Cassandra rolled her eyes, but offered her brother a half-smile to show she wasn’t annoyed or displeased. Leave it to Sal to get himself immersed in the ghost stories of Edenridge before they had even set foot in town. “Remember what I always tell you, hermanito: believe half of what you see and none of what you hear,” the woman reminded the young man, hoping her advice would somehow stick to his developing brain. Salvador was as sweet as he was impressionable. Now that their mother was gone and since their dad had the weight of the business on his shoulders, it was her responsibility to ensure Sal kept his feet firmly planted on the ground. “And I know we have family here. I love them dearly. It still doesn’t change the fact that living in Milan, Barcelona or Rome would be a lot better than living in Edenridge, Massachusetts...” she told him, the displeasure of the city chosen as their new residence ringing clear in her voice. “But beggars can’t be choosers, I guess. I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity just because I wasn’t a fan of the location.”

Sal rolled his eyes at his sister. ”Typical Cass, money first right? Gotta make that profit.” It was a funny thing. When it came to Cass, Salvador almost naked her Gekko because in her eyes, greed was good. Yet from the minute they were born they had always had whatever they wanted, their papa had seen to that. Still, she always wanted more. More seemed to be a mantra for this family.

“It's not about the money, Sal: it's about what the location has to offer," Cassandra calmly explained to her little brother. “The cultural diversity, the entertainment options, the healthcare system, the quality of life… I've done my own research of Edenridge, and it doesn't seem like it has a particularly strong offering in any of these categories. But at the end of the day, I trust Papá's judgement. If he decided to open a hotel in this place and put me in charge, then there's bound to be a good reason for it."

As both of them walked towards the porthole, the siblings looked out to the shore to see their yacht fast approaching. They would arrive at Edenridge in mere moments. ”Game face time, sis.”

Walking down the parking lot to meet with the Mayor and his subordinate, arms crossed as her hips swayed from side to side, Esmeralda “Belladonna” Montero spoke into an earpiece. One can only assume she was speaking to an older male figure that had a lot of her respect. The Deadly Nightshade surveyed her surroundings the closer to the pier she got, having walked past Theodore Grimm’s car with his bodyguard, Sebastian, waiting and playing on what seemed to be a nintendo switch.

Cute.

“I know this is a lot to take in, but it’s going to be fine, tío,” As she reached the pier, she met the gazes of Teddy and Phoebe. She waved at them with a half smile before continuing her conversation. “Papá means well… things will go without a hitch. I’ll make sure of it.” As she listened to the voice on the other end, Esme took out her box of cigarettes from her inside jacket pocket and started hitting the top of the pack against the palm of her hands several times.

“I just worry, mija. Los Montero are a big business outfit. This is not a town for them. They will take its soul-- your Papá, mainly.” Big Rey took a final mouthful from his latte before waving his old friend Beau over for a refill. As the owner of the best cafe in town complied, Reynaldo continued. “This is my home. The last thing we need is his crew of psychopaths getting involved. When you see him or when you get the chance, let him know that the Serpents will be providing the labor for the hotel. We won’t be denying my guys the opportunity to make some money for their families. Give the bebes my love.”

“I will and I’ll keep them in check. See you soon.”

Looking fixedly forward while pressing on her earpiece to end the call, Esme took in the beautiful view as she saw her family coming closer and closer. She missed Esteban. She missed the man that took her and her sister in after her parents were brutally murdered in their own home.

It’s been too long.

Ever since Hyde got out, her work day was never over. On top of doing little jobs here and there for both the Monteros and the serpents (specifically R2 and jobs that required a careful hand on), she had to keep an eye on Ley and baby Rafael. The patrols picked up so that Hyde wouldn’t slip through the cracks but that wasn’t good enough for her cousin. He wanted Ley to have someone with her at all times. Better yet, he wanted family to protect her. Unfortunately, having Esme constantly at Ley’s side was unrealistic. That didn’t mean she wouldn’t protect the baby and Ley. Like any busy, high-on-demand, working woman, Esme prioritized and made time for her family.

Thankfully, Ley had Creed and some of R2’s other lackeys to post up, but there was always some part of her day she would relieve them of their duties. Sometimes when Ley worked at the salon. Sometimes when it got dark and Ley was suffering from panic attacks. Sometimes when Ley didn’t even know she was around. Esme made time for family. That’s just how she’s always been. With the cigarette in her mouth, she searched for a lighter before cursing, “Fuck,” when she realized she forgot it.

The Mayor stood resolute like the elder tree by the lake, resolute and strong with his hands in his pockets as his dark eyes watched the incoming yacht dance across the water towards the dock. He wondered if bringing in an outside player like El Capitan would be dangerous. Teddy had already had some prior dealings with their kin and his last with the Serpents did nothing to convince him really. This was a good deal: for him, the town, for the other shareholders like the Espositos. A safe haven for those of their kind, a place for guns and money to go in and come out clean. It was all trumps but he did wonder, how he always wondered. Alas, there was a plan if it all went wrong. The Mayor always has a plan.

“Miss Phoebe?” Teddy turned to his companion. “Please make sure that we rent our equipment for this evening's announcement from Absolute Sound. Give them a decent sized cheque. It only looks good for us to be sourcing from local businesses.”

“Yes, sir,” Phoebe was already on her phone texting Georgie, the Town Hall’s intern, the assignment. Perks of her position was she could delegate duties to others if they didn’t require a delicate and precise touch. If she didn’t think the job was easy, she’d handle it herself. All Georgie would need to do was drop the Grimm name and they’d get exactly what they needed from Uncle Eddie. Of course, it would be Valentina’s job to write the check since she was usually the one stationed at Town Hall as the welcoming face and the person the townspeople expressed their concerns to. It made sense for her to have a hand in the town’s finances.

Everyone under Teddy had their own specific duties and as far as Phoebe was aware, they were all exceptional at taking care of business, in the way he expected it to be done. Efficient with no loose ends. For the most part, they were treated well, but piss him or Julian off? That never ended well for any of them. While Teddy was like the king of this town, Julian was his proxy. The rest of the Iron Five and the other worker bees helping them maintain the Grimm brand were just that: worker bees. Sebastian, Valentina, herself? They were glorified soldiers, but soldiers nevertheless, all working in the same hive.

Bringing her attention from her phone to her boss to the poisonous enchantress searching for her lighter, Phoebe slipped her phone in her inside coat pocket. Strolling forward, Phoebe approached the dangerous woman and pulled out a lighter. She didn’t smoke; however, it was convenient to have for this exact reason. Sliding her thumb downward, quickly turning the wheel to strike the flint, her elegant gold zippo lighter, with a Phoenix design etched on it, sparked, ready for Esme’s use. “Need a light?”

“Yeah… thanks,” Esme eyed the other woman, placing the cigarette in her mouth. Bending over, she lit the butt and then leisurely straightened herself, taking a deep drag. With a heavy exhale, the smoke seeped out, away from Phoebe’s face, and there Belladonna smiled, “I like your lighter. A Phoenix, huh?”

“It was my grandfather’s. He was big on the whole rise from ashes, symbolic thing,” Phoebe admitted, having a fond attachment to the mythical beast herself because of him. Bash did say she was a fire brand. Maybe in her own little way she was acknowledging that the Phoenix was part of who she was. Maybe in her own little way she was keeping her grandfather alive by believing in his ideology. Maybe in her own little way she thought a Phoenix was a breathtaking mosaic of the battles it has won. To her, she kept close to the heart the idea that a Phoenix stood for the power of believing in oneself and one’s abilities with absolute conviction. That power which allows him to rise and soar. Maybe that’s why Theodore Grimm gave her the job because he saw her burning and he liked it.

Flicking the ashes away from them, Esmeralda carefully observed the curious and highly attractive woman (she wasn’t afraid to admit that Phoebe Masterson was hot) talk about her grandfather with so much passion. She made a mental note on Ms. Masterson before her eyes and ears fell on the boat. Taking a step forward, Esme took another quick drag before doing away with the cancer stick. Smiling from ear to ear, Belladonna waved at her family.

It’s been too long.

As the Motor Yacht Tranquilo made final preparations, the deckhands jumped onto the docks to officially tie the gorgeous beast to the Edenridge harbor. Esteban released both the wheel and a deep breath at the same time. He glanced out to the shore and could see his little Esme waving at him. She was such a gorgeous creature, who reminded him so much of his darling sister Steffi, her mother. Gone, but certainly not forgotten.

Departing the bridge, El Capitan took the jacket he had hung over a nearby chair and placed it around his shoulders to complete the combination of his beautiful, white three piece suit. Esteban had no fear of standing out as a beacon in the wretched hive of scum and villainy that was known across the universe as Edenridge, Massachusetts. He descended the steps of El Tranquilo and took his first step onto the foil soil of this cursed New England town.

“Theodore! Cómo estás? My friend, it is good to see you!” With a charming smile on his mustachioed face and arms wide open, Este reached forward and shook the Mayor's hand, sealing it with his other hand atop it.

Teddy shook his new business associate's hand with the warm grin that had earned him the votes of the populace. “Esteban: welcome to Edenridge. We are very happy to have you here,” He glanced at the two youngsters climbing off of the host behind their father. The girl carried herself gracefully-- Cassandra? She was going to help with the hotel management. She had the air of authority about her: strong like her father. The boy, Salvador… Not so much. He fumbled with all the bags, almost tripped over his own feet and nearly ended up in the water. If the deal with the Monteros went sour, those two would be Teddy’s aces in the hole. If they crossed him, no one was getting out of this town alive.

He could hear the car door behind him close as Bash climbed out to survey the area and so his job of protecting them. Teddy released his trip from Esteban and turned to the beautiful young lady standing to his right. “This is Miss Masterson. If you need anything during your stay, please don’t hesitate to contact her.”

Already tired of carrying all the bags, Sal dropped them onto the floor and collapsed on top of them as if he had been carrying the weight of the world. He looked towards Esme and have been a soft wave. “Hola prima.”

“Hey you,” Esme’s brown eyes lit up as she rested them on Sal’s goofy face. Her eyes matched her captivating smile. Warm, inviting, and mature. She glanced over to her other cousin, the cutthroat one that never liked her, and gave a polite nod, “Cassandra, it’s good to see you.”

“Always a pleasure, Esme,” Cassandra acknowledged through gritted teeth, putting up her best polite facade to mask her lack of excitement. It wasn’t a secret that Esteban’s oldest had been less than thrilled when her father had decided to adopt her two cousins after the deaths of their parents. Initially, she had thought it would be great to have two more girls in the family: sisters she could relate to and confide in. But it didn’t take long for Cass to notice the negative effects these two new additions had in the preexisting relationships of the Montero household. Her father, whose time with the family was already limited enough as it was because of the business, now spent those moments managing Esperanza’s condition and treating Esmeralda like the new heiress to the legacy. Although Cass tried to remember that these were two girls who had just lost their parents, bitterness and jealousy were quick to set it, resulting in the reluctance to create anything other than cordial bonds with the sisters. It didn’t seem fair to her that she’d worked so hard to prove her worth to Esteban, that they had a plan for her professional development, and Esme was able to just waltz in and take up the time meant for Cass. She kept her mouth shut about it, of course: because whining has never been her style, and her accomplishments spoke louder than words. But it didn’t take a genius to sense the tension in the air whenever the girls were within each other’s vicinity. Let’s just say that Cass wasn’t too crestfallen when Esme moved to Edenridge and Espie got sent away.

Belladonna wasn’t going to interrupt her uncle while he talked business. At least not right now. She did need to tell him to use the SSS as his labor crew. That could wait, though. Istead of inserting herself verbally in their conversation, she went to Esteban and gave him a swift kiss on the cheek before aiding her younger cousin with his belongings. “I hope your travels weren’t too rough,” Esme looked between Sal and Cassandra, before bending over and grabbing some of Sal’s bags.

“It was what it was, just glad to finally be on dry land.” Sal looked over at his sister who had been a nightmare the entire trip. He really hoped this would be a new start for them but he couldn’t help but feel like he was the problem. Father and Cass had already gotten over his mother’s death. Sal was struggling, really struggling. Every time he closed his eyes, all he could see was her at the foot of those stairs, her neck twisted and the blood seeping from her mouth, nose and eyes. He shook out the memory as he walked towards the waiting car.

Phoebe stepped forward offering her delicate hand to the Montero kingpin. “Pleasure to meet you,” the beauty with smooth caramel skin glowed in the sunlight as she put her best professional face on, “I’ve forwarded all the necessary contact information, which includes our whole team. If you have more pressing matters that need to reach Mr. Grimm, Julian Knight is your point of contact. Anything you want, I can get you. The heart of Boston is only an hour drive so if our home doesn’t have everything you need to accommodate your stay, making it feel more like home, I’m sure the city will. If you haven’t eaten yet, I’d suggest the Godmothers. Her sandwiches are to die for.”

Esteban leaned forward and kissed the top of the young woman’s hand that she had offered. “Well thank you, chica hermosa. I look forward to working with you.” He released her and returned his attention to the Mayor. “Señor Grimm, I hope you don’t mind, but I would like to take my family to our home swiftly. Our journey has been long. We can discuss the matters of business at your announcement tonight?”

“Of course. Understandable.” Teddy nodded his head as he and Esteban shook hands again. “We will see you this evening. Come, Miss Masterson. Let us allow the family to enjoy their reunion.” The Southside Reaper brushed a hand across her back as they walked back towards the waiting Bash and the car. “Keep your eyes on him. We shall give him an inch but she shall not take a yard.”

Esteban watched as his new associates walked away with a smile upon his face. Onto new business, he turned and made his way towards his children and his niece. He opened his arms a little as he greeted Esme. “Hello sweetie.”

Having situated Sal’s bags in an organized fashion, Esme turned to her uncle and went into his open arms, “It’s good to see you.” She let his warm embrace hold onto her for a long minute, realizing how much she missed his tender affection. In her mind, Esteban was the last reminder of who her parents were as people. The last remnants of their memory that faded from her mind the older she got. “Are you excited to be in the Bay state? It’s not Miami, but it has its charm. I will say Edenridge especially is full of… excitement.” Especially with the development of the letters haunting the whole town. Someone was digging the past out of Edenridge soil and they were having a blast doing it.

’Excitement’? Cassandra expertly suppressed a snort. That’s one way to look at it…

If he was perfectly honest, New England would not be Esteban’s first choice but it was his job to follow the money and right now that trail of green led him to the home of the Celtics and the black herd of sheep in his family that they called the Gonzalez. Were it not for his darling sister Guadalupe’s marriage to one Reynaldo Gonzalez many years ago, the Montero would have no connection to this place and El Capitan definitely would not have sent Esme to this infierno. When he took her and Espie in upon the death of their parents, he promised to do everything he could to protect them, to support them and to love them. Not that they needed it. Both girls had grown into extraordinary young women and he was so very proud.

“I’ve heard of this excitement,” Esteban smiled. “Salvador has been keeping us updated by following local news outlets. Like I’ve always said, el conocimiento es poder.” He tapped the side of his head before wrapping his arm around the ever-impassive Cassandra. He looked to Esme and Sal and then turned his attention to the Edenridge skyline. A storm was coming. “Shall we go? We have a lot of work to do.”

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TIMESTAMP: After Paradise Lost Collab


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Narrowing her list down to four girls in her class, Jillian O’Brien, Lanie Lancaster, Caitlin Cleary, and Alexandria Davies, Kylee closed her laptop and leaned back in her chair at the library. He still hadn’t texted her. She was trying to not be the one to give in because if she kept doing that, he’d never learn, but the clock ticked, and the unsettling feeling of him not needing her was blinding at this point.

Was she really that insignificant?

He couldn’t even send a good morning text.

Clenching her teeth at her sinking heart, realizing more by the hour her father was right, he always was, Kylee sat there aimlessly staring at a bookshelf. For the time they dated, when they were physically together, Wesley Silo made her feel special. Occasionally Wes got distracted by his phone but he was still there. The moment she left him, his side, the moment she wasn’t with him, all the doubt she buried so well crawled out and caused her to go to a place she hadn’t visited awhile.

The dark place.

Stupid, she was stupid.

Why didn’t she question him? Why didn’t she demand him to tell her his secrets? Kylee knew he had them. She knew he wasn’t ready to open up to her. But why? Why wasn’t she good enough to know? It sucked. This feeling sucked. This was her fault for falling again. Falling again for the wrong one. Time and time again, she fell for the wrong one.

First was Pierce, who was a wonderful friend, but who knew she couldn’t love him and he couldn’t love her the way they both deserved. He was there for her whenever she needed him. They did all the things couples did and even though those things didn’t make her heart flutter, he was good for her. He was safe.

Pierce was everything she thought she deserved but then, suddenly, he wasn’t. He was a boy who lived in an abusive family that fought the most heartbreaking thoughts, apologizing for dragging Kylee down with him. All he wanted to do was keep his sister safe but through that fear, through that pain, and anxiety, he found solace in Jakob Torres, who died the same day, in the same room, at the same time inches away from her.

Second was Natalia, who was such an admirable headstrong girl, but who still loved a boy in a way that she could never love Kylee. She was good until she wasn’t. There was so much spark in the beginning, so much fire. They explored each other’s bodies, minds, and even souls, but not enough where Kylee felt satisfied. Deep down, she just knew no matter what she did, she would never be good enough.

How could she give in? Give all herself when she couldn’t stop thinking about her ex’s bloody face? Not getting in her dream school was an excuse. Natalia was beautiful, driven, and so, so very smart. It was just, senior year was hard to love someone when she found it hard to love herself. And she knew, she knew by Christmas, she could never love Natalia the way she deserved, but neither could Natalia. Natalia still had feelings for Niles Sinclair, even though she tried so hard to hide it.

Now Kylee was with Wes and the cycle repeated. There were bruises on her ego while she tried, and tried, and tried, to figure out what he was about. She was once again put in a place where she felt undeserving of his love. He clearly didn’t want her like she wanted him. He clearly didn’t want her.

Not too far off, quick Russian could be heard. Kylee snapped out of her depressive stupor to see the woman she named Jane saying things under her breath and walking from one aisle to the next. Back to reality, Kylee noted the time and realized she was here longer than expected. Once she packed her things, she took her leave. Getting fresh air could do her some good.

Edenridge.

Home.

Finding his way back to the town of his birth had been a whole journey but Adam Callahan was doing best to keep on moving forward. Rolling down the street in his skateboard, camera in hand, he passed by scenery he had not seen in years. When he and his father moved to Pinehurst a few years ago, it became very apparent the senior Callahan wanted to cut out everything that reminded him of where they came from, in spite of the fact that their family helped found the town. Though it was also the case that his father didn’t mind using that Foundling status to his advantage financially.

The memory of the day they left still resonated with Adam. He had been out all day with Roddy, his cousin. When the duo got back to Rod’s house, they walked in on their fathers, brothers Thomas and John, locked in a heated row about their long dead older sister, Mary. Neither man was small or weak, they were big strong Irish men whose faces had turned crimson red, fists balled, chests puffed out and flares of malice and hatred darting between those Callahan eyes. Tom was the bigger brother, so when he slapped the taste out of his little brother's mouth, the room shook. He then grabbed Adam by the back of his neck and they stormed out. Within hours, their car was packed and they were out of town.

Sure, they only moved several miles down the road but it might as well have been an ocean. Adam’s older brother Andrew was married to Clari Osso at this point so he stayed in Eden and was Adam’s only real point of contact in the town. He tried to maintain his other links but Thomas had ways of isolating his young son. The most Adam could manage was a message to Rod or his brother here and there. He did follow the news though and the myriad of tragedies that befell the sleepy hamlet of Edenridge. Adam loved the supernatural and went on several ghost hunts with his friends before he moved. He was sure that the brown was cursed and took his own isolation as his part in it. After a while, it became easier just to go along with it, at least until he was old enough to fight back. Now there he was. Home again after five years, with a shitty apartment in Westbrook and a recent successful job application to his old English teachers coffee shop. The life right?

Lost behind the lens of his video camera as he rolled down the street, Adam didn’t realise he had just entered into a collision course.

With her laptop bag around her arm, one arm carrying a couple books, and her hands preoccupied with note taking, Kylee walked on the sidewalk outside the library. She held a small composition book that housed her thoughts, her theories, and her concerns. She didn’t want to forget a single thing that popped in her head so taking notes on her phone and in small travel notebooks became absolutely necessary in a day of the life of Kylee Grimm.

Her mind constantly moved a mile per hour. This had been the case for the littlest Grimm since she learned how to walk. Prudence would compliment her curiosities, ideas, and questions, encouraging Ky’s mind and tending to it like a blossoming garden. It was Prue who got her in the habit of writing what she saw, what she heard, and what she thought down. From her dream journal to her planner, Kylee wrote everything down. It was the best remedy for a girl who couldn’t stop the cogs from turning. The greatest weapon one could have was a pen and paper.

Puckering her lips in thought, tapping her pen on her notebook, Kylee took a moment to quickly glance up to make sure she wasn’t going to walk into someone, like she’s done to Wes countless times. The moment she did, she saw a boy zooming on his skateboard, straight toward her. Alarmed, Kylee was caught between fight or flight. She wasn’t prepared for this at all. The last time someone skateboarded around these parts were YEARS ago. There were better places to skate! In most people’s cases they would jump out of the way but there Kylee was, a deer in headlights, waiting for her inevitable doom. Fight, flight, or freeze. She certainly was frozen. Oh how her dad would not be proud.

Finally seeing a wave of brunette hair in his path, Adam moved his camera to his side and slammed his foot down, effectively putting the brakes on his board (if it had any). He stopped inches from the girl in his way and spun out. He managed to maintain his footing as his board rolled off into the bushes of the library. With his elbow he clipped the girl and her pile of books fell onto the floor.

In milliseconds, Adam was down collecting them. “I’m so so sorry,” He apologised. “I was in my own world just filming. You’re not hurt are you? I promise I….” He stopped when he stood back up to his full height and caught sight of the face of the girl he had just assaulted. He knew her. And well! Big brown eyes and an angular face. She was someone he hadn’t seen in a very long time. “Kylee?”

The scene was set and Kylee went from frozen to shock. No longer holding her composition book and the books she checked out from the library, she watched the boy in front of her collect her books, or try to until he saw her. Squinting her eyes and subtly shaking the shock away, Kylee tried to gain her composure so she wasn’t staring at her old friend like a dumdum. “Hi,” she smiled, her shock was so high that she didn’t even know how to talk to him. Hi was a good start. How unexpected. Her big, brown eyes went from his handsome Callahan face (y’know those features that most girls couldn’t resist) to her books. Oh, yeah. She should… yes. Going to the ground, she finished collecting the rest of her things, placing her hand on her small composition book.

“Wow,” Adam took a step back to give the girl some space. He had just nearly trucked her after all. “Five years and the most I get is hi…also the wow was a two pronged, other prong was because you look amazing.” Kylee had been best friends with his cousin Roddy and for the most part, Adam was the third musketeer. He could never be around them all the time because of his dad but when he was, he loved every second of it. When he moved not so quietly in the night, he never did get the chance to say goodbye properly to the mayor's daughter. He had to get Roddy to do it. Which probably didn’t go well since Roddy barely spoke at the best of times and had the emotional range of a toaster. Robo Rod still on his mission from the future to be awkward as fuck all the time.

The thing was, Adam knew Kylee. If she haven’t changed in the years they’d been apart, she was likely processing. For someone as clever and as bright as she was. Sometimes it took her a little while to get there. He waited until their eyes met again and he offered up a toothy goofy smile “Hi Velma.”

Any other day, Kylee would cry and embrace him. Any other day. It hit her face and a tint of pink could be seen on her cheeks. He was back? When did he get back? She was standing up now with her things, hugging them close, as if those books were a comfort thing to her, protecting her from him leaving her again, like everyone else did. Her guard was undeniably visible and the atmosphere, her whole vibe, could cut like a knife. He caught her at a bad time. Kylee Grimm was not doing good at all. Of course something like this would happen. “Hi Adam, it’s good to see you,” Her voice cracked. Stop it, Kylee. ”I, um, I was heading this way…” Swiftly, she walked past him in a direction. He could follow her or he could not. His choice.

Ok. This was a little weird. “Erm yeah…” Adam ran to the bush to grab his board and placed it under his arm before he swiftly followed the Grimm girl. Ky was not herself or at least how he remembered her. Perhaps she had changed? Maybe she had no interest in rehashing their old friendship? It had been a long time and he had basically been missing that entire time with little to no communication with those he left behind. “I’m sensing today is not the best day for me to suddenly reappear.”

As they walked, slowly approaching the corner of the street, Kylee whispered, “Was I not a good friend to you?” Was she really not worth the goodbye? She held her books tighter, not looking at Adam, not even looking straight ahead. She looked toward the ground and the darkness overtook her. Kylee may have left the library but she took the dark place with her. Everything about her was melancholy. If this were a cartoon, she’d have a rain cloud over her head. There was a storm brewing in Edenridge, but the forecast predicted it to be more towards the evening. No, this rain cloud was just Kylee’s depression that she couldn’t pretend to hide.

There it was. That Grimm veil that sometimes reared its head. Adam remembered that and he remembered one of the few to be able to pull her out of it was Roddy, who by all accounts didn’t live there anymore. “You were the best friend, Ky.” It was one of his biggest regrets, not being able to say goodbye. “The old man put me on lockdown. I couldn’t do anything. No phone, no computer, whenever I did use it I had to do it in his presence. You know how he was.” Thomas Callahan was not a good man and his children suffered. He was the polar opposite of his brother but his sons were lucky that their uncle would try to instill in them the goodness that their father was lacking. “I’m sorry.”

“How long are you even here for?” Kylee turned to face him, rooting her feet to the ground. There was so much pain and hurt behind her beautiful, brown eyes.

Adam stopped with her and hugged his skateboard and camera tightly. “As long as it takes for me to save up some cash,” he lamented. “The old man is out of my life now, I’ve got no money. Didn’t get into college. So I’m here to work, get paid and then grab this thing.” He waved his video camera “and head off in search of big adventure, just like we always talked about.”

In Grimm fashion, the sadness started fading, masked by a cutthroat coldness. Subconsciously, Kylee was shifting her gears. Having Adam back could be useful. She was doing an investigation alone today because Clay was in his feelings. This could be the kind of distraction she needed. There was no point brooding over things she had no control over. Wesley? It was his fault for not talking to her. If that’s how he wanted to play, two could play it like that. She didn’t need him. He was lucky to have her. “What are your plans today?” Her tone was firm and harsh. And for the briefest of moments, her expression shadowed one similar to her father’s.

“Alright, so your creepy Grimm split personality thing is still a thing. Good to know.” Adam looked out at the stretch of Main Street that Kay out in front of him and Kylee before returning his attention to her. “Well I was just getting my bearings, seeing what’s changed and such. I’ve only been back a few days,” His face morphed into another grin. “But I remember that look and you have a plan. It’s the same one you used to have when you’d drag me and Rod to Hanging Hill or the sewer system in search of secret tunnels to the lab.”

“Well, you decided to come back at a perfect time,” Kylee’s smile widened as she tilted her head, closing the door of the dark place, forcing herself to stay in the moment. “We have a lot to catch up on, but first, we got to intrude on the lives of northie girls.” She stepped closer to Adam, breaking the distance so he could look deep into her eyes, and see how deadly serious she was, “Want me to forgive you? Let’s start with an adventure.”

This was the Kylee of old. The strong one. The mad one, the one with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, adventure and mystery. This was the Kylee had crushed on from the moment Roddy introduced them on his misguided quest to see if there were trolls under Milligan Bridge (there weren’t but there was a homeless man called Alan, nice guy). "You know I’m always up for an adventure, lead the way boss.”

Shaking back her hair, she shifted her books into one arm and playfully reached for his cheek, squeezing it, “Good, because this case has everything to do with your cousin.” In a seemingly better mood, or at least able to compartmentalize all her negativity, Kylee was upbeat and off to the races. Turning on her heel, she was marching forward into the unknown, like she had done many times when they were little, “Do you know anything about what’s been happening lately? Like the letters?”

Wait cousin? Rod? No he was gone. Lamb? Nope. … was it Clay? Course it was fucking Clay. “Just what’s been on the news. They don’t really show a lot of Eden stuff in Pinehurst. Even our local news outlets despise each other.” Adam opened up his camera again as he followed Ky and began filming. “I did speak to one of my new neighbours this morning and they mentioned a letter about that O’Hara guy, David? The one that drowned in the lake.”

“Also Clay’s best friend,” Kylee instructed, crossing the street, making glances here and there to her old, childhood friend. Jeez, AC had a lot of catching up to do. Sparknotes time! “Well, you know about the letters, so that’s good. Like a month or so ago, the first incident revolved around Allison Davies. Someone got a hold of Decker’s journal and is playing games with the town, and that one, phew, was a doozy. Allison was miserable because she had nothing going for her beyond highschool, turned to drugs, slept with her best friend’s boyfriend, which I mean, I don’t blame her! Her boyfriend was sleeping? Kissing? Doing something with a boy that day of the party. Well that was fun! But here’s the kicker, this specific letter isn't written by Decker. No, it’s a love letter to David. His drowning hit the news, but I don’t know if you would know about the rumors of him fucking someone underage?”

“Fuck my ass.” Adam had to remember to edit that bit out later in post. “So O’Hara might be a diddler and this girl is…was sending him love letters? Meaning that realistically if the rumours are true, it was consensual which is a completely different can of worms to be opened.” The skaterboy began to run the maths in his head to connect the dots. He had missed a lot in his time away. The reward for having a psychotic father. Something he knew deep down Kylee could appreciate, even if she never wanted to admit her father was dirty. “And you want to go interview Northie girls, meaning that you have suspects”

“Four specifically. Mostly cheerleaders and one Lexie Davies. All my year.” There was a bounce in Kylee’s step, being able to talk about everything in her mind was always something that made her feel better. “I was at the cafe earlier talking to Beau and analyzing the letter. There’s just this weird familiarity about it and that handwriting. I’ve seen it before. Like a weird sense of deja vu.” She nodded to herself as if she was the smartest person on the planet. “So I’m going with my hunch that if David indeed slept with someone younger than him it would be in my year, or the year above, but the way some of the words curve… I just know deep down, she is in my year. Process of elimination from when we all wrote on the chalkboard for class, or when we passed our essays forward, there are five girls with the best penmanship. What makes this even better is that MOST are cheerleaders, which makes total fucking sense since David was big hot shot basketball player. I think I want to focus on the cheerleaders before I even consider Lexie. I think she just writes super nicely.”

Typical Kylee, she had already done most of the legwork in the investigation. When they were kids hunting for ghosts and ghouls, she would turn up at Rod’s, notes and books in hand with the entire history of the world written down. Adam was just the camera guy and Roddy just knew his way around. It was a weird little set up but it worked for them. “I too would like to focus on the cheerleaders,” He teased. “Maybe we get you into one of their outfits, so you can get into their heads,” Adam had to subdue a laugh. “I’m kidding of course. Whose first on your list?”

“Well by process of elimination, I’m taking Lanie and Lexie off the list. Lanie is with Rod’s and she never gave me the vibe that she’d mess with one of the Elite and Lexie; Well we’re leaning to the cheerleader theory and I don’t even know if she’s back in town yet. She also seems too smart for her own good so I doubt she’d get with an Elite either, especially if that made her seem more like her sister, then nah man.”

The wheels were turning and Kylee was now on a warpath to find out who was the face behind the letter. “That leaves Jill O’Brien and Caitlin Cleary. I’m more comfortable with Jilly so let’s start with her. The letter was like some Romeo & Juliet bullshit and I absolutely hated it. I really hope it wasn’t Jilly. I might judge her a little. Okay, I might judge her A LOT.”

For a moment, Adam was lost in thoughts of the red haired O’Brien as he remembered her in high school before switching back to reality. “Well, I'm pretty sure I saw Jill today actually. You can’t mistake that hair. She had her tongue down some goth girl's throat whilst leaning against a badass car. So I guess we’re going to Westbrook?”

“Oh yeah, her and Mei Ramsey are totally a thing now. I love that for them, honestly. Mei and Clay have been keeping me busy since Roddy moved… I miss him,” Deeply sighing, Kylee sauntered down the sidewalk and brought her attention to all her books, “Oh shoot. I should stop at home. I don’t want to be taking My Sister, The Serial Killer, One of Us Is Lying, and Alias Grace wherever I go, heh. I mean I love me some murder, but I don’t want the library to slit my throat for damaging their books.”

“I don’t know whether to be confused or turned on. Mei and Jill! That’s hot,” Of course the turned a little more serious when Kylee mentioned his cousin. She adored Rod. “I mean, if we’re heading to Westbrook anyway, you can leave your stuff at mine? I just got a place there. It’s not much but it’ll keep it safe and save you having to walk to creep manor.”

Gently, she nudged his arm in agreement, beaming up at him, “Sounds like a plan. Now let's go solve this mystery!”
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Hidden 1 mo ago 1 mo ago Post by metanoia
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metanoia I want to..WIN!

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TIMESTAMP: Flashback, Previous Wednesday (July 14th)






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For nearly a week, or it might’ve been closer to two -- Marco couldn’t say, but it’s been around that amount of time since Marco has been pulling afternoon and early evening shifts at the Godmother. Seems like ever since last month that he and Danny not only had a talk that they so desperately needed to have and rekindled their relationship in a way that felt so new and refreshing, yet more of the same bliss he remembered from way back in high school, he has been getting more and more involved with his family in some way. He has spent days over at Danny’s place -- including helping with Rye’s welcome home celebration and kicking ass at Mario Kart, then almost getting discovered by Taz, of all people..

Yeah, that was fun.

But in addition, when he went to apply at The Godmother (at both Danny and his mother’s insistence). Truth be told, he suspected they were working together to get him out of the house more, though his mother was less forward with it. Danny was polite when he wanted to be, but when it came to Marco, he was very forward. Marco loved that about him (among other things). And it wasn’t like he wasn’t thinking about applying at the Godmother. As many times as he has gone there either with friends or by himself to pick up sandwiches (again not just for himself), Marco knew the menu inside and out. He has ordered there enough times to know the specials, to know which sandwiches were better than the others, and when the right time of day was to get the best tasting sandwich. Food was a passionate hobby of his, so maybe that was part of it, but he just really loved the sandwiches Cat made.

So when he applied, he didn’t realize just how soon he’d be working.

And it was absolute hell. The puppy being worked like a dog by Cat. No doubt it was a Belmonte trait shared between Danny and Cat because between his dieting and exercising in the morning and his shifts in the afternoon and evening (not always consistent depending on the day), Marco was getting double the exercise in.

Since he started working, Marco has been getting to know the in and outs of the way the store works. It was a grueling process, but eventually the information was soaked into Marco’s brain like a sponge. Perhaps coming over all of the time and occasionally being able to see Cat make it gave him a leg already in the process was part of it, but that wasn’t just it. Marco’s added investment to want to do well, even in that first week, was pushing him.

Today was no different.

Today, as it was his first day being at the head of sandwich-making duties, Marco had been like a well-oiled machine, taking orders, making sandwiches, and handing them out one by one.

And then came someone else. A friend of sorts.

Well, maybe not a friend as Marco couldn’t say she was that close to, but last month he remembered seeing her at that Carlisle house before he left when Lanie did. “Poppy!” Marco greeted the brunette. “Welcome to the Godmother!” He proclaimed with a wide smile, his tone matching it. At this point, that’s been his go-to whenever anyone walked through the doors. Was it too formal? Maybe, but it was too late to turn back now! “What can I get ya? Wait..you just got here. Maybe you need some time.”

It’s been four days since she met with Shannon and threw away all her face masks. Penelope James was on her lunch break from her morning shift at Cafe Rochambeau. It was too hot to take Charlie’s jacket with her so she left it in the back room of the cafe. All those that worked with her she trusted, like Adam Callahan, cousin to Roddy and Clay. He was a cool guy that loved to skate and film ghost shit. He would’ve been in their year if his dad didn’t move to Pinehurst. Based on the conversations they shared, he was back in town for good, missing his family and all the lost time. Plus, someone had to take care of Kylee, his mutual friend with his cousin(s).

Without her jacket, Poppy wasn’t dressed extravagantly. She wore an apron most of the day, now that Beau was nudging her to do more front end duties at the cafe, so all she wore currently was faded jeans, a black and white striped shirt, and old converse shoes. Around her neck was her teardrop necklace with her sister’s ashes, her hair was in a messy bun, and she wore a metallic bracelet on her right wrist to help with the occasional pain. When Marco addressed her, she sheepishly smiled. The social anxiety was still there especially with people she barely knew but she was managing. Putting a strand of loose hair behind her ear, she stepped forward, “Can…” she cleared her throat, nervous and overthinking her words, even looking away from Marco’s gaze and focusing in on the menu above him, “Can I have… the mozzarella and tomato one? The… sorry if I butcher this… mozzarella di… bufala e… pomodoro… yeah that one.”

Caterina Belmonte was walking in one of the grocery aisles with a clipboard doing inventory when she heard Sly James’ daughter attempt the Italian name of her sandwich. She poked her head and chuckled, “Just call it the dream panini. I only put Italian on the menu to educate people, but it’s okay if you want to stick with the fun name. Oh, which reminds me.” Cat walked out of the aisle and to the two kids that were in her brother’s year, “Sorry for interrupting, Penelope, it’s good to see you by the way! Your dad is always gloating about you and how proud he is.” Such a pretty little thing too. Cat gleamed at the young lady, noticing how far Pops has come since that crippling day at the school.

Hearing those words put a small smile on Pops’ face as she watched Cat do her boss thing with Marco, “I’m branching out a bit from my usual menu, exploring sandwich options. Let’s say next Monday you help me come up with some creative names for them.” That wasn’t a question. It was a subtle demand. “It’s all about simplicity, but make it catchy. See when I come here, I’m seeking the italian side of things, so I’d get the Mozzarella di Bufala e Pomodoro, but when people like Penelope here come in, she’s looking for something that makes their mouth water or as my dad would say: Fa venire l’acquolina in bocca! So boom, the Dream Panini. Gotta’ have it!”

Marco was used to the fast pace. He still moved a bit slower than he would like, but he’s gotten better at it. Cat has been patient with him (thank God it was a trait she shared with Danny). He found a consistent rhythm that not only worked for him in his less-than-ideal physical state, but it seemed to work for the well-oiled machine that was routinely checked on by Cat and anyone else high up on the chain of command. Everything Cat was saying made a lot of sense. It may have been an Italian deli, but sometimes it didn’t hurt to go outside the norm to keep people guessing. That was something Marco came up knowing both from his Aunt Maeve in Ireland and his Abuelo, who to nobody’s surprise was an amazing cook!

“I can totally come in early! Maybe an hour before my shift.” Marco said as assembled the sandwich and put in the panini press. Even before starting his job at the Godmother, Marco had experience with a panini press. He glanced up at Poppy, still flashing a smile despite some sweat already forming on his face. He grabbed the towel around his neck and wiped it away. “Shouldn’t be any longer than five minutes!” He could smell it and God, he was salivating internally.

Cat didn’t want to take him away from his customer, and former classmate, so she dismissed herself, “Good, that’s the attitude I love to see,” and went back to the aisle she once was at.

When they were left alone again, Penelope tilted back and forth on her tip toe to her heel, and repeat. She was never close to Marco. They walked past each other in the hallways, shared some classes together, sat far from each other in the cafeteria, and simply existed in the same space. Never did they have a reason to talk. They weren’t ever paired for class projects either. Sometimes it be like that.

One thing she would remember about Marco Brady is junior year in Beau’s class, they had to do a character analysis on any character that spoke to them. He chose Rock Lee from Naruto and his presentation was so heartwarming, humorous, and happy. He was so excited and unapologetically him, and she would never forget that. She was sure she wasn’t the only one that thought about random moments with her peers. That was one of them.

Clearly, sandwiches weren't the only reason she chose to come here today. Her father had told her that Marco had started working here and commented on his leg, excited to see his improvement. Like her, her father felt guilt from the actions of Charlie. Both believing they had some blame to share over the descent of Charlie’s mental health. Even with all that being said, her father really did love all the youngins’ in Edenridge, regardless of the side of the railway they lived on. He saw promising futures in all of them when most didn’t themselves. Her dad was a good guy and as much as she hates the thought that he was the one to pull the trigger, he was doing his job. At the end of the day he was doing his job. “Hey Marco…” Penelope cautiously breached, stepping closer to the counter so no one else could hear her.

Marco leaned a bit more over the edge of the counter. One, it was to get just a little closer to where Poppy was standing so he could, of course, hear her better, but his left leg was killing him. Not as bad as it had been in the months prior. Between Danny constantly making sure that his leg was feeling okay and doing mostly leg exercises like running and extensive stretching and then Cat working him like a dog, it still bothered him from time to time. No doubt that came across in his expression as he grimaced slightly. He kept his smile for the most part, though. Marco had that to an artform. Regardless how he was feeling, he could fake a smile, but recent weeks had him smiling for real. “Yeah? Did you want to order something else in addition to the sandwich?” He asked, wondering if she wanted some chips or something. Usually a sandwich came with that, but maybe she was hungry. He leaned closer, looking over his shoulder briefly for Cat and said in a lower tone, left hand covering the side of his mouth that was facing the rest of the kitchen, “I could give you a slight discount on some chips.”

As much as she appreciated the offer, her worry was causing her to lose her appetite. Penelope was still going to take the sandwich and if she couldn’t eat it, she was sure to give it to someone else. “No, thank you… that’s not it.”

Rooting her feet to the ground, Penelope looked at the boy in front of her, her eyes saddening at the thought that someone so sweet, so smiley, and so laid back as Marco had to go through so much pain. “I’m sorry…” She deeply gulped, nervous and shaky. “I know you might not want to hear this from me but, I'm the best person you’re gonna’ get. For closure, I mean.” Her eyes looked away from Marco, going straight to the counter.

Closure? Marco looked at her curiously but also with a perplexed expression.

After a second or two, gathering herself once more, she glanced up and continued to apologize, “I’m sorry for the pain Charlie put you through. I can’t tell you why but I can tell you, you didn’t deserve this.” Poppy gestured with her hand toward his leg and frowned. She failed Charlie, she accepted that, but what she wasn’t going to do was fail the people he traumatized and left behind. “I know what he did was a very bad thing. I didn’t even recognize him but that doesn’t matter does it? What he was will never excuse what he did. To you, and everyone else.” At this point, Poppy felt a tear trail down her cheek. Quickly, with the back of her hand, she wiped it off and bit her cheek, to stop the water flow. “So, I’m sorry, Marco. For everything.”

Hearing that just now sent Marco into the opposite of what he had expected this day to throw at him. Some mild discomfort in his leg and maybe exhaustion, but he never expected anywhere in the near future that Poppy James would be in front of him, apologizing for things that Charlie Decker did not only to him, but so many others. Others that Marco knew very closely. Like Cat’s daughter, Sofi. Like his own dreams of going pro. He didn’t know what to say because he never thought he would find himself in the situation to confront it without any warning. This was the sort of thing that was prefaced with some kind of ‘viewer discretion is advised’ disclaimer, but this was real life and Marco was handling it…not well.

He just stood there, feeling his legs shaking, chest tightening up in the same way it always did whenever he received bad news. Or when something terrible was on its way. Last time it did that was when he thought he was going to lose Danny forever. He knew this day would come. Maybe part of him always knew. Addressing what Charlie did to him, even if he didn’t understand why, was one of the things deep down he knew he would need to confront.

But at the Godmother? Not the place he thought it would be nor at such a random time. “You don’t have to do this…Really, it’s not a big deal..” He said in an almost muttered tone. His head was down, looking at the countertop. He didn’t know what else to say nor did he know what he could say. Thinking about it and what he lost was tearing him up inside, but he didn’t want to put that on her.

With her highly perceptive eyes, Poppy shook her head, disagreeing with him, “I do, though.” Everyone needed to move on, including her, and that meant she had to meet all the people Charlie hurt to really see what he had become and she had to take in everyone else’s pain, like a sponge. “You don’t really need to say anything, and I know this isn’t the time or place for this, but we don’t really hang… so I didn’t know what else to do. But, here.” Digging out of her pocket, she pulled a ripped paper that she had written on prior to coming here and slipped it to him, “That’s my number. When you’re ready, I would love to sit down and chat. Maybe we can play arcade games or something. I don’t know. I just… want to hear your truth.” She carefully observed him, her hand still on her number.

Lifting it up, she took a step back and smiled, “This isn’t me forcing you either. You can either hang or not, and I’ll be okay. I…” She thought of what to say next, her eyes growing distant for a moment or two, “... want to be someone that helps you heal and if that means you asking me questions about Charlie or you just taking your hurt and frustrations out on me, I want to be that person for you.” She hoped she was doing well. And honestly, she was winging it -- going forward blindly. “So, let me know, okay?”

Marco wanted to speak up, say something that possibly would let Penelope know that none of this was necessary but he couldn’t. Paralyzed and mute by the sudden increase of repressed anxiety, he couldn’t do anything but stand there (partially because he was still leaning over the countertop) as she not only explained that she did have to bring this up but explain it in a way that was hard for Marco to disagree with. Actually, it was damn near impossible. She was right and he knew it. He didn’t want to admit it because Marco had buried those thoughts he felt about Charlie Decker close to a few months ago.

Or maybe it was a lot earlier than that. If he was really honest with himself, he buried those thoughts as soon as he got home from the hospital after his surgery and began PT with Roddy. Roddy was one of the first people who helped Marco work through those initial thoughts. They never talked about Charlie -- not directly, anyway, but their friendship blossomed when they found a love for the same sport. Even though it was American football, it was something to distract him. And because of it, Marco didn’t think about him as much. Then when he was done with PT, he buried himself even more into online gaming. Between playing among us with Cece, someone he didn’t expect to be into that and League with some randoms, Marco hadn’t even thought about it.

And then Danny forced him to go to the school that one night. Still, he didn’t address them. He was just there for Lanie, being her support. Being the best friend he knew she needed.

But now there was nobody for Marco to use as a distraction. Lanie and Roddy were gone and couldn’t be that person for him to focus on. He didn’t have anyone to enable that for him anymore. Penelope was right in front of him and she wanted to help him heal.

But what did that even mean?

Marco has had so many out-of-body experiences for a moment like this. He’s had dreams where he confronted Charlie. Even one that was so vivid that he thought it was real. He even talked to Charlie in the same field he was found shot in. So many times in his darkest hours, especially during those early weeks, Marco thought so much about what he was going to say. But as he took the slip of paper Penolope James handed him and put it in the front pocket of his shirt, he couldn’t find the words. All he could do was give a slow nod and say in an almost mutter-like tone, “Okay..”

ding!

Like something that came a few moments too late, the timer on the panini press went off and that sprung Marco back into action as he went over to the press, opening it. “Perfectly cooked!” Not that he was worried, but Marco thought that with everything that had suddenly came up, he would’ve fucked that up. Taking it out of the machine with a spatula, Marco put it on the cutting board, cutting it in half diagonally. He then wrapped it up, threw in a bag of sour cream and onion-flavored chips , and filled up a cup of iced tea. He put the wrapped sandwich and bag of chips in a bag and set it on the counter. “That’ll be..uh…$7:45.” He tried to pretend like the past five minutes didn’t happen as he spoke clearly and with as much confidence as he could muster.

Poppy stood quiet as she got a ten out of her pocket and placed it on the table. Grabbing her food, she watched him, with her big soulful eyes, taking one of Charlie’s living victims in. “Keep the change,” she muttered, not really wanting to prolong their exchange more than she had already. She did what she needed to do. All her emotions were out on the table and Marco could do what he wanted with them.

After more awkward silence, she nervously chuckled, breaking it with a compliment, “Your Rock Lee presentation is still one of the best things to ever happen in Beau’s class.” Lifting up her drink a little, her way of waving goodbye, Penelope dismissed herself, “It was good to see you, Marco, maybe I’ll see you later?”

Marco found himself blinking aimlessly. She remembered that? Marco didn’t know that anyone found it memorable enough. He remembered a few people laughing at him after the fact and not that he ever let it show, but some part of him started to not be so forward with his passion for anime and other things of that nature. In some way, maybe that’s why he felt drawn to online communities. Still, he didn’t think, of all people, Penelope James would remember something he wasn’t even sure he did that great at. Mr. Beau was very receptive of it, but then again that guy was one of the best teachers ever. Always supported and encouraged all of his students.

“Oh..uh..yeah. You too!” Instinctively, Marco smiled and waved back. When Poppy left, her exit signaled by the bell above the door, his blue eyes went down to the piece of paper in his hand that he pulled out of his front pocket. He had felt so many emotions that sent his heart up and down on an emotional roller coaster, twisting and turning, flipping and spiraling around with no end in sight. He thought he knew what he was gonna do about whether he’d meet her or not. Now he wasn’t so sure. Now he felt more conflicted than he was.

“Maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing…” He hummed, half smiling as another customer came into the Godmother. No rest for the weary. “Welcome to the Godmother!”


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Hidden 1 mo ago 1 mo ago Post by Venus
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Venus

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TIMESTAMP: Monday, July 19th, 2021; Around 7AM





A @LovelyComplex & @Venus Collab || featuring Natalia & Tiziano Belmonte
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While the four weeks after her conversation with Danny had been full of hope for the future, the two weeks that followed the incident at the Sinclair household had effectively crushed any positive outlook she’d once had. It had all started when, while scrolling through her social media accounts, she’d come to find out that she hadn’t been the only person her darling brother had patched things up with. Jillian O’Brien was once again back in the picture as a friend of Danilo’s, now flanked by that insufferable pitbull she called a girlfriend. His interactions with Caitlin Cleary also seemed to become more frequent, much to his twin’s delight. To top it all off, Danny had patched things up with Marco as well-- and while it made her ecstatic to see her brother start to embrace his truth and be so happy, it also made her feel lonelier than ever before.

Everywhere she went, even in her own house, Natalia was haunted by the persistent reminder that she was now the only member of her family without someone else to lean on. Sure, Caterina was getting a divorce. But she had her high school friends-- and with the way she was suspiciously acting and sneaking around, Tal knew she must already have someone to replace her future ex-husband. Nina and Elisa had loving children and doting, adoring husbands. Vivia, although in a war with her father, could count on ReyRey to be there for her. Danilo had Caitlin, Jill and now Marco in his corner, as did Mirabella did with Marcela and her fellow acapella group members. Even Tiffannie, a literal stranger to the town, had already found a guy who she couldn’t stop smiling and gushing over.

Yet what did Natalia have? What was she left with?

Nothing but her own, washed-up, sad, pathetic, sorry self.

Maybe it was karma’s way of getting back at her after so many years of pretending to be superior to everyone else. Or maybe it was the compartmentalized demons deciding this was the perfect time to make a reappearance. Or perhaps watching her mother slowly fade away but putting on a brave face for everyone else and not talking to anyone about it was finally catching up to her. All Natalia knew was that she hadn’t felt this downhearted and worthless in years.

So for these last two weeks, the fifth born Belmonte had been locked away in her bedroom: purposely isolating herself from those around her while spending her days in an endless loop of nothingness. Her social media accounts had been deactivated in an attempt to prevent being contacted by others or triggered by the actions they so proudly posted about. She hadn’t left the house in fourteen days-- the furthest traveling done being to the front door. She slept until well past noon, and left her room just long enough to use the bathroom, shower, visit her mother and grab some food before returning to her chambers. A half-empty Valium bottle sat hidden underneath junk items in the top drawer of her nightstand, while her vaporizer never seemed to leave her hand or her lips. Doubling up on her medication while taking incessant pulls from the vape’s THC oil meant that Tal felt lethargic and drowsy no matter how many hours she slept, making it even harder to find motivation to do anything besides lay in bed. The sudden lack of exercise was having its effects on her, too: namely, in the handful of new blemishes around her face and the light layer of extra pounds beginning to settle in her once slim stomach. The soda cans, candy wrappers and bags of chips (now empty and littering the floor) she’d procured using Instacart helped explain this phenomenon, too. And all throughout, the flat-screen television mounted on the wall had been stuck on Jersey Shore-- their voices filling the hollow silence in the room while she either half-watched or surfed the web until just moments shy of sunrise.

This Monday had been somewhat different. Sleeping the majority of the day Sunday had meant that she’d been as wide awake as someone high on Valium and weed could be when the afternoon came. The afternoon hours slowly bleeded into the evening, then the dawn; and all Natalia had done was keep her glassy-eyed stare on the television, taking puff after puff from her vape while fantasizing about leaving a town that had nothing to offer her in favor of somewhere like Italy. Before she realized it, a hint of sunlight could be seen trying to peek through the blackout windows into the disheveled bedroom, and Tal cursed out loud.

Another sleepless night.

Oh, joy.

Letting out a deep sigh, Natalia mustered up the strength to bring her sluggish body to a stand. Her hair was a tangled mess tied up in a bun, her oversized pajama T-shirt bore an assortment of stains of past night’s snacks, and her bloodshot eyes were accompanied by a pair of matching dark circles. She raised her arms over her head and stretched her sore, tight muscles as best as she could before unlocking her bedroom door, trudging down the steps and into the massive, empty kitchen. Her timing seemed to be impeccable, because just as she was opening the fridge in search for her next meal, her stomach protested against its emptiness in the form of a loud grumble.

Another person who hadn’t gotten much sleep was that of her father. The daunting reality that his wife only had two weeks, at most, to live was setting in. Tiziano Belmonte already suffered sleepless nights since he kicked Vivia out in a reckless rage. He was a man whose pride was so unyielding that he knew even if he tried, he would only make the situation worse. He wanted his middle child to apologize for the secrets and speak to him maturely of her intentions. If she wanted to be with R2 he could learn to live with that, but how she went about it was disrespectful. For all he knew she’s been sleeping with the Kingsnake since she was underage. If his paranoid assumption was true, that would surely get the Tasmanian Devil out of retirement.

The past month had forced Taz to look at himself in the mirror and come to terms with how awful of a man he was. The ghost of his father, Amadeo, the one who left him to his fate of being the bastard boy of the notorious Esposito crime family, was appearing in his day-to-day life more than he liked. The insufferable man and the cause of all his trauma wouldn’t disappear. Even now as he parked his car in front of his Belmonte estate he could hear his father’s voice.

The heart of his family was weakening all because Silvia was dying and he was lost. He didn’t know how to fix this. He could build a house, he could cook a five star meal, he could push his children to aim high and never settle for less, but he couldn’t emotionally connect with them. There was no compassion towards the people that needed it the most. His family. All because he feared they would starve and get eaten in this dog eat dog world.

Broken nights.

Bitter ends.

The only solace he had was prayer. He lost all control. Something he hated to admit. Something that was hard to swallow and hard to accept. Everything he built was crumbling before his eyes. Things like the safety net to keep his family away from the constant wars happening in the City or the support and discipline he’s provided for his children, to guide them through life so that they can have thick skin, an open mind, and a heart of steel. He’s spent so much of his life trying to provide for his family that in return, he was hated and despised.

Taz realized he ended up in the place he was trying to avoid. The place he thought he could steer clear of by moving to Edenridge. He was becoming just like his father. Silvia saw more in him than he ever would. He wasn’t a family man. He wasn’t even that good of a husband. Even back home, he spent most of his life trying to prove his worth. First to his father and his siblings, then to his wife, and now to his children. There wasn’t enough bourbon in the world to help him through this and he swore he wouldn’t touch the bottle until Silvia was better but everyday it became harder and harder to look away from his once great escape.

God, he needed a drink.

Entering his house, with a bag full of bagels, Taz made his way to the kitchen only to find his Natalia, who hadn’t left the house in days, scavenging for food. Instead of interrogating her to get to the root cause of her depression, Taz lifted the brown bag and shaked it a little, “Want a bagel sandwich?” Like father, like daughter, both Natalia and Taz were restless and fighting their own personal demons. Like father, like daughter, their sleepless nights left them both starving. Like father, like daughter, they both hit rock bottom. Taz simply covered it up better. “Whatever you want on it, I got you, Biscottino.”

As focused as she was on gathering whatever items she could find to make a hasty return to her bedroom, Natalia didn’t notice the man’s arrival until the sound of contents rustling inside a paper bag echoed across the kitchen. She whipped around instantly, bracing herself for the agony of having to make painful small talk with one of her siblings or their partners. But as soon as her eyes recognized the individual as her father, Tal’s body relaxed as her demeanor visibly softened. Here was the one man she would never regret being open, honest and vulnerable with.

“Buongiorno, Papa,” the young woman greeted her father, grabbing a water bottle from the fridge before closing the door. She made her way to where her father stood, pausing long enough to kiss his cheek and wrap him in a tight hug before taking a seat on one of the stools by the granite kitchen island. “I swear, you have the best timing. If you’d been five minute later, you would’ve caught me scarfing down a third of that tiramisu straight out of the tray,” Tal joked with a small laugh-- the first one she’d had in days. Contrary to the rest of her siblings, the mere presence of her father usually helped calm whatever storm she was facing. “I’ll take you up on that bagel offer. I’ll have a sausage, egg and cheese one, and I’ll let you surprise me with the other one.”

“Hungry girl,” Taz smiled as he maneuvered around the kitchen to collect his supplies and ingredients. The first thing he did was cut the bagels in half. From poppy seed to garlic to everything bagel, he had an assortment of them all and they were the best bagels in town. Edenridge had a bagel food truck, Schmear is Here, in Westwood that got passed down from father to son. It was a good joint and way back when, Taz remembered that Decker kid coming in frequently, faithfully for his bagel fix. From their small interactions they shared in town, especially at the bagel truck, he seemed like a good kid. It’s sad Charlie didn’t have the resources he needed to get his head right. Taz was sure he wasn’t the only one who felt guilty for turning a blind eye to Rhonda and Charlie’s situation. The Belmonte Patriarch worried for his own family, about his kids and their mental health. He wonders if he’s pushed them too far. Too overbearing and strict. The last thing he needed was one of his children becoming murderers. None of them needed blood on their hands. He would know since he was still working on his own trauma from his New York days.

Calmly, Taz started to breach his concern by asking, “How are you?” Once he grabbed his and his daughter’s preferred bagel choices, he started cooking and making them their sandwiches. For him, he’d make smoked salmon, for his daughter sausage, egg, and cheese, and for both of them, Romesco breakfast. He would indulge this morning. He likely wouldn’t have time to eat any other time anyways. Unfortunately when he did try to eat after 11, he always got interrupted. He certainly would try having three consecutive meals in one day but he wasn’t going to count on it.

“Good.” Natalia answered instinctively, falling into her old habits of lying about her mental and emotional state. A common, toxic trait that all Belmontes shared was the ability to bottle up and/or deflect from their feelings in an attempt to avoid causing worry to their loved ones while their pride remained unscathed. Confessing the need for help wasn't something they did often. “You?”

Was it too early to drink? Focusing on the task at hand, Taz continued fixing their breakfast sandwiches and nodded, “Yeah, I’m good.” He knew she was lying and he assumed she knew he was lying but like the stubborn mule that he was Taz didn’t say anything more. Instead, he cooked and let the silence take over. He took a quick glance at her, gave a half smile, and flipped her sausage in the frying pan.

The dark-haired girl smiled back at her father. Natalia and Tiziano were two peas in a pod: for better or worse. They shared as many positive qualities as they did negative ones, which worked in the fifth-born’s favor. Much to the chagrin of her siblings, sharing similar personalities meant that Tal was able to read her father easily, and thus stayed in his good graces the majority of the time. Because she knew him like she did, it was clear to her that he was following her lead by lying about how he felt. They were both proud and stubborn; admitting defeat, weakness, flaw or defeat was not something they did often. But because she knew him like she did, Nat knew the trick to get her papa to discuss his and her thoughts and emotions without making things awkward.

“Sooooo…” the young woman began, unscrewing and removing the cap of her water bottle and taking a sip before continuing. “Let’s say, hypothetically speaking, that you felt like you were stuck in this... rut. Feeling like you’re all washed-up, alone, unloveable, undesirable, like you fucking suck… That, no matter how hard you try to crawl out of that rut, you just seem to be stuck in a really miserable place, while everybody else around you seems to be thriving and glowing and finding their happiness. How would you approach the situation?”

Onto the eggs now, Taz listened to his daughter in silence. He might not be the best one to go to for advice but he had to be honest, especially to Natalia. The one that saw beyond the veil. “Your mother would say, this too shall pass and beg us to turn to the Word, and prayer.” As Tiziano talked about his wife, his eyes grew distant and he went with the motions of making Natalia’s sandwich, “Those who walk in darkness will see great light. It’s in these times we gain clarity. It’s where we center ourselves and not focus on all the things we do not have control over. All the background noise. All the bullshit.”

Finishing her sausage, egg, and cheese, Taz placed it on a bagel he had toasted minutes before and cleared his throat, “Life will always have seasons of enduring faith… hard, painful, difficult… not worth the battle. But your mother--” He enunciated his words with his pointer finger and continued, “She is a woman of great faith and would say every single fight ends in a positive outcome.” Placing the plate in front of his daughter, Taz looked into her eyes, coming back to the present, and shook his head, “But that is your mother’s word, not mine. I, Natalia, would get angry.”

As she accepted his offering with a wink of appreciation, Taz went to the next sandwich, his sandwich, and explained, “Anger has been my strongest trait. Drive. Flaw. Whatever you want to call it. It gets me where I need to go. It might not be the healthiest way of handling things but it does bring out truths I need to hear. I lose the hold I have on this family. I hurt people-- my kids, for that matter, and I see how awful of a man I am. Clarity. Not because of prayer but because of anger. So, hypothetically, you’re in a rut? Do something about it. Go fight something. Scream. Take it out on your brother. But don’t let that fire go out. Not you, Natalia.”

The young woman couldn't help but smile to herself as she ate and listened to Tiziano's words. Their lack of faith in religion and anger being the driving force behind their actions were more traits shared between father and daughter. When she felt like Danilo was outshining her back in their childhood days, it had been anger that motivated her to do things just as well if not better than he did. When she had lost Niles sophomore year, it had been anger that drove her to expand her social circle and eventually become the school’s queen bee. When she was named the volleyball team’s captain, it had been anger that drove her to push the team to the necessary limits to achieve those back-to-back national victories during junior and senior year. When she had lost Kylee, it had been anger that drove her to forget about relationships and focus on enjoying her single life instead. Just like her father, anger had been a strong motivator in achieving plenty of her goals in life. And yet, anger alone hadn’t been enough to keep her from falling into the clutches of self-doubt and the other negative spaces in her mind.

"As long as you have the money for bail and lawyers if I get caught busting someone up out of anger, then I guess I can take your advice.” Natalia joked with a chuckle in an attempt to downplay the situation and lighten up the mood. He was absolutely right, of course. Laying around doing nothing other than staring out into the void wouldn't get her anywhere. But what was the point of letting anger be her guiding force, when there was no end goal to drive towards both professionally and personally? "See, I don't think that my problem is lacking the fire to get me where I need to go. The problem is that there's nothing going for me here-- there’s no direction. Does that make sense?" she attempted to express in between bites. "I'm going to college to get this Business Management degree, but for what? All of our businesses are covered in that front, so that means I have to go somewhere else to build a career. And don't even get me started on trying to find a partner in this town-- with my rep and the people available, there's no hope for that shit either. So what does that leave me with? With the idea that perhaps, maybe, possibly moving to Italy with Mamma's family would be the best thing for me to do. No cleaner slate than one in a whole different continent, right?"

Taz poured his whisked eggs into the buttered frying pan and began stirring continuously. His bagels would soon be toasted, and he could dress it with cream cheese, eggs, smoked salmon pieces, grilled asparagus, and pickled red onions. While his facial expression didn’t say much, his eyes were all she needed to see to show he was attentively listening to her. “Is that what you want? Go to Naples or Rome to start new? With family you don’t know? Actually, no, don't answer that. Think about it…” He looked up from the eggs to see her carefully watching him. She wore a look that told him she had more to say. “Yes?”

“I hope you know: you’re not an awful man, Pappa. All you’ve wanted for us was the best and to not go through the hardships you went through. Your only issue is how you went about it. Having a hold over something isn’t the problem: it’s gripping it so hard you suffocate the shit out of it, so the only way to breathe again is by fighting back in some way," she explained matter-of-factly, taking a pause to both eat a bite of bagel and let her words sink in before continuing. "I can't say that I've ever felt like that, because the only pressure you’ve ever put on me has been to build me up into the best version of myself-- even if I’m a hot mess right now. But-- without telling any names because I'm not a snitch-- I can definitely say that some of your other kids do feel that way. Mamma’s always been there to soften the blow, but what will happen when she's not around?"

“I won’t have my buffer so you’d have to call me out, even if it isn’t something I want to hear,” Taz sighed to himself and turned off the oven. From there, he started putting his ingredients on one bagel end. She was right though, as much as he hated to hear it. He was exactly how his younger self never wanted to be. He was just like his father. The bastard son of Amadeo Esposito hated the thought that his need to protect his children was turning into him being an unyielding asshole they were afraid to turn to, for anything. The Belmonte 7 were growing up, becoming independent women and man. They didn’t need their father anymore and maybe that’s what made him want to be so involved in the decisions in their lives. How they lived. He liked feeling needed.

As soon as the words left her mouth, the young woman winced at the sharp twinge in her chest. Bringing attention to Silvia's imminent death was not something Tal wanted to do, but it was necessary to get her point across to her stubborn father. As much as they all hated it, Taz would soon be the Belmonte children’s sole living parent. If he truly wanted to keep their family together, then conversations like these needed to be had. It was the only way to ensure he was made aware of his flaws enough to make efforts to better himself. "Listen, Pappa: all any of us kids of yours want is to know that, no matter how hard we screw up, you'll be there for us. That we don't have to live terrified of disappointing you, because in the end, we can count on you to love us unconditionally."

Smearing cream cheese on the other bagel piece, Taz admitted, “When I react, I don’t really think through what I say. Your mother is the best thing to happen to me because she calms my spirit. I know I can’t rely on her forever. I know.” Placing the butter knife down, he grabbed his sandwich and went to sit beside her. He’ll cook the other two sandwiches after, if they’re both still hungry. “I can’t say I’ll be what this family needs when…” Taz stared ahead toward the entry which led to the stairs, which led to their mother. “... she dies. But I will try.” That’s all he could do, was try. “But, if I make an honest attempt to not let my anger cloud my judgment, I need you to build and rebuild bridges: here. Not burn them. You understand, Natalia?”

Although Natalia understood where her father was coming from, she let out a snort and shook her head. "It's a little bit more complicated than that, Dad," the girl confessed, pushing her empty, crumb-filled plate away. Tal's mind immediately went through some examples of individuals that Taz's words could apply to. Her ex, Kylee Grimm, and how easily she had bulldozed the bridge of their relationship as if their months together had meant nothing. Her thoughts then shifted to Niles, who had been quite eager to light the match that set their bridge ablaze on one winter night. Then she thought of Caitlin and Jill, who she would rather be caught dead trying to build any bridges with. And that was just the first four that came to mind. "There are some bridges that don't deserve to be rebuilt, there are some that were burnt for a damn good reason, and there are others that I didn't even tear apart in the first place-- so why should I be the one to fix them?"

Realizing how aggressive she might have come across, Natalia shook her head and let out a deep sigh. "Sorry about that. I guess I still have some shit to sort through before I go off to play construction worker, huh?" she apologized with a bitter laugh.

Instead of responding Taz took a bite of his sandwich and chewed in silence. With tired eyes, he sat there thinking about god knows what. The patriarch of the Belmonte family would have these moments where he sat there, mid conversation, and got lost in his mind. When he swallowed his food, he put his sandwich down and leaned back in his seat. Looking over the calendar on the fridge, his gaze fell on a date that had no notes on it but seemed to be on his mind. “It’s easier to burn. But the consequences…” Taz pondered out loud, as he wiped his hand on his napkin. “This town is too small to hold grudges. If you’re not going to try to get yourself closure, then you need to not look back. We learn, we move on. We keep going. Live, girl.”

The young Belmonte remained quiet, thinking about what her father had just said. The problem, of course, wasn't living. Living had never been an issue for Natalia: with both the consequences of her burnt bridges and the lack of real closure she’d received from people like Kylee and Niles. But finding something worth living for, something to live for, and coming up empty-handed? That was the root of her latest life crisis.

Taz grabbed his plate, with his sandwich, and got up from his seat. Briefly, he observed Natalia, sitting there and watching him with love, adoration, and a twinge of mild annoyance. “Live now. We’ll worry about the future later.” He walked to the exit of the kitchen that would lead him upstairs to his wife and asked, “Have you seen your mother yet?”

Natalia shook her head. “Not yet. I was gonna drop by after I showered and got some sleep,” she explained, following Taz’ lead and standing up from her own seat. “But I can come with you if you want. Maybe she’d like to see us together.”

“Yes… she’d like that very much,” Taz said in agreement. The sinking feeling of despair in the pit of his stomach, knowing well enough his wife only had two weeks to live. The nurse should be here soon. “Your mother loves you very much, Natalia. She loves all you kids.”

The young woman offered her father a melancholic smile. “And we love her too. Just like we love you very, very much. I hope you never forget that,” she reassured her father, wrapping her arms around the older man and pulling him into a hug that she knew he needed as much as she did.

Tal let the embrace go on for a long moment, finding solace in the stern comfort Tiziano provided. She felt Taz plant a kiss on the top of her head and, before she could help it, tears momentarily blurred her vision at the affectionate gesture. Natalia wasn’t one to cry easily-- in fact, she actually hated to do so. But when self-deprecation was eating you alive, your mother was dying and your father (the rock in your life) was gripping with his own self-worth, it was easy to feel overwhelmed. She wouldn’t let Taz see her cry, though-- she had to be strong for her dad.

The third youngest Belmonte girl ensured the tears were rapidly blinked away before their hug was broken and she locked her eyes with his. “We’ve got this, Pappa. Anche questo deve passare. ”

Even if they didn’t believe it, it was something to hold onto.
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TIMESTAMP: Monday, July 19th, 2021; Minutes Past Noon





A @LovelyComplex & @Venus Collab || featuring Tiffannie Taccone & Tiziano Belmonte (with a little bit of TNT sprinkled in)
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For someone who had woken up in the middle of the night to care for her aunt and have a conversation with her Edenridge bestie, Tiffannie Taccone woke up feeling very well rested and in the best of spirits. She’d had a good sleep full of dreams of her and Chase confessing their love to each other and living happily ever after like the fairy tales she watched she read about, and now she was looking forward to meeting his family and friends for the first time. It was poised to be a nearly perfect day… Until her eyes fell on the clock in her phone's home screen, and she let out a shriek of horror.

11:07 AM

An hour and seven minutes later than what she had planned.

She was going to be late!

OH NOOOOOOOOOO!” Tiffannie wailed dramatically, unceremoniously throwing the covers off herself and racing out the door. In regular circumstances, the LA native’s going out routine required a minimum of two hours. Every minute of those two hours, plus an extra ten minutes for final touch-ups and to build anticipation, were dedicated to ensuring she looked as perfect as she possibly could. Her failure in not setting her alarm and waking up when she did meant Tiff now had less than an hour to prepare herself for what was probably the most important date she'd have with Chase as of yet. She had no clothes picked out, no hairstyle selected, no determined accessories and nothing envisioned for her makeup look. In all honesty, she couldn’t remember the last time she’d been this sorely unprepared for a date.

It was a nightmare.

Once inside the bathroom, Peach took what seemed the quickest shower of her life (doing a two in one by brushing her teeth inside the shower and skipping the full-body exfoliation), rushed through the skincare routine that usually soothed whatever nerves she could have, wrapped a towel around her body and raced back to her bedroom straight in the direction of the closet. She scrolled through hanger after hanger, desperately scouring the space for any outfit that made her look cute and presentable, but coming up with nothing. Jeans and T-shirts? Too casual. Tops or a dress? Too cropped, revealing or flashy. Skirts or shorts? Too tight, short or provocative. By the fifth scroll of the closet, through the panicked tears that were beginning to blur her vision, Tiff’s eyes landed on a matching white skirt and top ensemble that was just the right amount of casual, cute and presentable for the outing in question. Sniffling, she snatched the items from the rack, quickly paired them to a small pink purse and pink wedges and tossed them onto the bed. The girl then proceeded to select the appropriate undergarments, put them on and take a seat in front of the vanity to begin a very rushed hair and makeup routine.

While blow-drying her blond locks with the help of her Dyson Airwrap, Tiffannie allowed some of the pent-up tears to stream down her face. She knew crying was a bad idea-- it would make her face red and puffy and icky and overall harder to do her makeup. But holding her feelings in wasn't an option: rather, a way to hopfully make her feel less gloomy than she already did. Thankfully, the moment was over quickly, and she was able to sober up to perform a very quick makeup routine to go along with the selected outfit.

Once makeup was done and her hair was as smooth as she could get it after skipping her deep condition, the young woman tied back her locks into a low ponytail, pulled out a few strands so they would frame her face and decorated it with a pink ribbon tied into a bow. Selecting the jewelry was easy: a glance at the drawer was all she needed to pick out a gold necklace, small gold hoop earrings, small gold studs for her three additional piercings, and a few matching rings. She gave herself a final once-over in front of the full-length mirror before stuffing her belongings into the purse and rushing out the door.

The young woman all but raced down the stairs, skipping a few steps and taking a left at the bottom of the foyer. As soon as she reached the kitchen, Tiffannie flung the refrigerator door open and began to scan the stainless steel appliance for anything she could bring to the picnic. Immediately, her eyes landed on the very last shelf, where a tray of heavenly tiramisu sat patiently, as if waiting to be rescued by her gentle hands. Finally, something was going right in the middle of all this mess! Letting out a sigh of relief, Peach grabbed the tray from the fridge, closed the door with her hip and made her way out the front door.

With how happy she was knowing that she was able to contribute to the picnic and hopefully excuse the lateness, the blonde failed to remember the small dip between the front door and the beginning of the pathway to the sidewalk. When wearing her regular shoes, this wouldn't be an issue. But the combination of wearing wedges, having full hands, and being distracted proved to be a dangerous one. Before Tiff knew it, the sudden change in altitude caused her to stumble. And in an attempt to regain her balance, the young woman let go of the tiramisu tray.

Tiffannie watched in horror as the tray fell out of her grasp, flipped once, and hit the floor with a bang, sending pieces of cake flying everywhere-- all in slow motion. The wide-eyed girl stared at the floor in shock: taking in the sight below her, processing what had just happened. The tool to regain any sympathy she might have lost during her lateness was now in pieces all over the concrete floor. When it finally dawned on her that she was now going to completely disappoint Chase and his loved ones by being late AND by showing up empty-handed, her glossy lower lip began to wobble dangerously... And without warning, the young blonde started to cry.

Tiziano had been away from the house thirty minutes doing a little grocery shopping and a quick errand of getting more meds for his wife. Nina hadn’t texted him that she needed help at the restaurant so today was a good day to focus on his wife. He didn’t want his kids to think too deeply about Silvia's health. The only other person who knew about her recent diagnosis was his eldest daughter.

Between him, Cat, and the nurse, they would all cycle in throughout the day to take care of business, especially changing Silvia’s bedsheets and piss pads. If his kids knew more about cancer, just the way she looked and how she breathed would cue them of how long she had to live. He was glad they didn’t let worry take over them. They were young and still had so much life to live.

Carrying a few brown paper bags filled with mostly produce, Taz whistled from his car, down the driveway, to the pathway that led to the front patio, only to come across a tragic sight. His devastated niece was crying over spilled cake. “Cosa sta succedendo?” Once he placed the bags on the front patio furniture, Taz made his way to Tiff to investigate this issue. Why was his half eaten tiramisu from last night’s goodbye party (for one of the staff members at Palermo) all over the place and why was his niece crying over it like she had just seen a puppy get run over? “Tiffannie, wipe those tears and tell me: why are you like this?”

As if the flood gates had opened, Peach went on to explain her ordeal to her concerned uncle, utilizing hand gestures to assist in the process. "Last night Chasey had asked me if I wanted to meet his family today, so I said yes and set my alarm so I could have enough time to get ready, pick something up to bring to the picnic and make it to Lyon Park on time. But it turns out I did not set my alarm; so I woke up late, rushed through my self-care routine, my hair and my makeup and took forever to find an outfit that was appropriate enough. I was already late when I was coming down the stairs, but I knew I needed something to bring, so I saw the tiramisu in the fridge and decided to take it. But I forgot about this stupid step--" she pointed an accusatory finger at the step in question, as if it had tried to assassinate her. "--and I tripped, and when I was trying to steady myself I let go of the cake and it fell on the floor and landed everywhere. And now I'm late and empty-handed and Chasey is going to be so disappointed in me… And I don't want him to be disappointed in me! I like him sooooo much, Uncle Tazzy! I like Chasey so much, and all I want to do is make him happy and I'm scared he's going to hate me for this!" she wailed dramatically, succumbing into inconsolable sobs at the mere idea of Chase reverting to treating her like the first day they met.

“If this boy hates you for this, he doesn't deserve you,” Taz remarked before going to her and gently commanding, “Go give this boy a text or call, tell him you’re running late. That is where you can start. I will clean this up and we will stop at the store to get something sweet. I’m sure he won’t mind and if he likes you, like you like him, he is nervous himself.” There was truth laced behind every word. “Trust me, Tiffannie: we men when we care, we care a lot.” And if this was the Warren boy that visited Palermo when his wife was not sick, helping her out with deliveries and errands, then Taz knew this boy would not be mad about this. His anxiety, though, might cause him to fear Tiff no longer wanting him which is why communication was essential during this pivotal time in their relationship. She is only human and that he cannot fault her for.

After a long moment of Tiffannie alternating between loud sniffles and taking deep breaths, the young blonde composed herself long enough to fish her phone from her pocket and swipe right on Chase’s number. She placed the device against her ear and awaited an answer, anxiously tapping her foot against the concrete. With each ring that went unanswered, Peach’s panic grew in intensity, and she was nearly in tears again by the time Chase answered on the fifth ring.

“Chasey?” Tiffannie sniffled, trying to self-soothe just long enough to convey her message. “My alarm didn’t go off this morning, so I woke up late and everything has just been going wrong and I dropped the cake all over the floor and I’m going to be late and I just feel so bad about it--” she whimpered before starting to weep again.

There was a pause on the other end. A long pause and a subtle breath in, and out. “It’s going to be okay,” TNT calmly responded on the other end. “Don’t worry about it. It’s good. You’re good. I’m good. We’re both good.” There was another break. When Chase took long breaks, long breaths, and long pauses, it was because he had something on his mind, “We’re going to be okay. Understand, Tiff?”

Peach shook her head as if he could see her. "It is not okay,” she whined in disagreement, wiping her face along with part of her makeup. “This is the first time I’m meeting your family and now I’m giving them the worst impression by showing up late and empty-handed. This is so embarrassing and disrespectful and I’m just really really sorry about it.”

“I’m sorry too,” There was a slight shake in Chase’s tone. Her words were hitting him hard and at this moment, this specific moment, he was doing his best to not let it show, “It’s my fault for making you worry. It’s also my fault for keeping you up. We don’t have to do this.”

Nooooooooo!” she shrieked back, losing whatever minuscule grip she had on her feelings and bursting out into full-blown sobs. “That’s not-- This isn’t your fault, Chasey! It’s not! I don’t want you to feel bad about this! I just want to make you happy!”

“Then come. I don’t care that you’re empty handed. I just want you.”

His last sentence brought her weeping to a screeching halt. Had she heard him correctly? Was all this crying affecting her hearing, or the part of the brain that interpreted the messages she heard? Was she imagining things? She had to confirm that she wasn’t crazy.

“What did you say?” Tiff asked in a small voice, as if afraid that bringing attention to the statement just declared would nullify it.

His breathing was growing heavier. He needed to go, but first he needed her to understand that this would be for nothing if she gave up on him. “I. Want. You.” He said matter-of-factly before begging, “Please, come…”

Peach gave one last, final sniff, and took another deep breath to compose herself while she wrestled with the urge to cry for a whole different reason now. “I’ll be there soon, I promise,” she vowed, looking over at her uncle and giving him a thumbs up to let him know things would be okay. “And, Chasey?”

“Yeah?” Chase responded with a low undertone.

The blonde’s cheeks grew warm and pink, and she covered her mouth with her hand while turning away from her uncle before she spoke again. “I… I want you too, okay?” she admitted in a hushed tone.

“Good, see you soon,” And on that note, TNT hung up.

Once the call was over, Tiffannie turned back to speak to Taz. “He says that it’s okay and he still wants me to come,” she summarized, wiping away her tears and with them the rest of her makeup. “So I guess he doesn’t hate me after all.”

At this point, Taz had brought in the groceries, instructing Mira to put it away and that he’d be gone around thirty minutes to an hour, and for her to watch her mother with the nurse. He had also cleaned the tiramisu to the best of his capability, the rain would get the rest. Having gone in and out, in and out, he returned outside one last time, Tiff’s call with her boyfriend ending. He gave a small smile, “He’d be an idiot to hate you. You are a diamond, Tiffannie, and if he does not see this? His loss.”

Cracking the first smile of the day, the blue-eyed girl skipped to her uncle and wrapped him in a tight, affectionate hug. “Thank you, Uncle Tazzy,” she mumbled appreciatively, nuzzling her face in his chest. Considering the current standing of hers and her father’s relationship, she was grateful that she had her uncle as a father figure to comfort and guide her in situations like these.

Too much sentimentality. Taz let his niece give him affection before straightening up, trying to get out of her hold, “Okay. We have a picnic to get to.” Her uncle’s expression returned to stoic and strong as he gestured to his black SUV. His morning had already been long and it seemed that a common theme this lovely day was comforting the women in his life. First his daughter, Natalia, now his niece. He wondered, would his wife be proud of him?

Peach released her uncle from her grasp and nodded at him. “Okay,” she breathed out, straightening up to her full height. “I’m going to go back inside really quick to wash my face, and when I come back out, we’re going straight to that picnic.” In reality, she was going to wash her face and reapply her makeup (she was already late anyway, so at this point it didn’t matter whether she took an extra ten minutes to make herself look presentable), but Taz didn’t need to know that. “Does that sound like a plan?”

“Yes, now go. Don’t want to keep your boyfriend waiting.” Taz shooed his niece away and strided to his car. He needed to start the AC. The sky might be predicting rain but it sure was humid. “And Tiffannie?” He looked back, over his shoulder.

Tiffannie had opened her mouth to retort that Chase wasn’t her boyfriend when Taz turned around and addressed her again. “Mhm?”

“You’re a beautiful girl, inside and out. He is a lucky boy to have you.” After Taz said his peace, he waved at her to go do her thing, freshening up, and he’d sit in the car cooling it off, cooling off, waiting for her return.

With a glowing smile, a small shrug of appreciation and her mood now completely opposite to the one she had started her day with, Tiffannie turned on her heel and skipped back into the Belmonte home.

No matter the setbacks, it was still going to be a perfect day.
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LovelyComplex

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TIMESTAMP: Flashback, Yesterday, Sunday (July 18th)







____________________________________________________________________

Devil in a bottle, Cat stood by her small side table where she had an Italian crafted decanter filled with some of her father’s favorite scotch, Johnnie Walker. Beside the decanter were four whiskey glasses to match the set. Her kids had left with their father yesterday to be in New York for about a week. She replayed Thursday night when she and her husband sat down to tell them about the divorce. All she could see was the conflicted emotions shown in each of their faces. Was she doing the right thing?

The idea of a perfect family was crumbling in front of them. They’re confronted by the reality that all their life they've been lied to. Lied about happily ever afters, lied about their father being loyal and their mother being strong, and lied about love. Once she poured herself a glass, thinking her workers had left for the day and she had the shop to herself, Cat took a sip of the one thing that has kept her afloat this long. She had family, friends, and now she had Clay. Still, she struggled because without this drink, she’d have a hard time covering up the tears. She’d have a hard time admitting to herself all her shortcomings. She’d have a hard time being happy.

Cat was tired, worn, and torn by this provincial town she lived in, and her family. Especially her family. She turned to booze because when her head was full of it, she truly believed it could cure her from this endless struggle. It was only a week since the doctor told her how long her mother had and shortly after, she found herself taking out her bible that had picked up dust over the years. She went to church every Sunday but that didn’t make her a devout Christian, not like Nina.

She hadn’t sought His word for years. God was supposed to guide her everyday and push her to strive and be like Him, his likeness and his image. The last time she desperately sought him out, like now, was when she almost lost her miracle baby, Dani. Being a Christian was more than going to church. It requires a daily process where you are so certain in your growth to be more and more like Christ. To remember that His love was like an ocean and that you can see the beginning, but not its end. To trust in Him and His plan… that’s what it meant to be devoted to Him. And that’s where Cat fell short. Time and time again.

After Sofi had screamed at her parents in anger, directing the malice mostly at her mother, during the whole ordeal Thursday night, Cat was forced to look into the mirror and see why she would never be like Him. Sofi forced her to realize that there was no use in waiting for His plan to fix things. It was up to her and her own strength. It was clear that Sofi was upset she had to pick up the pieces of their broken family, when she was still recovering from almost dying by Charlie Decker.

Cat had frantically looked through her bible and begged God to take away her tears, wash away her sins, and help her be a good mother to her children, only to realize she needed to stop asking to be saved. If Cat wanted to carry her world, she had to believe in herself again. She had to be strong for herself and for her children. She also needed to learn to lean on people and be okay to admit that there are some things she can’t do alone.

Taking another sip of the scotch, a tear finding its way out, trailing down her cheek, Cat closed her eyes and tried to think of the positive things to come. Her children wouldn’t be in a house where there’s always fighting. Tommasso and her would learn healthy ways to co-parent. Her mother’s suffering would end and she could be with the Lord, in His Glory, like she always wanted to. Cat would start working on herself and find purpose in being alive and well. And throughout all of this? She’d have the support of Clayton. Someone she didn’t realize she needed as much as she does now. She just wanted to be happy and she hoped, little by little, she’d get there within herself, within her relationship with Clayton, and within the lives of her children. She prayed. Oh God she prayed.

Just outside of her office doors, an unexpected busy evening was finally coming to a close. Marco had stayed an extra hour, letting the Young Lad go home. He said he needed to be home for some reason and Marco didn’t mind lingering around. In the week since his chance encounter with Poppy and just…the whole week, he has been finding himself into a real groove. It wasn’t just because of Danny really pushing him in the mornings (and in the night prior to every morning), it was everything in his life right now. It was strange. Marco from six months ago would have never been so eager to work more, but he felt truly happy making sandwiches. Cat had taught him well, had been so right in his face about learning the ropes and the recipes and how to make each one.

That was something Marco found out he got from his old man. An impeccable memory. In the past, it served him well in school. In soccer. In that extremely difficult character analysis presentation that Poppy gave him such high praise for last week. And now it helped him at his job. He knew every sandwich yet was finding ways to improve them but never changing them. Refining how he made them. Slowly but surely, Marco was coming into his own.

“That should do it,” he remarked, handing off the last order of the day. A happy customer ordered an italian club and that dream panini that was becoming really popular as of late. Truth be told, it was his favorite sandwich to make.

As he clocked out, Marco, as he always did, went to Cat’s office. He knocked a few times. “Cat,” he called out in a medium tone. He went for the knob and the door wasn’t closed. As he pushed it open, he saw Cat standing by herself near a small table, drinking what he hoped was some sort of apple cider, but he knew alcohol when he saw it. “Cat?” He half-frowned, wondering if she was even conscious, aware of her surroundings. “I just wanted to ask if you needed anything before I left for the day..” There was a cautious approach Marco had in both how he spoke and he walked into her office, feeling something was off. That part of him that always wanted to make sure those he cared for were alright refused to let him leave. “Cat?”

When she realized she was not alone and that she still had an employee here, Cat was quick to down her scotch and wipe her face of tears with a quick swipe. “Marco!” She turned around, leaving the glass behind. “I could’ve sworn everyone was gone for the day,” She laughed and smiled, hiding all her pain through a jovial expression. “If everything has been covered in the front, I should be fine,” She assured her brother’s friend, not wanting to keep him longer than needed. “It’s getting late, I’m sure you’re ready to relax and have some dinner.”

It may have been brief, but there was definitely something off. Marco didn’t know what it was exactly, but something about the way Cat acted the minute she realized he was still around -- that stood out. “Are you sure?” Marco asked, worried for Cat. In all the time he had known her and especially in the past few weeks since he’s been working for her, she’s never acted this…dismissive. “Really, I don’t mind staying a bit longer.. I don’t feel all that tired to be honest, so it’s no bother at all!” He smiled at her.

From the time Cat has watched Marco with her brother to seeing him on numerous occasions at family parties and other things, the older woman knew how persistent the young boy was when it came to feelings. As the eldest of the Belmonte 7 it was her duty to smile and act okay, it was her duty to protect her family, it was her duty to shield them from everything this town threw at them, it was her duty. She couldn’t burden Danny’s friend with her problems. She couldn’t burden anyone with them. “Really, Marco. I’m fine.” Instead of staying complacent, she sauntered her way to her desk and took a seat. Slowly but surely she put away her things so that she too could follow suit and leave for her day, “Plus! Don’t you have places to go? People to see? You’re young, sweetheart. Enjoy it while you still can.”

“Like I said it’s no bother at all!” Marco was indeed stubborn. Probably something he never realized he inherited from both of his parents. But Cat was equally so, it seemed. At the very least, his last act for the day could help her clean off her desk. “At least let me help you clean up.”

Marco didn’t wait for an actual response as he approached her desk, picking up a stack of papers that seemed familiar. For a few short moments, he looked at the front and saw what felt familiar about it. “Edenridge Police Force…study guide?” He read out loud, dividing his gaze from the guide in his hands and Cat, who was still putting things away, taken aback somewhat. “What is this, Cat?” He asked her, but not in a judgemental way. Marco couldn’t be judgmental even if he tried. He was genuine in his curiosity and more so was just surprised.

After a nervous chuckle slipped out of her lips, Cat reached for the booklet and gently tugged it away from Marco, “It’s nothing really, just, ehem…” She proceeded to put the book away into a file cabinet. “I’m just learning a thing or two, to see if I want a, well, career change.” Once she dropped the bomb she looked away and focused on finishing up the task at hand. Cleaning up her things. “This is fine, Marco. I can clean up my own desk, I swear.” Was it too bold to get another serving of scotch? Cat was sweating because she felt like the one person in the room that could see her was seeing her clearly.

What Marco just heard was a lot to process. Career change? Was she thinking of becoming a cop? He didn’t want to assume, but the booklet and the way she was acting, the signs were clear as day. He had a lot of thoughts racing through his head: the possible sale of Godmother, what that meant about his job, but the main one -- possibly the most glaring of them all -- was how…nervous Cat seemed. He might not be the most observant person, certainly not the kind that his father was, but Marco could see enough to realize that this was more than just a thing or two or would that be too presumptuous of Marco to assume?

When Cat put the booklet away and she tried to again shoo him away in a polite way, he looked at his boss. A few moments of silence came after before Marco finally broke it. “So..you want to be a cop or something? I mean, I think that’s pretty cool, Cat! Officer Cat has a nice ring to it, I think. Kinda like Catwoman, but ya know, instead of seducing Batman and whatnot, you’ll be looking out for those of us who can’t.”

“You really think so?” With his kind words Caterina perked up, easing her defenses, this being the first time she told someone outside of Nina about her dream. A dream that sparked the day she almost lost Sofi on August 29th, 2019. The day the town of Edenridge lost many lives. A tragedy that is still hurting many, including herself. Standing up, she interlocked her fingers and started fiddling with her hands.

Soon after, Cat was pacing in her small office thinking, “You don’t have to worry about your job. This process takes time so I won’t be going anywhere. If I pass the civic exam, school takes about six months. Even then, I wouldn’t give my shop to just anyone. I have a lot to consider and I’m hoping whoever I find will allow me to take a backseat so that I can not only focus on my studies but insure that the Godmother still lives on. I just…”

She posted herself by the side table, where the scotch waited for her, before turning on her heel to observe Marco, “I just know this place means a lot to the community, so I don’t want her to die, but I also… need to find purpose in myself? If that makes sense. Purpose beyond—” She gestured around them, the office, the shop, the sandwiches, and the retail. She gestured at everything that her father stood for. Everything he loved. “—This.”

Don’t get her wrong. When Cat was a young mother and this was her best option because she had her father and his connections with the Osso family, she loved this. There was passion at one point. The Godmother has become so loved in the community, she knew that, and that’s because love was the foundation. It was possible because it was a passion project that she shared with her old man. She had nothing going for her otherwise. Now that she’s made a name for it, and herself, and her husband is no longer controlling her mind, she was ready to figure out what she wanted.

She didn’t want to hesitate in anything in regards to her life. She was already worried that Clayton was madly in love with her and she could only imagine how she would react if he said those three words to her: I love you. He loved her for such a long time but now that he’s older it has matured and become something… so warm and so gentle. She’s never felt tenderly appreciated like she does with him and she was scared. Scared that if she didn’t start finding herself, she’d start pushing him away. Self sabotaging her life because she didn’t think she deserved to be loved like that. What kind of bullshit was that? Everyone deserves to be loved and that includes someone broken, damaged, and lost. That includes her. “It’s silly, I know, Marco.”

Marco shook his head almost immediately. “No, it’s not silly at all! If anything, it’s pretty great that you’re doing this.” Marco gave Cat a smile. “You’re putting the effort into something that you believe will let you live a happier life, right? That’s the furthest from being silly. And I absolutely understand. It’s how I feel about working here. It’s hard work, sure. And you don’t always make it easy, but I wouldn’t be able to take charge, even if for a little bit, if you didn’t keep teaching me about all the recipes and how each sandwich is made. So I know that you’ll do great at this! Bringing that same level of focus and dedication to something that will make you happy will get you the results you want, I just know it!”

Deep down, Marco understood what Cat was going through more than she knew. It may not have been directly linked to a change of career, but Marco was undergoing his own difficult choice in calling or texting Poppy James back. That in itself was a hard thing because he wasn’t sure what might happen. All he knew was that, if Cat could do this incredibly difficult thing of try and become a cop, maybe Marco could do that.

Call it mother’s intuition, or a hunch, Cat smiled at Marco’s kind words and re-routed the attention onto him, “Now that you’ve made me feel better about myself…” Cat glanced at the clock on the wall, before bringing her gaze back toward Marco, “It’s almost dinner time, maybe you should text Penelope and see if she’s down to grab a bite.” The older woman crossed her arms and stood there commanding like a mother, but also loving like a mother, “I tried my best not to eavesdrop but it was really hard. You know what I think?”

When Cat mentioned how close it was to dinner, Marco didn’t realize, but he took out his phone briefly to look at the time. He had to admit, though, he didn’t know why he felt surprised that Cat heard his conversation with Poppy but Marco looked at her because he was. “You..heard that, huh?” Instinctively, Marco scratched the left side of his face, one of his many tells when he was starting to feel tense. Lord knows Marco was a walking hypocrite sometimes because he could help those who need it but when it’s turned back on him, he feels reluctant to address it.

Probably why he has people in his life that push him to do things he normally wouldn’t. “You want me to talk to her, don’t you?” It’s not that Marco wasn’t already halfway there, but he remained undecided about it. That feeling in his gut when Poppy first brought it up was starting to return.

“Yes, but also,” Cat’s eyes grew gentle as she rested her weight towards one side, never looking away from him. “Look at it like this. Maybe, she needs this just as much as you. You know why I want to become a cop right? It’s because I almost lost Sofi that day, on the same field you were on. Elisa was there that day. Natalia was there too. And I love my sisters, but take my daughter away from me? That’s a whole different pain.”

Uncrossing her arms, Cat strolled to the younger boy and ruffled his hair, like a big sister would, “There’s too much hurt in this town and it takes a lot of bravery to go to people you barely know and say sorry for a deed you didn’t even do. I don’t want you to regret not knowing as much as you could when Charlie’s childhood friend is giving you that chance. You owe her nothing or him, but you owe it to yourself to move on. And she’s there waiting to help you through that.”

She was right, of course -- Marco knew this. No matter how painful it was to think about, maybe it was time that Marco stopped avoiding this. Danny had his way of getting to address it and that only could work if Marco was willing to face what had happened. He wasn’t and that’s why he shifted his focus onto Lanie and being there for her. Deep down, Marco knew this time would come and deep down, maybe he didn’t want to avoid it any longer.

Looking at Cat, Marco’s eyes were glistening slightly. “I know you’re right. I know…I’ve spent so long avoiding this moment. Pushed myself into things that could distract me. Family, friends, online communities -- I’ve tried to not think about that day. You know, I had my eyes set on playing soccer at a pro level, right? Senior year was going to be the year scouts from Boston would come see me, but then that was all taken from me.” Marco bit his lip, feeling himself getting choked up as he tried to get a handle on his emotions. Even though now he was more than content with the way his life was, part of him often wondered what if he wasn’t on the field that day. Would he still be here? Or would he be one of the many names that people remembered who died that day?

Believe it or not, Cat understood him more than he even knew. For herself, while she didn’t almost die during this period of her life, she got pregnant which changed everything for her. All her plans to leave this town, to sail somewhere and never look back, changed in a second because she had Sofi. Her daughter on the other hand was just like him. Sofia used to love soccer and at one point in time she saw herself pursuing it professionally. That all was taken away from her before she could even taste the big leagues. No freshman goes to school thinking this is the day I’m going to get shot and give up on my dreams. No student for that matter. Cat was just glad that her daughter was able to get out of bed and do something with her day. She was also glad her daughter had friends like Richard “Ricky” Osso keeping her afloat. Not those kids that were a golden ticket to Sofi getting a drug addiction. There was no doubt in Cat’s mind that she preferred her daughter playing Dungeons & Dragons with Ricky than loiter, vandalise, and smoke with Jeremy Fletcher and company.

“What would I even say to Poppy, Cat?” He had such a clueless and lost expression on his face and he looked to Cat for some kind of guidance.

“Well, you can first start off by texting her, hey, are you free? I know this is last minute but I just got off work and was going to get dinner at the Hole,” Cat smirked, even adding a sassy eye roll. “Don’t overthink it. Right now you’re just hanging out with someone. If you don’t know where to start when you’re there, have her lead. I imagine once you two start talking it’ll all fall into place and make sense in the end. Right now though? All you need to do is grab your phone and text ‘hey’.”

Marco went quiet for a few moments. Perhaps Cat was right and he was putting too much thought into it. He had only the thought of talking about what happened to him in his mind but maybe that’s not all it could be. Truth be told, Marco didn’t know what could happen. He wished he could be the old version of himself who didn’t overthink so much, who didn’t second-guess every thought and action he made. In the past, he wouldn’t have hesitated to text poppy. Hell, he would’ve made plans to meet up with her that day. But now he spent nearly a week going over it in his mind and still wasn’t completely sure. Maybe that was okay. Maybe he didn’t have to know everything. Like Cat said, maybe it didn’t have to have the weight of Charlie added to it.

Marco half smiled, looking at Cat. All he had to do was text her. “I’ll do that then,” he commented, giving Cat a quick hug that only lasted a few seconds. “Thank you…for everything you’ve done. I know you’ll ace that test! This town would be lucky to have someone who cares so much looking out for them.”

Although the hug only lasted seconds, the sudden affection from one of her employees, and her brother’s friend, caused her to briefly tense up. She didn’t mind playfully ruffling his hair or lightly slapping the back of his head like she would do with Danny when he just wouldn’t get it right, but a hug was something she considered intimate. She loved intimacy - just not with her brother’s friend.

Clay was different… Clay was over the house a lot with his sister Lamb. Cat practically grew up with him. Whenever she and her sisters visited the Brady house, she spent more time with Marlie than the children. Don’t get her wrong, she’s hugged Marco before in a family setting where it was kind of something you did out of respect, but now that he was her subordinate… It was weird.

Hiding the mild uncomfortable sensation behind a warm smile, Cat chuckled, “Thanks, kid. I needed this.” Extremely obvious of her next motive, Cat opened her office door, “You’ve helped me get out of my funk, now it’s time for you to get out of your’s. Be goneeeee.” She shooed the boy — desperately in need of ME time before she went back home and waited for Clay to text her.

“Yes boss!” Marco chuckled as he waved to Cat, leaving her office and closing the door behind him.

Marco left the Godmother but he lingered outside for a few minutes. He thought for the whole time about everything that Cat said about not overthinking it. That wasn’t an easy thing for him to do since that’s become his default setting. Ever since getting shot and after recovery, Marco hasn’t been able to change that about himself. Always overthinking every decision he made, everything he did, and what he might do. Entertaining thoughts about what could go wrong, what if it’s not what it was initially pitched as instead of looking on the bright side like he used to.

He missed that version of himself. Somehow Cat could see that. Part of him just knew she did and maybe it was about time he started to try and find that Marco Brady again.

Taking out his phone, Marco texted Poppy.

Hey, it’s Marco. You free? I just got off work. (sent)
Thought…if you wanted, we could grab some dinner at The Hole?sent

Marco lingered still as he was about to pocket his phone in the front right pocket of his pants, but then he felt it vibrate in his hand. Looking at his screen, it was Poppy. “Dang that was fast!”

Yes. I’m close by. See you in ten? received
Penelope


Sounds great! On my way too! 🌞sent

With that text sent, Marco started walking towards the end of main street. His legs were sore from being on them practically all day, but it wasn’t far. He could rest when he got there.

He hoped..

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TW: IT'S A LIAM POST. IT'S FUCKED.
TIMESTAMP: Proceeds after Heroes & Villains


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Wes really didn’t know what to make of it when he bumped into an aide of the Mayor earlier that day. He was asked to meet them on the corner outside Swerve Arcana so that he could talk with the head of the town that dreaded sundown. In Wesley’s investigative mind, the logical explanation was to think that Theodore had discovered his relationship with his youngest daughter and wanted to go through the whole father spiel of warning him to not put a wrong foot forward lest he face the consequences. Wes didn’t mind that, he believed he had enough warewithall to be able to talk on the same level as Mr Grimm.

With his beloved camera in one hand, Wesley climbed into the black sedan with the blocked out windows without a second thought. He wasn’t going to back down, no matter what sort of thinly veiled threat Kylee’s father was going to throw at him. He loved that girl, in spite of everything that she may not know, he truly loved her. In the short time they had even been a thing, she had made him feel more alive than anything ever had before. He did wonder if she knew all of his secrets, if she would still be there by his side. He wondered…

Wes closed the door behind him and the car took off instantly. It did not speed, if anything it was a leisurely drive but the motion of the engine restarting still made him jump. He turned to face the man sitting on the other side of the back seat. Kylee held a lot of resemblance to her father with their dark features. He sat there, dressed in a fine black suit and gloves with a warm smile on his face, just like hers.

“Good Afternoon, Mr Silo. You know who I am?” The Mayor poised, his fingers interlocked together across his lap, the air around him carrying that aura of regality that he produced all the time.

“Yes sir, Mayor Grimm.” Wes was not going to back down but that didn’t mean that he still wasn’t nervous. Meeting your girlfriend's father was always a big deal but for him? Well his girlfriend's old man just so happened to be the most powerful man in three counties. A man who not only ran a town or who owned multiple businesses but a man who was feared for a past he dare not speak on. He fiddled a little bit with his camera but never let his eyes stray away from Teddy.

“Correct. And who else am I?”

“Kylee’s father.”

“Correct again. I like this young man, Bash. He’s clever,” Teddy spoke to the man driving their car towards Milligan bridge and the growing dark cloud in the distance. The driver simply nodded his head as his pale blue eyes watched in the rear view mirror. Lifting his hands to his Windsor knot, the Mayor loosened the coal grey tie that his precious had picked out for him earlier that morning. “Now tell me, Wesley, if I can be so bold as to call you such….What are your intentions with my daughter?” It was a habit of his to pause or elongate sentences. In his current guide, many believed it to be for show, to enunciate. In reality, for those who recall days gone by, they would know that as a boy, Teddy Grimm suffered terribly from a stutter. He certainly did not stutter now, however…

There it was! The big bad daddy speech he was expecting. Wesley hadn’t had that many considering he never really had a serious girlfriend, something his sister never let him forget. That said, he had seen the movies, read the comics, he knew how it was supposed to go and someone like Teddy, who thrived on his power over people would not get to him. No sir. “I have no ill intentions, sir. She makes me happy, the happiest I’ve been in a long time. In fact, probably the happiest I’ve ever been. Period. I’m falling in love with her.”

“Love? Well, isn’t that fascinating?” For the first time since Wes had climbed into his sedan, the look on the Mayor's face had transformed. The warm, inviting gaze of the man who had won the hearts and minds of the people of Edenridge Massachusetts had been replaced with a much more curious, not quite serious but stern enough look. “Love is built on a cornerstone of trust. It is the very foundation on which any strong relationship will take root and yet…I wonder if you trust my daughter, truly trust her. And if you do not trust her, then surely you do not love her?”

With a furrowed brow, the reporter looked at what could very well be his future father-in-law with confusion in his eyes. Where was the older man pulling this from? How could he question how he feels about Kylee? The two of them had never met before. There was no possible way Teddy could justify this opinion. “I don’t follow.”

The Serpent legend let out a hearty laugh. Loud and bellowing, with the sound bouncing off the black windows of the sedan. “Please, Wesley, you are a smart boy. Top of your class from Pinehurst Academy. GPA 4.0. Graduated 2016, went to Brown University, passed with flying colors there too, if I’m not mistaken? Journalism major right? Then you returned home and took up a position at the Pinehurst Echo. All that education. All that experience and yet you cannot follow the beautiful simplicity that is love.”

“I…I well…”

“Sh sh sh, Wesley, the grown up is talking.” He placed his hand on Wesley’s camera and took it away from him. “You see, I am aware that you were released from your contract at the Echo for reporting fake news that you yourself cooked up to drive paper sales, website likes and subscriptions and to get your little self noticed.” Once again, Teddy's face morphed accordingly. In place of his frown was now a cold, blank and completely detached glare. “I am also aware that your older brother has bailed you out of more financial holes than you would care to even dwell on. I know who your family is in debt to and I know what you have been doing behind my little girl's back. I know you are helping the one sending the letters.” The Reaper’s voice had transmuted into a machine gun, his words like bullets bluntly hitting their target.

With every statement of his hidden past now coming to light, a wave of panic began to wash over Wes. “Where are we going?!” He looked out of the blackened windows — they were not in Edenridge anymore. The realisation that there was no escape hit the reporter like a ton of bricks. The doors were locked; there was no way he could break a window. He finally realised that this wasn’t just a father warning his daughter’s boyfriend to get her home before dark. It was the look in Teddy’s eyes that gave it away. This was a Reaper who came to collect a soul. “I…I had to! I had to,” He professed, gripping into the inside door handle. “Ky is innocent in all this. I’d never hurt her!”

“And I will not give you the chance to.” Calmly, Teddy took the camera he was holding and smashed it against Wes’s skull several times, right above his left eye. He dropped the camera and used his superior size to pin Wes down as his gloved hands wrapped around the young man’s throat. “She is the very air I breathe!” The Reaper hissed. “My precious!” As Wesley’s face began to turn red and his lips blue, Teddy tightened his grip. “You lied to her. As any good father would, I cannot allow that to happen again!”

Wes gripped at Teddy’s hand around his throat but the older man was much larger and stronger. The angle at which he was pinned down made it extremely difficult for him to get any leverage at all as the Mayor pressed his full imposing weight down on top of him. He could feel his skin beginning to burn as he struggled. His blood vessels burst, as the air was squeezed out of his lungs. The blood seeping from the huge gash on his forehead was beginning to obstruct Wesley’s vision. Through the crimson mass covering his face, the young reporter gasped for breath, the only thing he could see were those beautiful brown eyes, the same ones that belonged to his love, Kylee.

Kylee, I’m so sorry.

After several moments, Wesley Silo’s body went limp in the Reaper's hands. With their chests pressed together, the Mayor could no longer feel the boy's heartbeat, the air no longer flowing from his mouth or nose. Teddy leaned back in his chair, finally releasing Wes from his grasp. He took out the handkerchief from his suit pocket and lightly dabbed dry the damn perspiration around his mouth.

“It is truly a great shame that ruin will descend upon this town like the fires of Pompeii but it must be done, our boy here has seen to that. Eden will fall to rise again….Bash, let Julian know we are coming, would you, darling?”
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Venus
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Venus

Member Seen 0-12 hrs ago



A @BrutalBx and @Venus Collaboration
Featuring David O’Hara and Caitlin Cleary


Friday, February 10th, 2017


Another day gone.

It had been two months since Allison Davies’ death, and the town of Edenridge, MA still seemed to be in a deep state of mourning. Not only that, but there seemed to be a giant shift happening within the context of the people in David O'Hara's life. As many lamented the loss of the town’s golden girl, others were busy looking to the future and their potential place in it. College admissions. Career opportunities. What comes next? Those were the words haunting the O’Hara boy and his friends.

Where did David fit into all this? He didn’t know.

Down by the lake in his truck, with the powerful words of Foreigner’s ‘Waiting for a Girl Like You’ ringing out through the speakers, Duke sat with his arm out of the driver's side window as he watched Caitlin Cleary dance in front of the water. They had been meeting up in secret ever since the night of the Shining Star competition and Ally’s death. A lot of thoughts had drifted through his mind since that evening, not all of them good.

At first it was guilt. David had kissed Caitlin, the baby sister of literally one of his closest friends, and he kept it hidden. He wondered if maybe this whole thing was just his way of dealing with Allison’s death; throwing himself at the first girl he saw in some twisted need for love and dependency. Then her age factored into his thoughts. She was a freshman, he was a senior. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t legal! He tried to rationalize it that they were both in high school and that it was fine but in a court of law, if what they were doing carried on beyond his graduation then he would be jailed immediately and probably shanked in the showers. Of course he told Jamie, and his twin did what she could to reassure him-- she always did. But she would be gone soon as well. Everybody he needed was leaving. For once, The Duke had to make a decision on his own.

The problem of it all was that in spite of his clear thoughts, the young man didn’t want to stop. David had been the one to name the girl CeCe when she was young, to the point that few called her Caitlin anymore. He did that. The girl he had known forever had very swiftly become such a big part of his life. They texted almost constantly. They stole away brief hours together down by the lake in a place that only two other people knew about. Looking at her in that moment, the moon bouncing off the water and her bright red hair, he was in awe. She danced where angels feared to tread and it was intoxicating. He loved it… And he loved her.

So long
I've been lookin' too hard, I've been waiting too long
Sometimes I don't know what I will find
I only know it's a matter of time

When you love someone
When you love someone
It feels so right, so warm and true
I need to know if you feel it too
Maybe I'm wrong
Won't you tell me if I'm comin' on too strong?
This heart of mine has been hurt before
This time I want to be sure

I've been waiting for a girl like you
To come into my life
I've been waiting for a girl like you
A love that will survive
I've been waiting for someone new
To make me feel alive
Yeah, waiting for a girl like you
To come into my life

You're so good
When we make love it's understood
It's more than a touch or a word we say
Only in dreams could it be this way

When you love someone
Yeah, really love someone
Now, I know it's right
From the moment I wake up 'til deep in the night
There's no where on earth that I'd rather be
Than holding you tenderly

I've been waiting for a girl like you
To come into my life
I've been waiting for a girl like you
A love that will survive
I've been waiting for someone new
To make me feel alive
Yeah, waiting for a girl like you
To come into my life

I've been waiting
Waiting for you
Ooh-ooh
I've been waiting
I've been waiting, yeah
Won't you come into my life?
My life?

Climbing out of the old Ford, Davey held open the door and used it to hold himself as he watched the flame-haired young beauty in all of her glory. “I’ll convert you into a rock goddess yet, kid.”

While David had been agonizing over his secret meetings with her, Caitlin had been floating on cloud nine since that night he kissed her for the first time. After four excruciatingly long years, her darling Davy had finally seen and treated her like an equal, and Cece couldn’t be more thrilled. The hours they spent together on their own had helped them discover that even with the years that separated them they weren't so different after all, and only accelerated the process of strengthening their bond and bringing them closer. In her mind, age was nothing but a number. A three year and nine month gap wasn’t that big of a deal. There were plenty of couples at Edenridge High composed of a senior and a freshman, and nobody said anything about it. Hell, some of the most respected adult couples in town had similar or even bigger age gaps as them! What was the big deal if she and David were to be one of them?

Cece knew what was the big deal. Or, more exactly, who the big deal was. In their particular situation, the real problems had a shared first and last name: Garrett Cleary Jr. and Garrett Cleary III. While her father wasn't a strict man that would prohibit things, he had been very clear in his stance about his children not dating until they were at least sixteen, and had been even clearer in his expectation that they were to at least finish high school before they reproduced. Gary had it easy with his first two kids-- with Rhett not being even remotely interested in dating and Brogan coming out as gay on top of her sole focus being her sports. In Cece's case, even with her crush on David, she had been certain she could live up to her father's expectation. She wasn't interested in any other boy, David wasn’t paying attention to her in a romantic way, and Rhett had been fantastic in assisting his father's cause by not letting any potential prospects penetrate the defenses he manned so well. The thought of what they would do to David, someone that they knew and trusted and who was older than Caitlin, if they found out he'd slipped through the cracks to cause the third-born child to steer away from the set family expectations was slightly terrifying… But not enough to deter the redhead from wanting to stop their liaison.

She loved David. Plain and simple. And her love would always be stronger than her fear of disappointment.

David’s comment about turning her into a rock goddess brought a smile to the dancing Caitlin’s face. "I don't think anyone can turn me into anything other than a Swiftie, but I can appreciate your taste in music," she said with a loud laugh, allowing herself one last twirl before prancing over to the lone audience member watching her body movements. “Did you bring me over here so you could just stand there and watch me make a fool of myself? Or are you going to come dance with me?” the short girl inquired playfully, wrapping her smaller hand around the young man’s larger one and looking up at him with those bright blue eyes that shone with the excitement of first love.

“I don’t dance unless it’s air guitar,” David chuckled as Caitlin held onto his hand. She really did have a way of easing all of his stresses and his fears with but a glance from her baby blues.

“That is a lie,” Cece retorted, playfully tugging at his arm. Even when he was sober, David always had a knack for being the life of the party. But when he was tipsy? It was truly a sight to see. “Four beers into whatever party or barbeque we’re at, and you put Mick Jagger to shame with your dance moves,” the girl teased, going as far as to imitate the moves he’d become so famous for.

“I will neither confirm nor deny this,” David laughed along with Caitlin before his smile fell into a more serious face.

“The truth is, I brought you out here, CeCe, because…” The words were there on his lips, while she looked at him expectantly. “I wanted to ask if--” The Duke had the words-- he had them. They were there, but he was struggling to say them. His heart knew exactly what he wanted to speak but his mind was preventing it. Davey was in a constant battle with himself, especially when it came to Caitlin. Life had thrown him a curve ball, and he was struggling to make the hit for a home run. Jamie understood; but who else would? Would anybody else even care? Maybe they’re relationship wasn’t as big a thing as he had made it out to be in his head? Perhaps everyone would understand? After all, in today's society, love is love: no matter the gender, color or credence, right?

He looked out across the water at the Elder tree and thought of the forbidden love that was the impetus for the founding of the town itself. It ushered a level of faith into his soul that previously hadn't been there. One must fight for the one they love. “CeCe, I want this to be real. I want it all. Be mine? Be my girl?”

The way David was tripping over his words and the anxiety exuding from him initially made Caitlin nervous. She knew he had doubts about what was happening between them, but she didn’t think they had been that serious. Had he brought her here for one last night of fun to put an end to their involvement? Had someone found out about them and was advising, blackmailing or threatening him against it? Had he realized she wasn’t as great of a match for him as he’d thought before? Had he found someone else he liked better than her? Another girl who was older, prettier, smarter, funnier, more extroverted than she would ever be? God, she knew she shouldn’t have gotten so attached so quickly... It was too good to be true. She had held onto this far-fetched fantasy of becoming his girl for so many years, and now that he had thought about it he was getting ready to pull her back to reality. How could she have been so stupid and naive?

But it turned out that Cece’s panicked thoughts were mere figments of an overactive imagination and deep-rooted insecurities. Because when the O’Hara boy’s words finally came out and reached the redhead’s ears, they were what she had dreamed about hearing all along.

David didn’t have to wait long for Cece’s reply. The young woman released an excited giggle and wrapped her arms around his tall frame, burying her face in his chest. "Of course! Of course I'll be your girl!" she shrieked, happy tears rapidly flooding her eyes as she succumbed into jubilant sobs, without a care in the world about how positively pathetic she looked. After so many years of silent prayers and wishing upon stars, her greatest desire had finally materialized itself.

“I’m sorry for getting so emotional like this. It’s just… This is like a dream come true for me...” she began to explain as she pulled away from David, taking deep breaths to steady herself while wiping her flushed cheeks to make way for more tears. “There were so many nights that I would lie awake crying because I'd heard that you were seeing someone new. I was terrified to think that you would find love in one of those girls, and that I'd have to watch you be happy with them and pretend to be okay while I was left having to take care of a heart torn to pieces. Knowing that you're choosing me out of all the other girls you can have makes me feel so lucky and special and just…" she trailed off, shifting her eyes to look into those that belonged to her boyfriend. “I prom-- no, I swear: I’ll do everything that I can to love you, take care of you and make you happy. That’s all I’ve ever wanted for me, and all I’ve ever wanted for you..”

Hearing her words caused butterflies to rise in the pit of his stomach. She said yes! David still had his concerns, and they would still have to keep it a secret. But his heart wanted what his heart wanted, and it wanted Caitlin. God, it wanted her.

David gently placed his hands on her face and just looked at her, starting into her beautiful blue eyes and smiling. “Then I guess we’re doing this.” He smiled widely, “You’re my girl.” Duke leaned in and pressed a kiss to the young girl's lips, pulling her body close to his.

The redhead nodded in agreement. “Till death do us part,” she declared with the utmost conviction, resting her forehead against his for a moment before locking her lips with his. It was quite a strong statement to make at fourteen-- some might even call it clueless or even downright ignorant. But one the very few things Caitlin was sure of in her life was that the day she stopped loving David was the day she drew her last breath in this world.

The newly formed couple stood together embracing tightly under the moonlight by the lake, a warm breeze carrying electricity and fate through the air. She was his. He was hers.

In the end, it’s her and I.
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Hidden 30 days ago Post by BrutalBx
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BrutalBx

Member Seen 4 days ago

@LovelyComplex & @BrutalBx
Timestamp: After Heroes & Villains, Legado de Montero
FT: Salvador Montero, Avery Kaine, Anthony "Oz" Osso

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It had taken a while but after many boxes moved, many moments of dodging Esteban’s wrath and Cassandra’s venom, Salvador had managed to escape from his brand new home on Scott Street and entered the limestone jungle that was Edenridge, Massachusetts. His first thought was to venture south towards what he had already heard was the worst part of town; Carlisle Avenue. ReyRey was there and the young man couldn’t wait to see his favourite older cousin. Yet, Sal also liked to think he was a smart type of cat and decided against it. Surprising R2, whilst good in theory, would be terrible in practice as the Kingsnake as some called him was known for having what one might call an unlevel temperament. Instead Salvador headed straight south towards the area known as Main Street.

Immediately, the young Montero realised that the world he now inhabited was incredibly different to the one that he was born into. Miami was a different animal. Sun drenched beaches, palm trees, heat that could cool an egg on the sidewalk. Lest he forget the people. A predominantly Latin X community that looked out for each other and took care of their own. When though he had only been there for a few short hours, Sal already had the feeling that Eden was very much a dog eat dog, survival of the fittest type of place. He already had family here but they were a different breed. The Gonzalez had been raised in the dirt and thrown into the trenches. Sal and Cass were born with silver spoons and trust funds. This was not their place but they had to make it so that it was.

Easier said than done.

Salvador was excited to explore his new home. Edenridge was a small town but in some circles, it was a very famous town. The Most Haunted Town in America. Around every corner was a new horror story to uncover. The Hangman. The Weeping Woman. The Witches on the Hill. There were so many tales to uncover and Sally could barely contain his excitement. He had been into spooky stories since he was a child watching Goosebumps reruns on Netflix. It was his fascination with the macabre which led the youngest Montero to the world of comic books, fantasy and his home with the nerds and misfits of the world. His mother understood, she was always on his wavelength but now she was gone. Dead. Crumpled in a heap on the floor of a hotel with a broken neck. Salvador had worked hard to get the image out of his head but it was proving to be a winless battle.

Opening the door to Swerve Arcana, the newcomer's mouth dropped open and he struggled to pick his jaw up off of the floor. His almond eyes widened as he gazed upon the myriad of shelves of comics, graphic novels and board games. At that moment, Salvador’s nerdgasm went into overdrive. He took one step into the promised land and for the first time in what felt like forever since his mothers passing, a smile crept up across his face.

“You know, now that Jamie’s rejected me, you could totally put in a good word for me with Sissy, Ozzy boy,” Avery leaned on the counter going through an older Langley series, All My Falling Stars. It was the one that got him out there in the big world. A romance story where he took actual experiences with his wife and displayed it to the world. She wondered if this would be a good story to share with Jamie. A story about two star-crossed lovers. An unassuming boy who didn’t believe he’d live past highschool and an incredibly shy girl who felt invisible to the world. It was a cute story and extremely heartfelt. A passion project of Langley’s since his other work was nothing like this, at all.

Strumming on his Stratocaster to the tune of Turn the Page by Metallica, Oz raised his head up from the ground and shook it disappointedly. “Two things; one, no. Two, she’s dating someone right now, some French lawyer chick. Total fox.” He placed his guitar down by his feet as he checked the clock on the wall. Ozzy only had a short break from work, so of course he was going to spend it at Arcana with his dungeon party. Though half the little turd burglars weren’t even there. Did he say they could have a life outside of their quest? Absolutely-fucking-not. He would’ve gone to see Violet but she was busy with her Mom and he hated intruding on their time together. Ozzy glanced towards the door as it chimes open and in stepped a brand new face. “New victim for you, Aves.”

Closing the comic book, Avery glanced up toward the new face. His features reminded her of one specific family. It was uncanny, honestly. The Gonzales were Southside royalty, in a sense. Well, as royal as they could get. They were fighters, survivors, and people you didn’t fuck with. They kept close ties with the people they connected with and knew everyone in this town, including her and her family. Family was everything.

The way this boy’s eyes sparkled, it was like he was a kid who just walked into a candy store. Someone with that kind of spark gave her hope that Swerve Arcana would never go out of business. If it wasn’t for online sales, who knows where she and her father would be. Probably relying heavily on her badass nerd mama Zella Kaine, major larper and dungeon master back in her day who now teaches the arts at Edenridge High. But teachers got paid shit, so maybe not. It was likely the whole family would rely on her sister, Zarissa. She was too smart for her own good and for her family. The only forensic analyst this godforsaken town had and there were a lot of goddamn crimes here. She constantly pulled overtime but hey, she loved it. Thankfully there were nerds all over the world and her dad’s shop had some good finds that you couldn’t find anywhere else. Somehow, Arthur Kaine got the hookup with Langley’s agent so, like, they were one of the first stores to have his new work.

She missed the days when the Midnight Society was part of Oz’s dungeon party. There was so much more life in her playground. They disbanded after the Decker incident and Oz had to adopt randos to keep his mind busy. None of the new kids were as committed as Dal, Lolly, and Dean. Those three, especially when they were with Q, were a force to be reckoned with. Dungeons and Dragons was an escape for them and they made sure to meet at least twice a week. Now though? Dal was constantly babysitting and she fell off the table top bandwagon when Lolly stopped coming. That was around the time Q got his head shot off. Dean soon followed suit, focusing on pursuing a degree in journalism, going against his phenomenal coding abilities and his love for ghost stories. He was a well rounded boy but she always thought he’d do something with ghosts.

Sadly, the heart of their group was gone so they couldn’t pretend there wasn’t a void. There was no Q which means they lost their drive, their purpose, and had to recalculate what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives. Lolly was likely gaming 24/7 in her bedroom, she was a recluse after all, Dallas had no end goals, simply wanting to help her town by leading the babysitters club, and Dean was trying to find his footing even if it meant he wasn’t going to pursue what once was a dream. Chasing ghosts and shit.

Giving Oz a nod, Avery left the register and strolled to the newcomer. She smiled when she saw him go straight to the new Langley. “I’m excited about this one. Dread. Gives me spooky Lovecraftian vibes. Madness and Horror. Brand spankin’ new. The first volume. Pretty fucking exciting, right?”

“This shit is gold dust!” Salvador gingerly picked up the Langley time with such delicate care. He held the comic to his nose and inhaled the sweet smell of freshly inked pages and exhaled deeply. “Sooooo fresh.” Realising he was in the presence of another human, Sal placed the comic back down onto its pedestal and looked at the young woman that now stood beside him. “I’m sorry,” He mousily apologised. This was why he was a disappointment to his father. Cass would have read the room, calculated every obstacle and found a way to overcome it before she even took an expensive heeled area off of the Spider-Man welcome mat. Sal, well Sal sniffed a page. Yup. “This place is amazing. You have such cool stuff!”

“Why the fuck are you sorry?” Avery said rather bluntly. She was glad Violet wasn’t here or she’d scold her for her potty mouth. Her whole family talked like sailors, it was honest to goddess a challenge to not curse. She had to do better though. What if Violet left her? One of the only girls that could put up with her bullshit. That would be a travesty. Aves went from staring at the embarrassed boy to her bracelet. She loved that girl. Putting her fist to her lips, her attention back on the stranger, Aves cleared her throat, “My b, welcome to Swerve. The place where you can legit be what you want to be and no one is going to judge you. If you are judged, well, IDK man. That’s legit never happened. Those that come here are usually in search for a place to belong, so like… we’re chill. Sniff that book all you want.”

It was nice to hear that this place seemed to be some kind of safe haven for the freaks and geeks, though the freckled girl could just be trying to sell him more comics than he could afford. Which in itself was a moot point since Sal and his family had enough money to buy the place outright. “I just get…kinda locked on? Like Langley’s stuff is just so good you know? He’s one of my idols. I watched him do that live DND campaign on Youtube the other day and the guy was hilarious. I would kill to play with him.”

Sal took another look around the place, taking in the ambience and feel. This was going to be his throne, he could feel it. When work and family would get too much, this would be what called to him. When the grief and sadness overtook him, when the image of her body became stuck in his head and he couldn’t escape it, this place, it would be his sanctuary, his fortress of solitude, his bat cave. “You guys got any DnD in this town?”

Huh. She liked this kid. Unlike her other family members, he was a nerd through and through. “Do we have DnD?” Avery scoffed in amusement. “DO WE HAVE DND?” She slapped her knee and started to laugh. Once a second or two passed, she turned to the cleancut metal head, “Oz this kid wants to know if we have DnD! Oh, by the way,” Avery was back to looking at the fresh face, all the while grinning, “I’m Avery, this is my dad’s place. That’s my boy Anthony, but call him Oz. He prefers it. He took up the dungeon master mantle after my mom focused on being a teacher. You want an in? You gotta’ convince him.”

Like the Lord of the underworld he was in his dreams, Oz leapt up from behind a bookshelf and landed in a crouched position next to the newcomer. “Welcome young traveler,” He stood up to his full, tall, lanky frame and began to circle Salvador like a shark that could smell its victims fresh blood in the water. “So you wanna play a game?” The metal head spoke in his best Jigsaw impression. “I must tell you, what we do here is not just a game. Our DnD is a way of life. To join our party one does not just simply walk into Swerve, you. have. to. earn. it.” Ozzy stopped behind the boy and placed his skull ringed fingers gently onto his shoulders. “To join our party, you have to undertake a quest.”

His dark eyes drifted to Avery as he held the young completely in this thrall and a knowing smile crept up across his face. “In the kingdom of Edenridge, there are many untold dangers. Around every corner, a new faction plots to bring our realm to ruin. Snakes in the grass, monsters in the water and above it all, our Lord whose name we doth not speak,” His final word a whisper into Sal’s ear. Oz dragged a finger down Sal’s cheek before positioning himself back at the forefront next to Avery. Pulling out a D20 from the inner pocket of his denim vest, Ozzy held it aloft between himself and the comic store employee. “Dare we say it, Butter Scotch? Is he worthy to be the one to reunite our team of heroes?”

To give Sal insight, Avery whispered, “I’m a ranger Tabaxi very far from my homeland in search of my long lost sister, Pepper Jack. Also kinda’ a pest. A troll. A goofball. A fucking idiot.” When she saw Oz giving her a deadly serious glare, Aves rolled her eyes and matched his dramatics, “Let the fates decide!” She waved her hands in front of her, vertical and in the opposite direction from one another, like she was putting a spell on Sal.

Taking the D20 out of Oz’s grasp, Aves’ changed her voice’s octave (much higher and with a slight lisp) and went into playful, minx mode. A character that took hardly anything seriously, “Do it, I dare you. Triple dog dare you. Don’t be a pussy. I’m the only pussy in this party! Get higher than fifteen and we will set you on your funfunfun quest! What do you say?”

”I’m in, Lady Butter Scotch,” Salvador took the D20 from Avery and held it aloft his head like a great sword of destiny. ”I am Raoul of the Order of the Profane Soul. Blood Hunter. I wish to aid you on your quest to find your sister!” With a flick of his wrist, Sal rolled the dice onto a nearby shelf. He watched as the fabled die bounced in slow motion across the old panel unit until it finally stopped in front of the Stephen King section. Sally widened his chocolate eyes in shock and pleasure as the D20 showed a face of 18.

Though his excitement was immediately ruined when Aves teasingly corrected him, “I ain’t no lady, bitch. I wouldn’t be caught dead in silk and pearls. Just call me Butter. Or Scotch. Or Butter Scotch.”

Oz looked at Avery and then back to Sal with a huge grin upon his face. He placed his hands into his pockets and took a step back. “In our world, young Raoul, there exists a group of heroes. Heroes who have time and time again, protected these lands from those that wish it ill. Sadly, in their most recent battle, our legends lost their leader and thus, without his light to guide them, fell apart. Butter Scotch and I have tried to get them together again but alas, our attempts have been met with naught but failure. If you, Raoul of the Order can convince them to band together once more, then and only then, may you join our party. Raoul, to join us, you must return together, the Midnight Society.”

Pulling his arms from his pockets in a sudden motion, Heavy Metal Oz grabbed either side of Sal’s face and leaned in close. With a hushed whisper, he spoke into the young man’s face. ”Your first task, find the Quill. The Quill will ink the words and draw the map to the path you must take. Make haste, young Raoul, for in the lands of Eden, time is very much of the essence.” In a dramatic move, Oz span away from Sal and straight out of the front door of Swerve, hopefully to return to reality.

“Translation: Find our knowledge cleric. She’s a scholar, a skill monkey, and a healer. Oz was super vague though,” Aves shook her head at her friend. Did he really think Sal could find people based on nicknames like ‘The Quill’? Knowing Oz he likely was assuming she’d take care of the rest. “You don’t have to go too far, just go to the manga section,” Avery pointed in a direction where Rosie was likely hiding and drawing her new character concept for her fanfiction. “Gorgeous blonde hair. A mischievous smile. Total babe.”

In a swift moment, Sal broke free of the fantasy fever dream he had walked into and looked at the befreckled young woman standing before him. “Oh….cool. Thanks for letting me join you guys. I really don’t know anyone other than my family here and they’re aren’t really…well…they….yeah, no thanks a lot.” The Montero child offered up a genuine, sweet smile to Avery as he gripped a hold of his rucksack tightly, preparing himself for the next great adventure. His eyes fell upon the manga section that she had pointed to and he signed through his nose in determination, stepping onward onto glory.
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Hidden 28 days ago 28 days ago Post by LovelyComplex
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LovelyComplex

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TW: Suicide Ideation/Attempt


________________________________________________________________________________


________________________________________________________________________________

Thursday, December 21, 2017
In an alleyway by the drugstore

His head was pounding.

And he was shivering. Or sweating. He couldn't tell.

Every morning he woke up like he was going through a daze. Niles tried to cling to the things that made him happy which meant he clung to Natalia because that’s all he had. There was Gavriel too but even then their time together was limited. The most time they spent was when they both were in the clinic hanging out. Being sons of doctors had its perks.

He didn’t understand why the moment he even entertained having friends outside him and Natalia she’d get incredibly insecure and panic. Natalia and him had a deal and that was they would explore each other but there would be no strings attached. In Niles’ opinion, dating was overrated and made relationships complicated. By being friends with benefits everything could stay the same, the only difference was now they had sex. A lot of fucking sex.

Even with the comfort of pleasure, Niles still found himself lost, searching for Neverland. It was almost midnight and here he was, sitting on the ground in an alleyway, beaten and bruised. Honestly, he didn’t remember who he started shit with, but here he was, exhausted and unable to move.

Niles blankly stared at the brick wall ahead of me. With no energy to pick himself up, his body slouched to one side, the doctor’s son reached for his phone and debated if he should call Natalia or send a text. He had reached a point in his day where all there was was fog in his brain. He couldn’t feel his body anymore which was great, it matched his insides. He preferred to feel this way. To feel nothing.

If he told her about this, a repeat of last time would happen and he would make her cry. Natalia was always scared one day he would end his life. That’s why she called so much, that’s why she checked on him so much, that’s why she spent all the time she could at his side… that’s why she didn’t want anyone to ruin what they had.

Huh.

Is that why she didn’t let him have friends?

Niles wondered what she was up to. She’s supposed to be studying for her history exam. They promised each other that they wouldn’t distract one another. That was a lie since all last night they had video sex. Microdosing so that they could succeed this week. Her hot bodice aside, he needed her to focus and to not worry about him so much. She was going to anyway but if there was one thing he learned quickly about the Belmonte family, Taz took his children’s grades extremely serious and he didn’t need that added grief if Natalia got bad marks. They were lucky enough that Taz had no idea they were fucking. Perks of getting with the favorite Belmonte 7, amiright?

While Niles did want her to focus on herself, he knew she wouldn’t. He knew she was likely planning to do something special for him because she never forgot anything that mattered, especially not when it came to him. Certainly not his mother’s death day, which was tomorrow. Carrie called it her angelversary which was her way of optimistically looking at death like there was somewhere you went after you died like Neverland. Or Wonderland. Or Hell. Depends on your perspective.

Truth be told, he didn’t care about what was at the end of life. All he cared about was ending his life. No matter how much time came and went, he couldn’t scream, he couldn’t cry, he couldn’t even admit to anyone that he wasn’t okay. He was far from okay. All he could do was be, just be.

Being numb was much better than the monster he fought everyday. He liked it this way. Everytime he thought he was making progress, he found himself falling back into bad habits, falling back into this crippling, agonizing grief, and falling back into this place where he could hear a voice telling him that death was a cure for all lost boys. Death would take away the loneliness. Death would take you away from all reality. Death would take you to a place without pain. Niles could shut it all off and be free. All he had to do was kill himself.

Unfortunately, what didn’t help his depression was his father. Hector Sinclair tried to dictate how he grieved, how all of them grieved. Believe it or not, his father was fighting worse demons than all his children combined but that didn’t give him the right to tell them how to process their grief. How they should cope with their depression.

They lost their fucking mother. Hector had no relationship with his mother, he chose to lose her but Niles? Autumn? Carrie? They didn’t have a choice. A baby died that day and took her with them. Maybe it helped his father to move on and sleep around, maybe it helped his father to tell him to grow up and honor her by living life, maybe it helped his father to pretend. But it didn’t help Niles, especially when he knew that Hector didn’t care about anyone but himself. That Hector was just as much to blame for his mom’s death as the dead baby was.

His mother, his beautiful mother, she lived in his head like Peter Pan. She was forever beautiful, forever youthful, forever in his heart. Never changing. She was. And never will be. She was very much alive in his head and that’s what made the arguments, the disagreements, the fights with his father more hard to deal with.

His father had a temper but so did he. They didn’t hurt each other physically nor did they explode like someone with anger management issues. No, they used words and let them cut deep. So deep. And now Niles was in an alleyway thinking about those words that rang in his ears like white noise.

”Look at yourself… your mom would be crying right now if she saw you.”

“Get over it, Niles. You’re not solving anything by moping around."

“Are you fucking serious? Detention again? If you don’t get your act together, you’re getting sent away. Join your cousin at Camden."

“I brought you into this world and I can take you out, boy.”

People told him time heals but that wasn’t true at all. Before Niles realized, he had texted both Natalia and Rye: I’m giving up, sorry.

Time kept moving and he still felt like shit. Wait, this was more than feeling like shit and there was a reason why he was fading. A feeling, this fading, rushed over him. He felt like a kid again, where he could imagine his mom tucking him in because he had woken her up telling her it was too dark. It wasn’t the dark he was afraid of. It was hearing her argue with dad. He was so weary and so tired. Was that all he wanted? Was all he needed was his mom to kiss him goodnight and tuck him in?

Glancing to his side he saw prescription pills, they weren’t even his pills, and an empty bottle of Benadryl. He was getting better at hiding his isolation. Using sex covered the issues up easy. Made her not worry about him. He was getting better at this, even somehow managing to still send a cryptic message.

Was it finally happening? Was he finally going to Neverland?

Shit.

Darkness overcame him and his body slumped in the alleyway.

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Hidden 28 days ago Post by Venus
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Venus

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TIMESTAMP: Monday, July 19th, 2021; After Mika and Caitlin’s Solo Posts
TW: Mentions of Suicide, Loss of a Lover, Death





A @metanoia & @Venus Collab || Featuring Mikhail Zima & Caitlin Cleary
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At the end of the world
Or the last thing I see
You are never coming home, never coming home
Never coming home, never coming home
And all the things that you never ever told me
And all the smiles that are ever gonna haunt me
Never coming home, never coming home
Could I? Should I?
And all the wounds that are ever gonna scar me
For all the ghosts that are never gonna catch me

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Just a block away from the Cleary home on Prairie Court, Mika Zima sat in his truck. He had been for nearly ten minutes, just thinking about what he should do. It’s been close to half an hour since he put the mystery of that letter together. He couldn't believe just how obvious it was. All of the conversations they had about family, including that first conversation that he ever had with Blossom.

Her talking about family, expectations, and just how angry she got about David — Mika’s cousin! The cousin he never got to know even on a ‘hello my name is’ basis. And that’s something he wished he at least got to do. In all this time that Mika had spent with his mother’s family -- his family -- and getting to know him. From getting to know Coach even if just as a player (and one of his best ones, at that), he never got the chance to meet David. This was something he’d forever regret because he was a coward.

But knowing that Cece was someone who knew David. Not just on a friendly basis, but as someone who probably loved him. Mika didn’t feel betrayed. He sure as hell was still keeping secrets from her, something he probably should have divulged when they met at O’Halloran’s Creek. That was something he’d have to own up to eventually, but Mika wasn’t a block away to talk about that. No, he was a block away from her house trying to decide what he should do with the current information he was sitting on.

Weirdly, he heard Ivan’s voice in his head. The words he spoke to him just before Mika hung up on that bastard he has for a father.

Don’t forget to love and live.

At the time, he didn’t want to hear it, but could that old bastard be onto something?

With a deep sigh that followed him leaning back into his seat, he spent another ten minutes trying to make up his mind. In doing so, he saw something in the back seat behind the passenger side. “Is that what I think it is?” Mika reached back and yanked what he saw. Holding it in his hand, he couldn’t help but laugh. “Guess she left it here.” Mika held one of Cece’s old scrunchies in his hand. Smiling, he thought about just how long it must’ve been in his truck. No doubt since before they were seeing each other before their…relationship went to crap.

“Must be a sign.”

Shaking his head, Mika left his truck, walking around the corner and made his way to the front of the Cleary household. He thought for a moment. Going to the front door was obviously a no-go, so Mika had to get creative. He hopped the side fence and made his way to their backyard, hoping nobody outside or weird, nosey neighbors saw him effectively commit a crime by trespassing. Oh well, that’s something he would need to worry about later. Regardless, he found what he was looking for.

He was literally outside of her bedroom so to speak. To be more accurate, he was in front of the floral trellis that looked climbable. It wasn’t safe, but Mika never was about doing things safely. He took in a deep breath and started to climb his way up the thing that felt like it was going to break under the pressure of his weight, but he eventually made it to the balcony of her room.

And with another sigh, Mika tapped on her French door a few times. When he didn’t get any answer, he tapped again, but this time a little harder. “Yo… Cece!” He tried to whisper but also spoke loud enough so that she would hear him. “You’re in there, right? Please tell me you’re in here...” He hoped to fucking God it was her and not someone who could probably kill him by just pushing him over the ledge.

Seriously, what were you thinking, Mikhail?

Caitlin didn’t know how long she had spent in that closet, clutching her tattooed wrist against her broken heart. All she knew was that she cried until there were no more tears to spare, and only then did she find the strength to trudge across the room and collapse onto her bed. Although her body had remained motionless, her glassy-eyed stare locked onto the spinning blades of the chrome ceiling fan, her mind was going a million miles an hour.

Who would be capable of doing such a despicable thing? Cece never spoke ill of anyone, wronged anyone, caused anyone harm, or even tried to draw attention to herself in any way. She didn’t have any known enemies-- with the exception of Natalia Belmonte, who could immediately be excluded since she was as close to David as Cece was to becoming a millionaire. A personal vendetta against her seemed unlikely, which could mean that whoever posted her letter had another goal in mind.

But what could that goal be? Was there even a goal to be had? What could possibly justify publicly publishing the handwritten letters of a smitten fourteen year-old girl for the whole town to judge? Was it anger? Was it jealousy? Was it someone’s sick, distasteful idea of a joke? What was the need to bring up one of Edenridge’s most infamous scandals of the 2010’s? Why would anyone want to make those close to David re-live their pain again? The young man had been gone from this world for over three years. Why couldn’t they just let him rest in peace?

Lost as she was in her thoughts, Cece failed to notice the first gentle taps on her balcony door. But when she heard the second round of louder, insistent taps accompanied by a voice she could recognize in her sleep, the bewildered young woman leaped from her bed and opened the balcony door to find an unexpected visitor awaiting to be allowed entry into her chambers.

“Mika?” Cece tentatively called out to her visitor, a frown of confusion settling on her face. There wasn’t much time to dwell on it, though-- not when he was out in plain view of the highly observant Scott Street neighbors. She placed a hand on his shoulder and quickly ushered him inside, making sure to look around for any witnesses in the vicinity before closing and locking the balcony door behind her. “What are you doing here?” she inquired once inside the safety of her bedroom.

Not even two seconds after being guided in by a clearly upset and panicked Cece, Mika began to reacquaint himself with her room. “Sure hasn’t changed much,” he commented as he casually walked around. “Wait the bed--” Mika pointed from where it was now to the opposite end of the wall. “It used to be over there, right?” He muttered, turning his head back and met Cece in the eyes. He had a half-grin on his face and she had the complete opposite. “Sorry. I guess I got caught up in the moment.”

Mika parked it on the edge of her bed, taking an extra moment to get a feel for the bounce factor. It still had the same amount of spring as he remembered. He reached into his pocket, pulling out her hair tie which, even as he sat there on her bed, was the weakest reason to climb up to her balcony and see her in person. He could have just mailed it to her and be done with it. Or even have Ley return it to her on his behalf. But Mika needed a reason, so here he was. “I found this in the backseat of my truck.” He extended his open hand to her. The old hair tie that she never got back from him, before their heaven became hell. “Figured you’d want it back…even if it’s been a few years.”

Caitlin's bloodshot eyes were directed to Mika's hand to the item in his open palm, and she found herself getting momentarily distracted from the affliction she'd been wrapped up in since learning about the letter. The red velvet scrunchie had been missing for over two years now, ever since it had slid off her ginger hair one chilly December day in 2018, at the peak of hers and Mika’s ‘relationship’. The young lovers had driven out to the creek to spend time together as they usually did, but the temperatures had dropped below freezing, forcing them to stay nestled inside the vehicle instead of partaking in their usual truck bed hangout. The cold temperature outside, along with the truck's heat and the one emanating from their passionately intertwined bodies, had fogged up the windows of the Tacoma, shielding them from the eyes of the outside world. After all was said and done, Cece had noticed the missing scrunchie, and together with Mika made her best attempts at locating it. But considering she had been too preoccupied with their exploit to pay attention to where it had landed, the task had been unsuccessful. She and Mika had shared a good laugh about it in each other's arms, joking that it would show up when they least expected it. What were the odds that their joke had been a prediction, and that the scrunchie would appear today, of all days?

"You came all the way to my house, climbed up the trellis and snuck into my bedroom just to give me this?" she asked Mika, collecting the hair tie from his hand before taking a seat next to him in the bed.

Was it the only reason he took such a risk? No, most definitely not, but destiny had a hand in pointing it in his direction. It was the excuse he needed that would justify him climbing up the unstable trellis to get to her balcony. He wasn’t as light as he was a few years ago when he would climb up that thing all of the time (or whenever she’d sneak him up into her room.) He was heavier. He had more muscle mass (and some fat if he was being honest), so it could have snapped.

“Technically, I just snuck onto your balcony. You’re the one who snuck me inside.” Mika chuckled and then he saw Cece’s face. Not so much the lack of her laughing at his jokes. She always did, but there was something so clear as day that he immediately realized it when he focused on her face. From how red her eyes were, the slight puffiness around the edges, and other little things that were clear evidence that Cece had been crying.

“Have you been crying?” He asked, but he knew the answer. Of course, she has been crying. That letter, the one that probably not many people who knew her handwriting inside and out would know that it was her handwriting. Mika realized it when he put some of the dots together - but knowing and mentioning that were two different matters entirely.

Mika had to give it a shot, though. “It’s…about the letter, isn’t it? The one about David…”

He knew.

Of course he knew.

She wasn't surprised her ex had been the first person to connect the dots. With the exception of Danny and his full knowledge of the illicit affair, it was Mika who had the majority of the pieces to put the puzzle together. There were only a handful of people who could recognize the letter's handwriting as hers: her parents, her siblings, Danny, and Mika. If he tied that to the location in which they had first interacted and the topic of their first conversation, it wouldn't be difficult to figure out. And clearly, Mika had been astute enough to do so.

At the mention of David, Cece didn't even attempt to hide the tears clouding her turquoise eyes. Instead, she locked eyes with Mika and nodded, feeling as if her heart was being squeezed to death by an invisible hand.

Without hesitation, Mika grabbed her hand, squeezing it as tight or as gently as she needed. He might’ve come here with the intention to get the confirmation and even though he had it as clear as a glistening emerald in the form of Cece’s watery eyes, his only focus was to be her support system right now. “Hey, it’s okay.” He said reassuringly as he squeezed her hand and fixated on her eyes. “This all must be incredibly hard for you. I’m so sorry I never realized it sooner, Cece.. Ever since that first day, I should have seen the signs, seen what you’ve been keeping inside this whole time.” The whole time he spoke, Mika just kept his hands locked with hers, stroking the top of hers.

The reassurance and kindness in Mika's voice made Caitlin's chest hurt with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and guilt. Gratitude, by the way he seemed to be devoid of any judgment or ill feelings even after coming to know the haunted truths of her past. And guilt, for keeping such a big secret from him throughout the course of their relationship. David had died without revealing her identity to the world even in the face of the town's potential wrath, so Caitlin had chosen to not let his sacrifice be in vain by ensuring their secret remained just that. But at what cost?

Overcome by emotion, Cece buried her face in her hands and began to sob, succumbing to the weight that had been crushing her shoulders for over three years. ‘I’m sorry’ was all she could repeat over and over again, her voice muffled by the small hands covering her face.

As she sobbed and apologized in repeated succession, Mika sat there, feeling confused as to why she was apologizing. Mika didn’t completely understand what was happening right now. He didn’t have all the facts. She was with David, that much he knew, but did he know the full story? Did he understand everything that happened between her and his late cousin? Absolutely not. He wanted to, though. He wanted to know but only if she was comfortable telling him.

“You did nothing wrong, Blossom…” Mika slowly took her in his arms, wrapping them around her, letting Cece sob in his arms if she wanted to -- whatever she needed from him right now, he’d give it to her. All of it. “I hope you know that, Cece. You did nothing wrong but love someone. It was your secret to tell if you wanted to. Don’t ever forget that!” Part of Mika was angry -- no, furious -- that someone took that away from her.

"But it's all my fault! Every bad thing that happened to him is because of me!" Cece lamented to Mika in between sobs, her arms holding onto him like a lifeline. "If I hadn't left the party with him that night, none of this would've happened, and Davy would still be alive. I'm the reason he's dead… And on days like these I just wish I would have drowned with him."

There was so much Mika didn’t understand. As close as he may have gotten to Coach and as many stories as he may have heard through the grapevine, this was all new to him. He never heard any of this, which made sense because nobody but Cece would know. But when she said she wished she was dead, something in Mika snapped and, in a gentle but firm manner, he made sure she saw his face when he said, “No, don’t think like that!”

As he spoke, it was clear she wasn’t the only one who had puffy eyes. Just the thought of her not being here made him go mad. “I don’t know even a fraction of what happened. The only thing I know is David was labeled something he wasn’t. I didn’t know him and I stand by my original opinion I had the day we met: he wasn’t a pedo and you had nothing to do with any of that. You hear me, Cece? You’re not to blame!” Mika was gripping her shoulders with trembling hands and his forehead pressed against hers as it, too, trembled. His gut felt twisted like it had turned itself over and under itself multiple times.

A fresh wave of guilt washed over Caitlin as she witnessed Mika’s reaction to her words. She hadn’t meant to upset him with what she said-- rather, she was just being open and unfiltered about her feelings for the first time in her life since David’s passing. As positive as she often presented herself to be, losing her first love had brought up the darkest thoughts that had ever crossed her mind. In all honesty, the first two weeks after Dave's passing, Cece was sure she wasn't going to make it. She toyed with the idea of . But little by little, the pain and the days became more bearable, and the circumstances had set the scene for her to meet the man in front of her now. Then came days like today, when the stitches holding her broken heart together were cruelly ripped away, leaving her crippled with grief and agony.

"I'm sorry… It’s just… If you knew the whole story, you’d understand why I can’t live with myself," she whispered apologetically, her eyes closed as their foreheads remained against one another.

“Okay…” Mika said in a somewhat low, hoarse voice. “I want to know, Cece. Tell me everything.” He squeezed her hands and smiled not just for her comfort but for his own, as well.

And for the first time in her life, Caitlin embarked on the voyage of revealing her tragic love story.

“The night Allison Davies passed away, I was one of the cheerleaders that went to that party at ReyRey’s house in the Southside, and some Pinehurst guy was harassing me. He had me up against a wall trying to kiss me at one point when David came in, said something to the guy and got him off me. He offered me a ride home and I said yes. But instead of driving back to Scott Street, he drove us out to Mulligan's Clearing. I was nervous at first, but mostly I was so excited… I’d had a crush on David for years at this point, and this was the first time we were going anywhere just the two of us. We talked for a while: about Edenridge, our families, what we wanted out of life… He asked me if I thought he was good enough for me. I told him he was perfect. We kissed… And that was it. That was all it took. That's how everything between us started…” she trailed off, replaying the lakeside scene on a loop in her head.

“We started meeting in secret after that for obvious reasons-- like you and I used to do. Two months later, he asked me to be his girlfriend and I said yes. Three months after that, we were together for the first time. Every time we met, we would spend hours dreaming about how different things would be when we could finally go public: how we would go on all these dates to show each other off, how we'd get married in this big ceremony and reception with all our family and friends, how we'd get a nice house in Eastbrook and fill the rooms with of kids and a pet or two…" Cece's voice broke the same way her being had been since that fateful day. She and David had so many hopes and dreams for the future, and they had all been destroyed by what happened next.

"A few days before he died, Dave told me someone had found out about us. They never said who it was, and we never found out, but this person told the police that they’d seen David with a girl who looked younger than him. The cops looked into it, but because David was Coach’s son and they didn’t know the girl’s name, they dropped it. Edenridge High got wind of it, and they decided to fire him to avoid any trouble. He was so upset, Mika… He was so embarrassed John and Lizzie and ashamed that he'd lost his job like that, that he decided to go out to the Hole that New Year's Eve. He sent me one last text at midnight, wishing me a happy new year and promising this would be our best year yet because we’d … And next thing I know, I'm being woken up by Mom and Dad telling me that David… That David was gone."

The grim looks on her parents' faces as they told her the news. Watching Rhett sobbing like a baby for the first time in her life. Hearing the gut-wrenching wails from Lizzie and Jamie next door. The way a part of her soul left her body after seeing David’s lifeless body in the casket when they’d been in each other’s arms just two days before. How her legs gave out from beneath her in such a way that Gary had to carry her out of the room. The way she ran to their secret spot at the clearing and fell to her knees-- crying, sobbing, screaming until her throat was raw-- at the realization that the man she had loved so fiercely was gone forever… They were scenes that continued to haunt Caitlin to this very day.

When she finished laying it all out there, telling him the full story about not only how she and David became involved, but detailing her truth. It left Mika feeling something he couldn’t put to words. Angry at the person who reported a half-truth and sad that his cousin couldn’t see any other way out. That he felt like he couldn’t lean on anyone, but when the whole town decided to paint you as something you weren’t, Mika understood that feeling all too well. Whispers of a town talking about David O’Hara were no different than the looks he got because he was the son of Ivan, a gangster. People treated you differently. They made you feel like you were lower than them, so Mika could understand that.

In the back of his mind, he wondered if his cousin had someone who saw him and wouldn't let him drown in his own despair -- like Big Rey did for Mika -- then maybe he would have been saved. Cece wouldn’t blame herself for any of this. All she did was love someone.

“You didn’t do anything wrong.” Before Cece could say anything, Mika continued, reinforcing what he just said, “I mean it, Cece! You did nothing wrong. All you ever did was love someone. I’m positive that he didn’t have any regrets either. I know I don’t have the memories you had with him, but everything I’ve heard about him up until this point, it all points to him being the kind of man that never did anything he didn’t want to. The kind of love you described is one that couldn’t be stopped even if you knew what was going to happen.” Maybe that’s why Mika sought after Cece after all the shit he put her through. “The only person to blame in any of this is whoever told the cops.”

"But it was my fault too,” Cece argued back, shaking her head. “All I ever did was love David. I loved him so much it made me selfish. I had so many chances to stop things, but I didn't. He took so many risks because of me-- because of us-- and that cost him his life. I didn't stop it and now he's dead."

Mika reached for Cece, once again pulling her into a hug. He wrapped his arms around her petite figure by the waist while she surrendered to him in the same way, making sure she was secure in his arms and holding her as close as he could without hurting her. She was so close to him that he felt her heavy heartbeat against his own chest. “Listen to me: it’s not your fault, Cece. None of it is your fault, okay? It’s not a bad thing to be selfish if it’s for the right reasons. You loved David-- you loved him so much that nobody could’ve stopped you two even if they wanted to.” He didn’t realize it immediately after, but it wasn’t just Cece’s love for David he was talking about. A few seconds after, he realized that he was talking about his own for her.

"If I just hadn't gone to that party like Rhett asked me to, or if I had said no to him when he offered to drive me home, then none of this would have happened. John and Lizzie would still have their son. Jamie would still have her brother. Rhett, Clay, Francis and Russ would still have their best friend. And I'd still have Davey in my life-- even if not in the way I would have wanted him to be," she lamented in between sobs. "I just hate myself…"

It killed him, hearing her say this, feeling her shake in his arms, against his chest -- it was like he could feel his cousin’s anguish pulse through him as Cece described her immense guilt. How could he help her see that it wasn’t her fault? Everything he has said and done until this very moment has been from the heart. Coming here knowing full well that he had no right to, Mika was taking risk after risk and he didn’t care if it came to bite him in the ass. She needed him and most of all, he needed to be there for her because clearly nobody else was.

He held her tight to his chest, the sobs and vibration of her shaking persisting and he guided her back with him as they started to lay down. With the way they were laying, Mika’s head was against the mess of pillows at the head of her bed and she was against his chest. “Cece… Blossom… I’m sorry. I’m so sorry you can’t see that this isn’t your cross to bear. Loving David and him loving you, that wasn’t anything to feel guilty for. I need you to understand that you can’t help who you fall for. From everything you’ve told me, David saved you from some Pinehurst asshole and what happened from that point was just a natural attraction.”

The more he spoke, Mika could feel himself relating to what she and his cousin went through. Just like his cousin before him, Mika developed intense feelings for the redhead in his arms. Just like David, Mika felt that natural attraction. Maybe he didn’t know David’s feelings, but he knew Cece’s feelings. He hurt her so badly and yet they were right back to where it all mostly started: in each other’s arms. Perhaps it was just a little wrong because she was with Niles, but he couldn’t help it. He knew she needed him and after hearing everything, Mika was starting to understand her feelings clearly. And maybe…

He gently kissed her forehead and held her closer. “Cece…" He hesitated for a second. "Cece... I lo--”

Before Mika could finish his sentence, the sound of the doorknob being turned in an attempt to gain access to the locked bedroom echoed like a gunshot across Caitlin's bedroom.
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Hidden 27 days ago Post by LovelyComplex
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LovelyComplex

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TIMESTAMP: Monday, July 19th, 2021; Half past noon, after the A Perfect Day Collab




A [@Lovely Complex], @Aces Away & @Venus Collab || featuring Findley Nelson, Xavier Booker and Chase Warren
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When Findley Nelson had been informed that today would be the day that she would meet Chase's newest ‘friend’, the young woman had been nothing short of ecstatic. For as long as she could remember, Chase Warren hadn't shown an interest in anything other than his family, heavy rock music and beating bullies up with whatever he could find. Interpersonal relationships of any kind, be it romantic or platonic, were not something he actively sought after. It wasn't that he didn't have qualities that people would look for in a potential partner: he was handsome, intelligent, independent, caring, incredibly resourceful, and would put his life on the line to protect those who deserved it without a second thought. His problem was that, because of the cards he'd been dealt in life, he tended to push people away with his limited impulse control, sharp tongue, blunt demeanor and violent streak. But ever since the Disney Princess From The Northside had entered his life, Fin had noticed heaps of positive changes in her close friend's life. He seemed happier, more hopeful, and was allowing himself to dream of a life beyond being a high school dropout delivery boy. She could tell, by the way his eyes lit up when she came up in conversation and how often he smiled now, that he was falling for this girl. And Fin was more than happy to help him navigate this new adventure.

The introduction picnic was to take place at one of the tables and benches in Lyon's Park at noon. It was the perfect time to do it, too. Fin had gotten plenty of hours of good sleep the night before, and being in the middle of her second trimester meant that the energy levels that had been sapped away from her in the first trimester were now restored and at an all-time high. So at five minutes to noon, the appointed mother hen of the Southies was occupied wiping the seats and picnic tables at the park, and organizing the items her dutiful boyfriend Xavier and Chase were unloading from the car.

“Have you guys heard from Ransom and Dutchess yet?" Findley asked the young men with a little huff, taking a break from her cleaning to lean against the table and rub an affectionate hand on her round stomach. It seemed like her daughter could sense the excitement in the air, because she had been kicking up a storm and making it a little harder to breathe. "I asked her to bring the ice and drinks a few hours ago, but I haven’t heard from her since."

Holding three large deep foil trays with honey barbecue, barbecue, and buffalo wings, TNT looked at Prof in a way that read ‘should I tell her?’. He didn’t think it was his place to tell his best friend about all the events that transpired this past night (or well early morning). He told Prof just in case, who knows if they’d need to do damage control, seeing how Ransom, a taken man, was in the Sinclair house with two young, single northie chicks. It was beyond their control and Chase could, and would, vouch for his boy. Ransom was innocent and he did nothing.

Well, if Ransom did tell Dutchess everything, from the car ride to them eating pie with Autumn and Carrie… heh, rest in pieces, man. Dutchess wouldn’t take it as nothing. Dutchess would likely see him as disloyal. It didn’t help that they already had a shaky relationship due to Tov enabling him and vice versa. The thing TNT was learning real quick about the female species was they worried about many things, so many things. You miss one goodnight? She might think you’re mad at her. You don’t send a good morning text? She might think you’re mad at her. You don’t remind her you’re thinking about her? She might think you’re mad at her. You don’t make time to see her every so often, like take her out on a joy ride, walk Main Street and check out some records, or watch Legally Blonde? She might think you’re mad at her.

There was no winning. Not when there was a girl that made you better and she expected more from you. Striding his way down the pathway, looking at Fin with a straight face, in an ironed black t-shirt that fitted him well, black jeans, and matching boots, TNT shrugged, “Hell if I know. We were out for a bit.” He met her gaze, trying his best to cover Ransom’s tail without putting him on blast. “Could still be sleeping,” Chase added.

His hair was growing out. He hadn’t decided if he should cut it or let it grow yet, so instead he sleeked it back. Hopefully, he looked nice. He didn’t have an array of clothes so these were his pieces that were the least worn. He had multiple black shirts, mind you, this was just the one in the best condition. He should’ve made time and shopped for a new outfit, knowing Tiff she was coming in like a supermodel. Christ, he needed to chill. Why was he worried about this shit anyways? He never cared before. Today made no difference.

Xavier Booker continued helping his girlfriend and friend set up the picnic table, silently laughing at the internal conflict he could read across Chase's face. Whether or not Ransom told Prof's baby cousin about their adventure last night was irrelevant because despite the constant arguments with the man when he was by her side, she could handle being away from him even less. Any thoughts that someone could take him away from her would cause a reaction that was equal parts petty and violent. Dolce really never seemed to have developed any of the Booker calm outside of not reacting to her siblings' jokes and taunts. Unlike much of her family, himself included, who went cold and calculative when facing an obstacle, Dolce went more the route of her lover and their shared best friend in that things got… Explosive.

Keeping anything from Findley, however, was a mistake he would never even dream to make. Honestly, Chase should know better by now. Sliding up behind his love and pressing against her back, hands reaching forward to rest on her baby bump, Prof kissed the back of her head. "Short version is things got a little wild on the Northside early this mornin' and they ended up at the Doctor's house havin' pie with his daughters and usin' their first aid kit. That's all Dolce needed to hear to flip her lid when Ran told her. He spent the night at Demo's and passed out in bed with Tov, so Demo's going to bring them both up."

He almost felt bad for Ransom. Almost. Because while he'd lived in Serpent dorms and apartments since the death of his mother, there was a while where Shale had assumed guardianship over him until he could become an emancipated minor. They had never forced Xavier to live with them and Dolce, but they did request he and Findley always stop by for meals. It was a smart way to make sure Xavier stayed connected to his family and cousins, ensuring a strong foundation for the young genius to continue building off of. So Xavier grew up seeing Dolce as more of a younger sibling than a younger cousin. Meaning that, much like Ducaleon and Leonidas, he didn't think that anyone would be good enough for her. Did he think the man would cheat? Absolutely not, while their relationship is actually defined at least. Did he find it a little funny when he brings hell raining down upon himself due to a stupid night of drinking? Absolutely.

"Maybe we just avoid startin' that conversation if we can, yeah?"

Findley pressed her lips together in a tight line and merely nodded. “Guess that explains why she sounded like she had a bad case of laryngitis when I called her this morning…” she muttered under her breath, deciding to keep the rest of the thoughts to herself. The difficult part about dating someone you were raised with was that they knew everything about you-- the good, the bad, and the ugly--, and they could use this knowledge to either build you up or tear you down. It wasn’t that Ransom and Dutchess actively sought out to hurt each other-- not on purpose, anyway. Their biggest problem was that they failed to use their knowledge of one another to nurture what they had. She knew that relationships like hers and Xavier’s were a dime a dozen-- she wasn’t clueless, idealistic or naive. But her take on Callum and Dolce’s relationship had always been the same: they both needed a lot of growing up to do, heaps more communication, and learning how to compromise equally. Until they reached a point in which they committed to putting in real effort to fully understand one another and improve, then they’d never find the peace and happiness they deserved.

But these were musings best saved for a better day. Today was all about helping Chase land this very special surprise for his very special girl.

“In that case-- what else are we missing?” Fin asked the two men, straightening up and looking around the table for a quick inventory. “We’ve got the cutlery, the plates, the napkins, ice and drinks are hopefully on the way… What about the food? I know you’re about to get the wings from the backseat, Chase, but what about the rest of it?”

“I’ll go get it, love, rest up for a little bit,” Prof announced before heading over to their cars to get the veggie and fruit trays from the front seat, calling over his shoulder, “You’ve been moving since before we even got here!” while he made his way. They weren’t anything special, just store bought assortment trays you see at almost any medium sized gathering. He had brought some platters from their house to set everything out on, however, in a small gesture to Chase to show that he too was happy to be meeting the Northie girl that had captured his attention. Looking at the stack he would be carrying, Prof eyed the Hawaiian rolls for a moment until he came to a decision and grabbed the bag, gripping the plastic between his teeth before grabbing the trays and platters and heading back to his love, trying not to look at the glovebox as he closed the door behind him. Today was for Chase and Tiffannie’s happiness so he could wait a few more hours to pull out that small velvet box and show his own intentions of a new level of relationship with his own blonde. Setting everything on the table, Prof grinned at Fin and began transferring the appetizers to their platters. He looked back towards the cars to the explosive man they were all going to be there for.

After winking at her boyfriend, Findley shifted her attention to Chase, who was dangerously trying to juggle all three trays of wings from the car to the picnic table. As she watched the questionable way the aluminum trays were stacked on top of each other, her maternal instincts kicked up immediately. “That looks like a lot, Chase. Is it okay if I help you with those?" she kindly asked the dark-haired man, moving away from the table in preparation to assist him.

Chase hadn’t made it to the table because his phone had started ringing. He knew exactly who was calling. He didn’t have any special ringtones, he just knew there was only one person that would call him. He didn’t get many calls from anyone else, mostly texts. He debated how to move forward. Reach for his phone or go to the table first. He was holding three large trays of wings. The logical route was to go to the table first. With all his nerves, he wasn’t thinking clearly so instead he shifted the trays and reached for his phone (all the while walking). Following afterwards, TNT tripped and the wings flew out of his grasp and straight to the ground. Somehow, each tray opened up and the wings splattered everywhere. Honey BBQ, BBQ, buffalo sauce and meat covered the grass, like a murder scene.

Fuck.

No sooner than the words had left her mouth, Findley watched as Chase made a split-second decision to reach for his cell phone and tripped in the process. With the sudden change in weight distribution and an already jeopardized arrangement, the trays had slid from his hands and fallen on the floor. As she assessed the damage of the wings now littering their vicinity, Fin moved her attention to Chase and immediately grimaced at what she could read all over his face.

Uh oh…

At the fifth ring, he picked up the phone and swallowed his seething anger. He didn’t need to come across as angry at Tiff. Knowing her, she would blame herself for his anger-- she always did. She should expect a good time, not a bad time. It wasn’t her fault his coping skills sucked. With pursed lips, he listened to her frantic words on the other end. He took a deep breath in, and then out, before replying. “It’s going to be okay.”

Furrowing his eyebrows, stressed out how everything was going wrong and how he ruined his date before it even started, Chase looked away from his friends, clenching his free hand into a fist. It was fine. She wasn’t going to be disappointed. He was overthinking - just because the main entree was now ant food didn’t mean she wouldn’t have a good time. There were still many positive things yet to come. There were still reasons for her to smile. There were still people willing to support him through this mishap.

You didn’t ruin anything.

“Don’t worry about it. It’s good. You’re good. I’m good. We’re both good.” The more he talked the more he realized he was trying to convince himself that this wasn’t the end. He had royally fucked up everything all because he wasn’t thinking. Of course he thought he could shorten prep time by carrying too much. Of course he’d trip and drop it all. Of course he’d ruin his chances because this was him and he was filled with bad-fucking-luck. A classic Chase move, honestly.

Clenching his teeth while listening to her, the boiling sensation never leaving him, knowing it only took one word he’d lose it, Chase strongly stated, “We’re going to be okay.” Right now he needed her to stop crying so he could focus on how he could fix this. It was so hard to end conversations when she got like this. It hurt hearing her cry. He could imagine how her face was with every word. It hurt more so because it was his fault for setting the bar so high.

Wanting to clarify, to make sure she was on the same page, he asked, “Understand, Tiff?” Chase was no longer paying attention to anyone but the woman he was talking on the phone with. At least on the surface, he looked like he was calming down and that was likely thanks to him hearing her voice. At least on the surface, there was no sight of the blazing inferno inside his skinny body. At least on the surface, he seemed okay.

“I guess I shouldn’t have asked…” Prof stated blandly as he watched the chaos that just unfolded before him and his girlfriend, both of whom were too far away to stop any of the dominoes from falling. He kept his tone low despite the distance, not wanting to upset Chase any more than the man already was. Taking a deep breath for himself as he watched Chase do the same for his phone call, the chemist interlocked his fingers behind his head and stared at the sky for a moment to shift his focus from the wing massacre. He looked at the trees and took in how the leaves had turned their undersides to the sky in preparation for a coming storm, one that the humans in the park could just barely feel the stirrings of now. There are signs of change everywhere, if you knew how to look.

“I’ll text Demo,” he finally said to the blonde beside him as he let his eyes fall on Chase’s form once more, and he was a bit surprised to see how well Chase had controlled his physical response while he spoke into his cell. Pulling out his own cell, the serpent moved back to rest against the picnic table and update Chase and Ollie’s father of the situation. “Are you gonna check on him or does he need to be alone right now?” He asked Findley belatedly, realizing that looking calm and being calm have always been two very different monsters for Chase to tackle.

Findley silently shook her head to the first option and nodded her head to the second one. "Would you approach a wolf when it's baring its teeth and they're foaming at the mouth?" the blonde asked her boyfriend in a low voice. Having the insight into Chase's personality like she did, she knew better than to approach him in the middle of a stressful situation like this. He wasn't just angry or upset-- he was seething, and trying his damndest to not let it show. The signs were all there, crystal clear for those who knew where to look: the clenched teeth, the tense muscles, the octave drop in his tone of voice… To go near him right now would be a suicide mission. He wasn't called TNT for no reason.

She took Xavier's silence as her answer. "Exactly. All we can do right now is pick up these wings from the floor and give him some space to go wild for a bit before we even say a word to him."

“I think I’ll wait for him to be further away from them before I try to go near them. I’m not lookin’ to be the last thing that sets him off,” he replied back, following his girlfriend’s logic. He looked back down to his phone to send the text he’d drafted, and with a single tap it was on its way to Demo. “You know that Demo’s not gonna have any back up food, so what are we gonna do to fix… that part of this situation?”

Fin's mind raced with the potential solutions to the problem, and it wasn't long before her quick, sharp mind came up with something. "We could always get some loaves of French bread, different kinds of lunch meat and some toppings from the grocery store and set it up like a self-serve sandwich bar?" she proposed. "It's quick, cheap and super easy to put together in a pinch like this one."

“That’s a good idea,” Prof complimented his girlfriend with a kiss to the top of her head, pulling out his phone again as it buzzed and glancing at the new message. “Oh, the guys are already on the way. Dolce still hasn’t replied to me yet.” That girl, he swears, if she’s crying in her room instead of heading over he’d throw her under the bus to Shale.

“Good. See you soon.” The moment Chase was no longer on the call his phone went flying out of his hand and straight into the tree by the picnic table, shattering it. He needed to calm down. This wasn’t a big deal. It really wasn’t. He just ruined his goddamn date. On top of that, it was his fault that Tiff overslept. He should’ve told her to go the fuck to sleep and deal with her tears later, instead of keep her up 4am in the fucking morning. He fucked up and that’s all he could hear in his head.

You’re a fuck up.

You’re a fuck up.

You’re a fuck up.

His violent temper was about to erupt, and to all those that did know him, knew it was the result of trauma. A lot of fucking trauma. Chase never learned how to cope and by the time Demo took him in, it was too late. Some people were born to handle temporary stress, temporary rises in the brain, temporary pain to the body, to the heart, and to the mind, but not consistently, everyday, for years and as a child no less. Chase, or now TNT, was a victim to his inner storm, an erratic soldier combating PTSD.

He fucked up.

Cracking his knuckles and his neck, his mind and body went on auto pilot. He trudged to the picnic table and angrily swiped the food off. This was his mindscape. His own personal hell. Everything that was set up thus far was getting thrown off in every direction, like the rage scene in The Shining where Jack Torrance tosses shit aside. A few soda cans darted toward Prof and Fin, the Hawaiian rolls tragically kissed the dirt, and all the appetizers were no longer appetizing. TNT was livid. He was so heated that he grabbed the picnic table and flipped it the fuck over, then proceeded to kick the benches so they were no longer standing upright. When his phone was in sight, he stomped on it a couple of times. Fuck him for even trying.

As soon as TNT made his way towards them, or rather the picnic table Prof had been leaning against, the logical man pushed off of it and took himself and his girlfriend a few healthy strides away from the object of their friend's ire, though they weren't able to get too far before he'd reached it. The strength with which Chase was violently swiping things off the table meant there wasn't really a safe distance and Prof found himself pushing Findley behind him when the cans came flying in their direction, most either flying passed them or hitting his chest, but one can caught him across the lower part of his face hard enough to make his teeth clatter together. To make matters worse, one of the platters Chase cast to the earth had been his mother's, and Prof only brought it out for special occasions. Watching the ceramic hit the patchy grass and break into several pieces sent his heart into his throat and it throbbed along with fat lip and growing bruise from the full soda can. His shoulders were rigid and squared as he stood like a shield between the chaos and his pregnant girlfriend, clenching and unclenching his fists as he forced himself to remain steady in the face of TNT's explosion.

Just as she recognized some of the workings of Chase’s mind, Findley recognized those of her life partner. The rigid posture, the clenching of fists, the sudden drop in any friendly, approachable demeanor… The few times she had seen Xavier get like this, what often followed was bodies being pushed against walls or floors, fists colliding with jaws and noses, an unrecognizable absence of any readable emotion in his face. When it seemed like any harm was coming to his loved ones, Xavier went from the friendly, good-natured man the Southies called 'Dad' to the fiercest of protectors. But because she knew any actions could only aggravate the volatile situation, Fin knew it was her duty to try and de-escalate the anger of at least one of her current companions.

“Xavier, stay calm,” Findley whispered in Prof’s ear as she tightly held onto his arm, a silent plea in her voice for her boyfriend to maintain his composure during this nerve-racking situation. As anxious and scared as she got whenever the scorching volcano that was Chase’s temper erupted, she knew that showing her feelings would only put Xavier more on edge. They needed to be the level-headed adults in this situation. “He’s not himself right now. Please don’t take any of this personally. It’ll make him feel worse when he snaps out of it.”

"I know babe," he answered back, posture still rigid and face showing a complete detachment from his emotions. He knew Chase and he knew the younger man wasn’t in control of himself right now. He knew that when the rampage was over he’d come back to himself and feel like shit for everything he didn’t even remember doing. He’d seen it in damn near every Carlisle crew member at least once over the years, but it’s been chronic for Chase for as long as they’ve really known the pale man. It never really got any easier for anyone to see. “I’m calm,” Xavier assured amidst his thoughts, keeping an eye on Chase’s slow path of destruction. "I can fix a platter…maybe, it’s just an object in the end, I guess,” he rationalized out loud, following with, But if he hurts you at all then I'm perfectly prepared to calm him down the hard way," the older man promised darkly, allowing his girlfriend to pull him back and closer to her, the two of them taking a few more slow steps back. He may not be a fighter at the Pit, but that was because he didn’t fight for fun or for money, he fought to put an end to something, and if Chase was close to bringing harm to Findley and their baby then that made him a temporary threat that needed to be dealt with.

“He wouldn't do that," Findley assured Xavier, resting her chin on his shoulder. “TNT may be what he is, but I know he wouldn't hurt me. Please trust me on this."

Luckily for everyone involved, it seemed Chase’s chaos was headed for the other side of the picnic area now. “Okay,” Prof breathed out softly. “Okay.”

In time, after causing havoc on their general area, which includes kicking down the park trash bin and slamming his right fist into a nearby tree numerous times, TNT was all out of steam and Chase was back in control. There was a moment of silence while he looked at his bloody hand. Wounds he made a few days ago, reopening. He had just gotten the bandaid off yesterday too. Looking over his shoulder, he saw the mess he made and he saw the two watching him, trying to hide their fear and anger. The darkness crept over him as quickly as the anger did moments ago.

He ruined everything.

How could an LA girl ever like someone like him? Tiffannie was born in a world he would never understand and with how genuinely she felt about everyone and everything, this would kill her. She could never like someone so deeply disturbed and even if she did, she deserved so much better. How could he keep her safe if he didn’t know what made him tick? How could he protect her if he couldn’t even protect his little brother? How could he make her happy when he didn’t even know what happiness was?

Chase rested his bloody hand on his face, covering his eyes, as the image of his birth parents flashed so quickly. Memories he tried so hard to suppress, like him and his brother hiding in the basement, listening to Metallica or Ozzy Osbourne. The screams and malicious attacks, the loud noises of glass breaking and furniture being thrown around, the words that cut his and his brother’s hearts like a sharp dagger would; all these sounds rang in his ears like it was only yesterday.

He could see it.

That smile, his father’s awful fucking smile… imprinted on his mind.

And then it got worse.

He saw Zippo, or Fiona Dawson, his chosen mother, the one he loved with all his heart, die on the hospital bed. Just die. He was powerless. He had no control over misery and death. He couldn’t protect anyone. He was useless. Why did he ever think he could make this work with Tiff? Why did he ever think he deserved her? And just like that, the tears silently ran down Chase’s face. He hadn’t cried in so long. What the fuck was this? Overcome with emotion, the suffering Warren kid, one of Demo’s and Zippo’s firecrackers, ran like a bat out of hell.

Wait! No, Chase--- WAIT!"

But he was gone. Just like that. Beaten, broken, and bruised, he couldn’t pretend to be okay. No, not in front of Tiffannie. He was NOT okay. In a blink of an eye, Chase Warren was running away from his problem.

Just like that.

He was gone.


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Hidden 27 days ago Post by BrutalBx
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BrutalBx

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Before Heartbreakers Collab:
Once a Clover, Always a Clover

TIMESTAMP: Early Monday Morning
FT.
Antoine "Beau" Beauregard & Lydia Anderson






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The early morning rush had subsided and Rochambeau was now empty. Both Adam and Poppy were off for the day so Beau would be working solo. Not that the old dog minded it though, or usually meant he could catch up on his reading, enjoy copious amounts of the perfect blend of Java and think about all the old cases that he never solved or how much he missed his kids.

Marcel and Genevieve were both grown now, living their lives, doing their thing and occasionally calling their father to check in. Marcel was in the Navy and spent all of his time away and even when he was home it wasn’t in Edenridge, it was New Orleans. There had always been some content in between father and son. They had a loving relationship but there was definitely a sword hanging over their heads, a sword named abandonment. Beau, before moving to Eden to teach, was of course a Homicide detective, which meant that he would spend most of his hours and days walking the violent streets of New Orleans, trying to solve cases and make the city a safer place. It also meant that he was never home and for someone like Beau and he would hate to admit it, more often than not the case always came first. And though they had talked about it since, it was definitely still a tender point between father and son.

Genevieve was slightly younger than Marcel and in some ways she understood her fathers dedication to his craft a lot more. She adapted very quickly to seeing her father at breakfast and then getting two phone calls from him a day, nothing more and nothing less. Then there were those sweetest of occasions when he was home to tuck her in and read her a story. It was those stories that inspired her to pursue her career on Broadway, to sing those stories across the world and up to the heavens. Perhaps her father would finally hear her?

Beau held no illusions about fatherhood and his role in his own kids' childhood. He was the driving force, the thing that shaped them into the people that they are today, their strengths, their faults, their successes and their failures. He never did enough or at least he felt like he didn’t. Perhaps that was the reason he did what he did for the kids of Edenridge? The little lost trio and their phantom fourth. He loved those kids so dearly, they reminded him of his own rough upbringing, of the hardships and the horror of the street. Antoine found solace in books much like Charlie Decker once did. It was a damn shame that the words in them couldn’t save that young boy like they saved him.

An old vinyl record player sat on the bookshelf at Rochambeau, an anniversary gift from Colleen and something his customers seemed to enjoy quite a bit. Spinning on it at that moment was the velvet voice of one Sam Cooke, His good lady me favourite. Colleen was gone for the week, visiting Genevieve in New York, so Beau needed to be reminded of her every chance he got because goddamn he loved that woman and he missed her like crazy. Sitting in his chair by the register, glasses hanging down his nose as he read Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, he was alerted to the ringing sound of the bell that hung above the front door. Beau raised his head and smiled that big toothie smile he was famous for.

“Mon petite, welcome!”

Soldiers were not only those that got sent overseas to battle. Not only those men and women in uniform, preparing for war and earning titles and badges for their chivalry. Not only those in blue, at the homefront, risking their lives everyday in the streets. Some soldiers sat in offices, in classrooms, in hospitals…marching on, pursuing honourable pursuits that didn't require bloodshed but did require mental fortitude and incredible strength. Lydia Anderson wouldn’t consider herself a soldier but to all those cases, all those children that needed saving, they would consider her their hero. A soldier.

Subconsciously, she placed her hand on her heart and greeted Beau with a nod. With a subtle smile, Lyds strolled to the counter and leaned on it. Interlocking her fingers, she met her gaze with the older man’s and asked, “Mornin’ Mr. Beau, how’s things for you this fantastic Monday morning?” Her voice was pleasant, in a motherly way, but also very controlled in a serious manner. Harper always thought she had a stick up her ass but that’s just how she came across. No bullshit. Sharp and witty. Occasionally, the judgemental bitch.

It was early here at Cafe Rochambeau.

More often than not Lydia was one of Beau’s first customers. At this point of the day, she had already visited her dad, Nay, and her baby sis, Lolly. Routinely, she would bring her family’s mail and newspaper inside. She would tell Nay good things, only good things that had been happening in Edenridge (even if it was pulling out of thin air). She made sure her father didn’t oversleep since he was the only veterinarian in town (high demand) and for some reason that old man could sleep through anything. Luke Anderson had to support his mentally crippled family somehow. She’d visit Lolly, give her something she requested, usually comics — today’s delivery was the new Langley, the first volume of Dread — and tell her she loved her. Before she left the house, she overlooked her family’s accounts to make sure they hadn’t, especially her mother, spent above their means. Then and only then she would leave and go to the Cafe before work.

Everyday she did this.

Although today was a special kind of day. A little outside her usual routine. She had adjusted her schedule where she only had two appointments. One at 8:30 AM and one at 10 AM. She scheduled a vacation day for tomorrow, something she rarely does since work was the one thing that kept her afloat. She did all this so she could be with the people she loved. The ones that made her taxing job possible because without them, she would be haunted by all the ghosts of her past and her fear of failure during her present.

Screw her future. That was a wish that would never happen for her. Lydia gave up on the family dream years ago because she didn’t think she’d be a good mother. It was one thing being a child’s psychologist, it was another thing giving birth to a little you, hoping they don’t grow up to be some piece of shit or have irreparable damage because of you. She never did tell Bobby about her abortion but if he knew, he wouldn’t have served and she couldn’t let him do that.

Lately, Lydia has been so busy. She couldn’t be there as much as she’d prefer for her best friends, the Heartbreakers. Right now, the one that was drowning the most was Cat. Every year one of them found themselves barely hanging on. This year, it was Cat. The last time she and Cat caught up was two weeks ago, right after the doctor shared the awful news that Silvia wouldn’t live past a month. Yesterday, late at night, Nina came to visit her (she lived at Milligan Apartments in Eastbrook). They talked for hours, the focus was Nina’s growing worry about her sister’s mental health. With the divorce, the family drama, being a business owner, and Silvia’s condition, Cat was barely keeping it together, drinking more and more as the days went on. Nina was crying, ‘Help me’ and so Lydia rallied up the girls — Brooke, Harper, and Vanessa — to remind Cat that she was loved and that she was not alone. Later on today they would meet at Palermo to surprise Cat. It’s been almost two years since they were all together like that. She needed to be a better friend.

“Oh, and the usual please,” Lydia added, looking up at the wise old man that was a pillar to the Edenridge community.

Beau began making up Lydia’s usual. She was always a favourite student of his. A bright smile and an extremely clever mind. She was part of a group that called themselves Heartbreakers. The year Antoine Beauregard moved to Edenridge was the year that the heartbreakers were in their senior semesters. They all had a different light in them, a different aura. They were able to relay themselves through different mediums and vocations. Lydia was always the most cerebral of the quintet. She read a room and a person so easily. It wasn’t a surprise to Beau that she ended up a psychologist. He was more than happy to write her a letter of recommendation to both college and when she began working at Shannon Ramsey’s office.

“Busy morning rush, as always. You’re late!”

Being in his current line of work, Beau had come to know the comings and going’s of a lot of Edenridge’s townsfolk. Every morning, he would wake up at 5am and then leave shortly thereafter to get the shop set up. He would see the likes of Mei and Jill, drunk as all hell, stumbling home. Xavier Booker, returning from a night on the corner. Sylvester James, worn out, tired from carrying the world on his shoulders on his way home. Beau saw everything. Lydia herself had a routine that she followed and today she had stepped outside that line.

“How are things, petite fleur?”

“Oh you know,” Once she pulled her double espresso’s plate close, Lydia grabbed her small cup and brought it to her lips, “Just compartmentalizing all the grief my kids go through.” She took a ginger sip before placing it down, “Huh, so you noticed?” She raised an eyebrow at the mention of her being late. Beau had a phenomenal memory but truth be told she didn’t think he would remember the exact time she showed up everyday. Lydia preferred to live a life unnoticed. It was her way of avoiding drama and unnecessary headaches.

“I see everything, Miss Anderson,” Beau, for the briefest of moments, slipped into his old teacher mode. Having so many former students as customers was always jarring because when he gazed upon their grown up faces, they were still the fourteen to eighteen year olds that he taught English literature to. “Is there anything I can help with? I’ve been around the block a few times.”

A statement here which was true. Beau had seen a lot in his years walking God’s green. He had seen brother kill brother. He had found father raping daughter. He had watched kids kill kids. He had seen it all. Depending on the day, Antoine would often be poisoned by a memory he would soon rather forget. He could see the world through their eyes. He could feel it as they succumbed to malady or misfortune. Recently, Beau found himself reliving two days in his head. December 4th 2016 and August 29th 2019. The day Allison Davies died and the day Charlie Decker opened fire. He learned about the party on Carlisle but by the time he got there, it was already over. He wondered what could’ve been had he made it to the party sooner. Could Allison have survived? On the day of the school shooting, Beau followed every instinct he had. He used his cop brain to avoid casualties but he still felt guilty. Guilty that he couldn’t prevent Roddy Callahan running back into the school. Guilty that he couldn’t stop Charlie. Guilty that he couldn’t stop Poppy James and Natalia Belmonte from watching the poor boy get shot.

“In terms of my work? Nah, I’m good. That’s what cult films are for. To get my mind off of work,” She took a deeper sip of her coffee, before sighing, “But Cat, I don’t know. I’m worried about her.” Lydia sighed to herself, placing her cup down and grabbing her banana nut muffin. Picking at it, she looked at the muffin and explained, “We all drink from time to time. I fancy good ass whiskey. But she’s getting worse. I don’t really know what to do about that,” Lydia glanced up at her old teacher and frowned, “She’s losing faith in herself as a mother, as a daughter, as a sister, and as a lover. The reason why today’s a bit different is because I’ve been doing last minute things with my girls. We’re going to surprise Cat. Show her she’s not alone. It just hurts to watch her drown and not be able to do anything about it, but I guess I’m not unfamiliar with this feeling.”

She wasn’t and she never would be. There were too many things in life that people had little control over. Lydia knew that all too well. She couldn’t bring her mom back and ask her to not respond to that domestic call. She couldn’t calm Bobby down when he was going through his post traumatic stress from the war. She couldn’t convince Nay to give life another chance and walk beyond the white picket fence. She couldn’t convince Lolly to reconnect with her friends. It was daunting really. How little control she had. The lack of control was becoming more and more inevitable each and every day. “I hate this feeling.”

“Herodotus said, Of all men’s miseries, the bitterest is this; to know so much and have control over nothing,” Beau took a sip from his own coffee before continuing. “I have known y’all for fifteen years. I’ve watched you grow, change, become who you were meant to become. In that little group of yours, Caterina has always been the heart, the spark that pumped the blood into your veins. If she’s struggling, you cannot control that. Nobody can. The best you can do is be there for her, as you always have been. Caterina has to do the rest.”

As he had said she was a grown woman now, with her own life, her own thoughts and her own feelings. He didn’t know how much help he could be to Lydia, Cat, anyone really. In a world such as this one now, what good could an old teacher do?

Antoine grabbed himself a biscotti from the counter jar and broke himself a piece off. He loved these. Colleen made them fresh every morning, except for this last batch since she was off galavanting. Still absolutely amazing though. “It’s been a while since I last saw you in here with anyone. You’re eating enough? I know you have a lot of responsibility so make sure you’re making time for you, fleur intelligente.” With a knowing smile, Beau took another sip from his drink. “How is Bobby Batters?”

Chewing a piece of her muffin, Lydia shrugged, realising she hadn’t caught up with Robert in a couple weeks now. Work didn’t really stop for her and Shannon Ramsey. “I imagine as good as he’ll ever be. I mean he has his security business and I imagine that keeps his mind off of things, like my job does for me.” In a fog of thought, Lydia held her cup and absentmindedly rubbed her left thumb against it.

That went on for a second or two, before she glanced up at Beau and pondered, “It’s better off this way.” Holding back the sadness, covering it up with a straight face, void of emotion, Lydia took a gulp of her coffee, a way to acknowledge how things turned out for her and Bobby. Their relationship was complicated. The love was still there but she knew, and he knew, they wouldn’t do right by each other. Neither her, or him, wanted to hurt the other because of their damage. That was the right thing to do. The smart thing to do. It didn’t change that it was fucking sad. “He’s happy, I’m sure,” She firmly stated, speaking his happiness into existence, convincing herself that he didn’t need her. Not like she needed him.

Love, marriage, and family, they weren’t important to her. She was content in her apartment alone. For Christ’s sake, she couldn’t even get a pet out of fear she’d accidentally kill it. The only time she’s home is at night. Usually, all she wanted to do at night was tune out the silence with a show, as she ate cereal, drank whiskey, and relaxed. It wasn’t that she couldn’t take care of a pet either. She just had to check on her family throughout the day because of their mental health issues. No dog, cat, bird, mouse, or whatever deserved that absence. She already had to deal with her father not being mentally there for her, she didn’t need an animal to go through that same trauma. Love, marriage, and family… they weren’t meant for women like her.

“Honey, Bobby Osso has never been happy a day in his life. Happiest he ever was was when you were with him. Same as you were happiest with him.” Beau had taught five different Osso children during his tenure at Eden. Most recently it was Ricky, when as a favour he substituted for a sick teacher at the new high school. He taught that delinquent Oz, the intriguing Sienna, clever Clari and then there was Robert, the oldest of the Osso kids.

Unquiet rage. Beau had seen it in a handful of people in his life. An anger, like a fever, that just swelled up with every passing moment like an infection, bubbling under the skin until it exploded in an glorious eruption. Bobby Osso had that rage. When he knew him as a boy, Bobby didn’t talk much. He had a knack for talking with his eyes. When he did talk, he was polite, well spoken but he carried a great deal of authority in his voice even back then. Yet when Bobby lost his temper, it was downright despicable. He had never seen him lay his hands on a woman or a child and he didn’t think he would. Bobby was angry but he wasn’t evil. Not like another former student whom Beau believed housed the same rage. A student known to most as the Devil.

Robert Osso always seemed happiest, with a subtle barely noticeable smile on his face in the presence of Lydia Anderson. She was his temperance. Sadly, the war beckoned Bobby to it and their love was separated and up until this point had yet to come together. “I’m not here to interfere in your life, I’m always just here to listen and advise you. Well, I’m here to pour you coffee but I digress.”

After finishing her expresso, Lydia made a dent in her muffin as she quietly listened to Beau. She didn’t want to admit it but her former teacher was right. She couldn’t speak for Bobby but she could certainly speak for herself. When they were together before life took them on their separate journeys, she was happy. God, she was so happy. Everything made sense when he was around. From her mom’s death to her childhood best friend’s death, those were all things he helped her process and she never felt alone. He was her constant. The one thing that always found his way back to her and showed her she didn’t have to struggle alone. She would never be alone. All she had to do was ask.

That’s beside the point and a thing of the past. She doubted he’d want to try again. Even if he did, she didn’t know if she’d say yes. Lydia didn’t have the strength to let him go a second time. Not like she did after graduation. At the time, it was the right thing to do. They were young and had their whole lives ahead of them. If he told her he still loved her… what would she even say?

Nibbling her muffin, she pushed the negativity out of her head and complemented with absolute certainty, “You do more than pour coffee for us sad people, Beau.” Her eyes were sharp and her voice was truthful. “Moments like these mean so much. The calm of the cafe, Sam Cooke’s smooth voice in the background, and… your warmth. We come here because we want to. Not because this is the only place in Eden to get good coffee.” Beau was a pillar in the community. There were many lives he impacted. There were many kids that he loved that loved him. There were many lessons he taught that so many people grabbed and made their own. “You did that. You got us to love you. But I digress,” She finished her muffin and cleaned her hands with her napkin, “I’m just a customer.”

Beau reached out with his large hand and placed it on top of Lydia’s “Thank you for the kind words and thank you for reaching out to those that truly need it. Not many people could do what you do.” The work that Lydia and Shannon did for the people of the community that truly needed it was nothing short of astounding and Antoine respected both women with absolute certainty. “Like the man himself said, Change Gonna Come mon petite. The dark times won’t last but good people like you do.” As the cafe bell rang to signify another customer, the former literature teacher took a step back and offered the Anderson girl a big hearty smile. With his thick Louisiana drawl he spoke “Give your sister my love won’t you?”

“You know I will.”
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Hidden 27 days ago Post by BrutalBx
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BrutalBx

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TIMESTAMP: Monday Afternoon
TRIGGER WARNING: LIAM POST









Sleep is for the weak.

April McMahon never really understood what her father meant by that statement. Not, at least until now.

When she was a little girl, April’s father enjoyed regaling his daughter with stories of his ancestors. In a town with such rich history and lore as Edenridge, it became apparent that every clan that was directly from the area held a story or two within their family tree. The McMahons were not Founders and as such never fell into the same bracket with the likes of the O’Briens and O’Haras, they were never Foundlings. The McMahons were amongst the second wave of families arriving in the upstart town. They were men of the land, a family that prided itself on knowing what to do with their hands and building the very roads that still sit upon Eden today. Tough men, real men. Her father tried to continue this tradition, a Carpenter by trade. He would build furniture in his little shop on Chestnut Street on the Southside, sometimes he would even sleep there with the little cot he had built for himself in the back room. April hadn’t been back there since her father died, not until today.

McMahon Woodwork sat dilapidated on the corner of Chestnut. Untouched by a decent hand in a long time, she has never really gotten round to either fixing the place up or selling it. Though April was ok now, the last twenty or so years of her life had been naught but a mess. Everything was fine in high school, she was blonde, pretty, popular, not bad for a Southside rat. Yet there was always something, some promos to overcome. The pinnacle of shock was when her father died because that sent April into a spiral and her bipolar disorder into overdrive. She crashed out, stuck at Dolly’s in the day time and walking the streets at night. Big Rey offered her a lifeline but she wouldn’t take it. She was a McMahon. They built the world with their own two hands, not handouts. That didn’t stop her from entertaining one of Big Rey’s guests, a handsome New Yorker called Ivan.

Here was a real man, like the ones her father always talked about in his stories. Ivan was tall, well dressed but with calloused hands. He had worked for what he had. Then there were his eyes. Those piercing, breathtaking, heart stopping pools of icy water blue that sent chills down her spine and a lightning bolt into her heart. A beautiful monster. Ivan did not stay in Edenridge long but every time he was in town he paid April a visit. On one such occasion he left her with a very unexpected gift, one she didn’t know she even had until her life became a nightmare.

Brendan Thomas O’Brien, a different kind of monster to Ivan. When he solicited April’s services she didn’t think it was anything different than any other John. That was until after she had given the ride of his pathetic life, he drugged her and he kept drugging her. Bound to a radiator for what felt like an eternity, April had lost all sense of time and of space. She lost count of the amount of times that BT injected her with God only knows what and raped her. By the time that Sylvester James and Mason Hyde broke down the door and shot the Foundling to death, she had not only given up hope, she had given up life and was ready for the warm embrace of death.

It was whilst she was recovering in the hospital that April was told she was pregnant and had been for over a month. Based on the timescale, it meant that the baby thankfully wasn’t BT’s. It did mean however that the child was Ivan’s. She reached out to Big Rey so he could tell him. To say Ivan wanted nothing to do with a bastard child with a twenty year old hooker was an understatement. Mason, bless him, came to visit her every day at the hospital and as impossible as it felt, she found herself falling in love with the roguish police officer. He even decided to claim the child she carried as his. He helped April clean herself up and get herself a job as an estate agent. By the time the child was born, the couple were living comfortably in Westwood.

The day her baby was born, a lightning storm was tearing through Boston. It was violent and unpredictable. Power lines were falling down, roofs collapsing and major flooding was pushing the lake to the brink. Then in a brief moment of calm, with Mason by her side, April gave birth to a beautiful baby boy with a little tuft of red hair and the same blue eyes that Ivan had; Cameron, she called him. This moment of calm did not last as the rumours started almost immediately that Cam was Brendan’s and not Mason’s. This was heartbreaking. The gossip hounds of this fucking town were dragging their names through the mud, spitting on them. Cameron was a child! How could they be so cruel?

Life just fell apart from there. It had been maybe a year before police began sniffing around them, insistent that Mason was dirty. He was just trying to provide! Eden was Eden and nobody was entirely clean. It didn’t stop them from putting him away, which was a death sentence. Locking a cop up? Madness. When the news came that Mason had been stabbed and was dead, April left Cameron at Rhonda Decker’s house, found her way to the Edge of Sin and got so fucked up she blacked out for days. This cycle repeated for years until she found her path in God, sadly, it was too late for Cameron.

By the time April had made any sense of her life, Cameron was already a teenager. For years she had been told that something was wrong with him, that he needed help. Of course she ignored it. It was just Eden trying to drag her and her family again. The first time that April truly began to believe that something was not right about her son was when he returned home from a boy's birthday party covered in blood. Cameron had beaten the boy with a table lamp because he didn’t get the last bit of cake. When she looked into her son’s beautiful blue eyes, that moment changed everything. That’s when she realised he was a monster just like his father. A beautiful monster.

Now she found herself outside her fathers old shop because she knew inside lurked the beast that she had birthed. Since he had been locked away after that long bad night, April had dreamed of the day she saw her son again. It caused her the same amount of pain as dreams of BT and Mason did. Like she said, she now understood why sleep was for the weak. Because the weak suffer in their dreams. Like she did. The last time she had seen Cameron was as she plummeted down her stairs after being thrown down them by her baby boy. She wasn’t really sure what to expect when she opened that door other than some kind of pain. She was used to that now. The key she kept still unlocked the door and once she was inside, it became quite apparent that somebody had been living here.

“Cameron?!”

She could hear his footsteps. They were quiet but building as they approached. The air was quiet, like silent death. The room was littered with her fathers unfinished projects, takeaway boxes and beer cans. How was he living like this? He could’ve come home. God forgives us our trespasses. She twirled the crucifix on her necklace as her blue eyes watched the door behind the counter. She knew his rhythm, how he walked. He carried himself just like his father. April’s blue eyes widened on a mixture of surprise and longing as her little boy emerged from the back room. He was tall, broad and looked exactly like she remembered him.

“Hi baby.”

Hyde tilted his head as he gazed upon the tired face of his mother, if he could even call her that. Whatever she was going to say, he had heard it all before. Every time he came home and she was face down on the couch after taking too much brown, it was always the same; God Forgives. Every time someone called them worse than shit; God Forgives. God would forgive him for what he did to Aleyda, deliver him from all his uncountable trespasses. God did not forgive. God punished.

“Mom, you really shouldn’t be here,” His eyes fell upon the wooden chair leg that sat behind the counter. It would take nothing for him to reach for it. He could be over the counter and beating her with it in seconds. Who would miss her? Really? April McMahon was the dirt at the bottom of a Northsider boot. “Did the police not tell you to stay away?”

“You look tired, Cammy. Have you not been sleeping?”

Was she for real? She was madder than he was. Hyde was perceptive though. He looked upon his mother, watching her movements and facial expressions for a tic, a jolt, anything he could read. She was sweating. She didn’t have bags under her eyes but instead little red marks, similar to freckles but connected by visible red veins, burst blood vessels. She had been vomiting very recently. She was dressed well, well enough for her anyway. She tried to make an effort to impress him, to prove she wasn’t the mess he had always known her to be. “You’re off your medication aren’t you? There’s no other way you would step foot here.”

Hyde began to drum his fingers together. 1. 2. 3. 4. 4. 3. 2. 1. How dare she? How dare she come to his place, messed up? She was supposed to be his so-called mother but she had to be this version of herself to even get the courage to see him. It was an absolute atrocity. “I don’t want you here. I don’t want you anywhere near me.” He walked around to the other side of the counter; Hyde towered over his mother by at least two feet.

There was still a metre or so between them. April wanted to close that gap. She wanted to hug her boy and apologise for everything that she had done and everything that they suffered through. “Cammy, please. I want us to forget about what happened. I want to move forward, me you, Rafael…” She reached out. Her hand rested on her son's face as she stepped forward. “We can be like we were supposed to be.”

A white hot flash hit Hyde like a sudden downpour of rain. He lunged forward and grabbed April by the side of her head and forced her down to her knees. He was so strong. She gripped a tight hold onto his wrists but was unable to move him. “You….” he growled, spit flying from between his teeth. “…keep my son’s name out of your fucking mouth.” His voice was monstrous, commanding and every word dropped with venom. “You stay away from him. You will not make him a monster like you made me. You even try and I will make sure you regret the day you opened your fucking legs.” He threw her down to the floor hard and turned away. “Go now, Mom, before I lose my temper.”

April’s eyes watered. It was her fault. She shouldn’t have surprised him. Cameron was a sensitive boy. He didn’t like to not know things. He could control himself when he knew things. She dragged herself up to her feet using a nearby table and once more looked upon her son. “I hope you're taking care of your siblings. Maybe one day we’ll have a family barbecue, that would be nice.” She wanted to reach out again but pulled back her hand with her other one. It wasn’t the time. April shuffled towards the exit of her father’s shop and briefly looked back towards her baby boy as he stood with his back turned, stewing in his own rage and in that moment she knew the awful mistake she had made.

He was going to hurt someone tonight.

“I love you Cammy.”
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Hidden 24 days ago Post by NeoAJ
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NeoAJ Fine. I'll High Five Myself.

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@LovelyComplex @BrutalBx @NeoAJ
Timestamp: After The Dark Place
FT: Scooby-Doo Crew: Ky & Adam
The Vampires: Mei & Jill



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Kylee was a woman on a mission. This meant she didn’t stay long at Adam's apartment to play catch up. No, that could happen after everything was said and done. While there was still daylight, and while it hadn’t rained yet, they would make the most of their time finding the girl behind the letter. Who was David O’Hara’s lover? She was sure Clay was knee deep in his own investigation, and hopefully they would both end up at the same destination.

In the elevator of Mei’s apartment complex, Kylee glanced at her phone for a text or a call. Still nothing. Swallowing her annoyance, she pocketed her phone and looked at the boy standing next to her, getting dragged along for the ride. “So any cool kids in Pinehurst?” Her big eyes lit up in intrigue. “I’m sure there was someone that kept you entertained just like me, chasing ghosts — for the love of story,” She mused, putting her dark, long hair over her right shoulder, running her fingers through it.

Adam had his head pointed downward as his old friend spoke to him. He was invested in trying to change the goddamn batteries in his camera and he would not lose this war, no sir. After finally slotting the energy pack in place, the skater boy (not the Avril Lavigne one though) flicked his head back to look at the dark haired beauty to his left. “No, no cool kids. Just reminded me too often what I like about rich kids, absolutely nothing…present company excluded of course.”

If anything, the five years he had spent away from Eden had only exasperated what Adam believed to be the Callahan curse; loneliness. Like Kylee and Roddy, Adam was a proponent of the supernatural and the belief that Edenridge was home to some ancient and powerful magic that caused suffering to her inhabitants. Adam’s theory was that each family suffered recurring tragedies, history repeating in some form. For his family, the Callahans, it seemed like isolation was their part in the whole thing. Roddy was always bullied. Always. Francis was alone in dealing with his sexuality. Clay and Lamb were twins who had no connection other than blood and parents wrapped up in their own worlds. Loneliness. Adam, well he was torn away from everything he ever knew, kept apart from the world and was locked away in fucking Pinehurst of all places.

Eden loved to play dirty.

“The only thing I really got to do there was work for the school paper. I videoed the rich kids as they talked politics and kayaking. Nobody really cared about ghosts and goblins. If anything? Coming from the most haunted town in America was a detriment to my street cred with the preppy Monarchs.”

Listening to Adam talk about his highschool experience, Kylee realized how uneventful things were outside of Edenridge. Then again, was that such a bad thing? “Honestly? That sounds way better than here. I really don’t know why you came back,” Kylee lamented, as she watched Mei’s floor come closer and closer by the second. “Less death and tragedy. Where can I sign up?” She jokingly laughed. Edenridge was a place where something big happened once a year and in between, there was plenty of pain and suffering to keep you going. It’s what the town thrived on. It’s what the town needed to survive.

“I had unfinished business here, family, friends. It’s home believe it or not. No matter what that asshole I call a father says,” Having Thomas Callahan out of his life, no matter how fleeting that moment would be, and he knew it would be, Adam was going to savour it. He switched on the camera and took a slight step back away from the Grimm heir and raised his free hand to count her in.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1….

“So, why are we here Miss Grimm?”

On cue, the elevator door opened and Kylee smiled at the camera, as if this was natural to her to be instantly prepared for her friend to press the record button. Adam, camera ready, and her, ready to put on a show - Kylee looked at the lens as if she was looking at a person and took her audience for a ride, “To question Jillian O’Brien about her sophomore year. She either knows David more than any of us will ever know him, or she can point us in the right direction. Follow me.” Did Kylee feel weird for interrogating her friend? Absolutely. But if it led to solving this case sooner so that Clay could be at peace, there was no way in hell she’d give up on this opportunity. With Adam trailing behind her, Kylee made it to Mei’s apartment door and knocked thrice with the back of her knuckles. Would this go without a hitch? Only time could tell.

The door opened up swiftly and the duo were greeted by the dark witch of Westwood herself, Mei Midnight. As usual, the young woman stood out and drew attention with her ensemble of the day: skin tight leather shorts, a long sleeve off the shoulder sheer crop top with a red bralet to match her painted lips and her hair was hanging loose. She had managed to not only shower after her appearance on Dawn Patrol earlier that day but also get a quick power nap to recharge. She had been on the go for at least thirty four hours yet still found time to swing by Five Tool and get her workout in. Mei was either a machine or really was magic.

“Twice in one day? Fuck my throat with a pitchfork, Grimmy, people are gonna start talking….” The Wiccan’s hazelnut eyes fell upon the stranger pointing a camera in her face and she cocked an eyebrow. “…And who is this piece of meat? Daddy finally buying you slaves now? You keep him in the wine cellar next to the Sauvignon?”

If there was one thing that would entertain the viewers, it was Mei’s comments. Not safe for children. “You and I both know I wouldn’t be caught dead in my dad’s cellar. Who knows what scary things are down there. Pretty sure my house is haunted. No thankies.” For a girl who loved hauntings, ghosts, and stories, she was adamant to not explore some areas in her own home. It hit different when you actually lived in the place. If she knew more, she’d fear for her own life. The less she knew about that manor, the better. Kylee beamed at her friend as she gestured toward the camera guy, “This is an old friend. He used to live here and was in our class, actually. That was years ago, though. His hair was a lot shaggier. Remember Adam?”

Mei surveyed the young man that stood next to her former lover up and down. She was struggling to place him. “Adam.Adam.Adam,” She repeated aloud as if saying his name would jog some kind of reboot in her mind so that she could remember him. Eventually, the daughter of Hecate placed the boy in a black and gold Gi in her mind palace and the light switched on. “Oh, Callahan! You were on my father’s Karate team!”

Adam nodded his head and placed a thumbs up towards the girl, still holding the camera at her gorgeous pale face. “Yeah, I was! Actually thinking about joining back up now I’m back in town.”

“Great, now that that’s out of the way and I’m done daydreaming about getting railed by Mayor Teddy in his sex dungeon, what brings you to my door Ky? You got some info on the new letter?”

“Please, Mei, don’t ever say that again,” Kylee already had to deal with her dad being married to someone that was a little older than Clay. A sixteen year age difference. That’s not accounting for her supposed mother’s real age. She’ll never tell her dad that she remembers Prudence early on in her life and her actual age. That was a can of worms she refused to open, ever. It made her uncomfortable that her dad found pleasure in the young and beautiful and she could only imagine, if he didn’t have Babydoll, would he pursue someone her age? Gross.

That was one thing Kylee took pride in, her memory. Most kids don’t remember the years under the age seven, but Kylee did. For better or for worse, Kylee knew too much. “I was wondering if you, and Jill, if she’s here, would mind me asking you questions? I have a theory that David’s secret lover was a cheerleader and in our year. I’m not pointing fingers, I just want to know what you two remember. Any information would benefit this case.”

The witch cocked her eyebrow as she ran the numbers in her head. Kylee’s theory actually held a decent amount of merit. She knew that neither her nor Jill were David’s secret teen mom wannabe but she also knew that perhaps there was something in their collective memories that they had yet to stumble upon that could help them break open this chest of mystery and save people another wave of heartache. “Ok, I can get on board with that. Come on in, help yourself to a drink. I know I will,” Mei opened the door wider and turned to walk into her apartment. “JILLYBEAN!” She called out. “WE’VE GOT GUESTS THAT WANT TO DEEP DIVE INTO DIDDLER TALK!”

“BE OUT IN A COUPLE MINUTES!” came the shouted reply.

“It’s a bit too early for that, for me,” Kylee politely declined the booze, not one to drink on the job. She looked back at Adam who was hyper focused on his own job and she smiled into the camera. Not too long ago she was mad that he suddenly appeared out of nowhere, but now that he is back and with her, she feels less lonely. This was almost like the good old days. Almost.

Without Roddy, the good old days would never return, she knew that, but at least she and Adam can continue where she and Rods left off. The prospects of all the adventures they could go on put butterflies in her stomach. She was excited… her friend was back home.

Trailing behind Mei, Kylee took her seat on the sofa, waiting patiently for Jill to reveal herself. Having visited this place at least once a week, she didn’t need to appreciate much, she’s already seen it all, but she was sure Adam would film some b-roll, capturing Mei and Jill’s joint personality.

Film was a beautiful thing that could catch moments that would otherwise get lost in time. As people, we love films, we love storytelling. It gives us a form of escapism but it also shows something honest. Something true. To be a filmmaker, like Adam, you have to be a little mad. You lead and push until you intertwine visuals, sounds, lighting, angles, subjects, and so much more, until you create a tale that makes you feel things like a song does. All at the impulse or desire to do something. Be something. Create something. Film was a progression of moods and feelings, and if it can be written or thought, it could be filmed. She appreciated his art. She appreciated him.

Finally, after a last check to make sure she looked like she rolled out of bed at a proper time today, Jillian O’Brien made her entrance to the living room. She was having more success participating in the land of the living without the alcoholic crutch now that things had settled following the move, and the re-integration of Danilo Belmonte into her life after a lengthy exile was slow but taking shape. Still, her world revolved around her best friend and paramour, and it showed in her appearance.

Jill’s flaming red hair was still most visible, tied back in a high ponytail with a black scrunchie holding it in place. No dye could tame those locks yet, not that she seriously gave thought to life as a raven-haired fox. That role was more expertly filled by Mei. However, the lipstick was a far deeper shade than she was known for, edging to the shadow of black but settling in at a deep blood red. Mascara was heavy, and while her shadow was a similar deep red, the eyeliner that shaped it was pitch black. A trio of black orbs cascaded from each of her earlobes, a thrift store find that was too good to pass up.

But it was the clothing that made the starkest contrast. Gone were the slacker tank tops and pajama pants that had replaced the latest offerings American Eagle had on the rack during Jill’s mental breakdown. Instead, she embraced Mei’s ideas for how they could project how much they ruled Eden as the baddest bitches on the block. Curses be damned. A jet black corset top pinched her waist in a little bit to hide what remained from her slub days, but against her pale skin, it was a stark contrast. A sizable midriff separated the shirt from a pair of denim festival shorts, but it was the necklace that caught the eye, the blood-red butterfly holding on with more black spheres lining the gold chain that kept it tethered to the O’Brien girl’s neck. She was coming back to society bit by bit, but it was definitely not in her old image.

“Did you have to be so early, KyHigh?” she offered to the solid third in their friend group. “Barely had time to finish up my…” Jill’s voice trailed off as she recognized the cameraman who she knew was coming but was unaware of the specifics. She probably could have ventured a guess given what she knew of Kylee’s attachments to the Callahan family, but still, it was rare to see someone who had made it out of Eden come back for a second bite at the apple. It made sense that with Roddy gone to Goddess-forsaken Texas with that bitch of an ex-friend of Jill's, Kylee would reach for the other member of the family she trusted. “Well, shit. Adam Callahan. Been a while, lug. Not looking like the Shaggy to Velma over there anymore, but a Callahan face does still stick on you. Welcome back to the Garden.” She took a seat on the sofa, given the lone male would likely be going back and forth between host Kylee and subjects Mei and Jill. She could hear her girlfriend in the kitchen. “Grab me one while you’re up, love!” She looked over at Kylee. “If we’re doing diddler discussions, I’ll need it.”

Adam was flabbergasted by the apartment he now stood in. Not only was it so interestingly decorated but it also belonged to Mei Ramsey and Jill fucking O’Brien. He would be a liar if he hadn’t said that he had a thing for Jill all those years ago. Not in the same way that he did Kylee, that was intense and filled with emotion. Jill was just crazy hot and being a fellow Foundling, there were many Founder’s parties where he’d hoped that his spin of the bottle landed on her. “We Callahans have a distinct feature of long hair and goofy teeth, unfortunately I can’t do anything about that. It’s good to see you, Jill.”

Jill nods and smiles, an easier notion these days. “It’s better you’re seeing me now, that’s for sure, but I can say likewise, lug.”

Mei opened up their fridge and to say it was an eclectic mixture of things would be an understatement. Two shelves of beers and pre-made cocktails, a third shelf of Will Ramsey’s home made cooking in tupperwares and in the drawer, a random mixture of shit they had bought from the store for snacks. The dark priestess grabbed two canned beers from the top before making her way over to her girlfriend and sitting on the arm of the couch next to her. She handed her O’Brien love the adult beverage before cracking open the tab of her own and taking a long mouthful. Mei rested her free hand on the base of Jill’s neck and eyed the two newcomers intensely. “So hit us with your best shots, Pat Benatar.”

Jill cracked open the can of Sam Adams Tropical Wheat Ale and joined her girlfriend in tilting back for a lengthy sip. “Fire away.”

“Okay, I want to start from the beginning. But first, like I told Mei,” Kylee’s eyes went from one vixen, the dark priestess, to the other, the cherry bomb, “With today’s letter I have a handful of theories. One, this has nothing to do with Charlie and someone is using this gimmick to spread chaos. Two, the supposed underage girl was either in our class or the class above us, but honestly, based on the pretty handwriting I think she’s in our class. And theory number three, she was a cheerleader. She had to be if she was involved with David’s inner circle. A.K.A. The Elite.”

Taking out her small notebook, Kylee flipped to her notes with quick ease, her expression was serious and her eyes were focused in on her friends. Kylee Grimm was in her element. “Let’s rewind the clock a bit, shall we? And I apologize if this forces you to revisit bad memories. The date on this letter is December 05, 2016. The day after the shining star competition, the game, the party, Allison’s death,” She paused, letting that last part sit in the air, knowing how much weight that must hold, especially after the fiasco with R2. “In the letter, it says that David left early, with this girl. Do you remember anything from that party, especially in regards to the Elite?”

Mei glanced towards Jill with soft eyes, a rarity for the midnight girl before she moved them back to rest on Kylee. “So professional!” she remarked. It was funny because not too long ago Kylee Grimm was the third in their three musketeers. She tightened her grip on her Jillybean ever so slightly as she thought back to the day Allison died. Despite the closure she had received after the night on Carlisle, Mei still had feelings for that evening and revisiting them was not something she really wanted to do. It seemed like the Fates had decided that December 4th, 2016 was a day that was destined to haunt them for the rest of their lives.

“I remember David floating around, talking to pretty much everyone like he always did. Spent a good chunk of it with Francis and Russell. Don’t think he really saw Ally cos she was off….” For the longest time Mei didn’t know what Allison was doing but now she did and she hated it. “Don’t remember Costigan being there.” The goth girl took another sip from her beer. “Which means without Clay to hog all the action, David was probably knee deep in pussy but I don’t recall seeing it.”

Kylee could apologize all she wanted, it was still going to be self-inflicted torture for Jillian to try and remember back to that cursed day. She still blamed herself for not doing more in regards to Allison's last hours, for being just a scared little girl in a forest of giants. For letting herself get swept up in the drink and the debauchery and not being able to see the plain facts in front of her eyes, but it seemed like that dark night was going to keep chasing her until every skeleton was dragged up from under the stoop and laid bare for all of Massachusetts to see.

The redhead squeezed her girlfriend’s hand back, happy that now she had that direct tether to happiness as opposed to that last trip back to Carlisle when she watched powerless as Adam’s cousin dragged Mei away to avoid R2 reacting back against the punch. Kylee was looking at her, intent on finding something on Dirty David O’Hara, the shame of the Elite. It had been a while since Jill had spent time in those circles.. An alpha cheerleader with a storied name had no problem gaining access to those parties and all the secrets that came with them, especially with the three other founding families represented on the team. But December 4, 2016? That was filled with so much haze.

“Let me think…” Jill finally started after Mei had filled in some initial gaps. “It’s tough to remember all the names and faces back then, since we were so focused on celebrating the win. But the basketball team was there and looking bulletproof. With Francis and Russell dancing around, and Garrett preparing for his future role in serving underage kids like me a bunch of booze, David was able to drift around and be his usual self. I don’t remember anything specific, aside from being ticked at Francis for ignoring Ally again. But I was off doing… a lot of things I regret now. I even lost track of Liv and Kat during that party, that's how wild it was. Wish I could ask them about it. Olivia would have had something on it for sure. So I was there pretty late, and I don’t remember David leaving early, but I wouldn’t put it past him if he found a honey pot to his liking.”

“Thank you,” Kylee genuinely smiled at her two friends who were cooperating wonderfully. Questions like these could bring out the worst in people and she knew the life of a self-proclaimed journalist could get her thrown out immediately. She was lucky, though. They cared about her. Kylee didn’t have many friends but the ones she did, they saw her for what she was and adored her for it. The good, the bad, the ugly, Kylee was grateful she was loved.

“Alright, I’ll move on from that day. Clay’s meeting up with his friends, asking them questions too so I’m sure they can paint a better picture since they were directly impacted by David and his actions. Now, sophomore year, just so I can have it on record, who were you both romantically or sexually involved with? Or both, of course.”

“You and Clay are getting pretty close, huh?” Mei’s hand drifted beneath Jill’s hair as she spoke, rubbing her black fingernails through the fiery red mane in a loving way. It was a deflection of course, the comment. Sophomore year was not a pleasant one for her. It was that year she really started throwing herself into the Wiccan culture in which she was now permanently beautifully submerged. It was also when she went through what was really beside Allison, her first heartbreak. “I slept with a few people, mostly girls because that’s when I started exploring myself but then, then I started with Q at the beginning of second semester.”

Quinton Woods was always too smart for his own good. He had always been the kid at the back of the class, equations and formulas in his eyes at the same time that his mouth called the jocks' meatheads; a mouth that would then he proceeded to be punched. Mei was never really sure what she saw in Q. He was a good sort of person most of the time but that superiority complex of his would always be his downfall. He definitely challenged Miss Midnight’s mental faculty which she enjoyed. For someone so bright, Quinton also came with a lot of baggage. “We broke up by the end of the year.”

Jill demurred a little at the question, especially hearing Mei be able to matter-of-factly sum up her love life in high school. The redhead treasured her ability to flit around relationships, and after Allison’s death, she upped that process a fair bit. “It’s so hard to remember,” she admits. “That sophomore year was kind of a blur. I let Mei know exactly what I thought of Q, but I went through a good chunk of boys. I think I went on dates with anyone from the drama club to the football team, and was open to a lot of things, but I never really stuck on one guy for very long. If only I knew back then what I know now, I wouldn’t be getting a crash course.”

The O’Brien girl rubbed her hand on Mei’s thigh as if to subtly thank her for putting up with her as she learned how to better explore the unearthed side of her sexuality that their relationship held. “However, I had my rules back then. I mean, I wouldn’t touch anyone from Pinehurst, absolutely not. Plus, I stayed away from the basketball team. I couldn’t risk Danny getting put in harm’s way by something I did with one of his teammates, so JV and varsity were out. I found out how much that meant to Danny after the fact, but I held up my end of the bargain and I did not touch a Celtic, even after sophomore year."

The mention of Pinehurst caused Kylee’s professional mask to drop ever so briefly. Only hours ago her father had dropped a bomb on her about her boyfriend. Wesley Silo had lied to her. All for what? Because he thought she would dig deeper if she knew where he was from? As Jill talked, Kylee tilted her head at her own thoughts. That actually wasn’t a bad idea. If Wes wasn’t going to tell her anything, she could simply find out herself. She had the lead: Pinehurst. Why shouldn’t she find out what he was ashamed of? He was her boyfriend! She had the right to know.

Her pen tapped on her notebook when she re-focused her attention on her girlfriends. Rules. Morals. Kylee didn’t get close to Jill until after sophomore year, when she was dating Mike habitually. She heard the rumors but hearing it from Jill’s mouth herself was eye opening. The Jill sitting before her and the Jill of the past were two different creatures. While Jill was adding another guy to her ‘I fucked’ list, Kylee was using social media and words to hurt people that slighted her. Kylee was grabbing the next juicy gossip, of course first making sure it was actually true or not (she drew the line with fake news) and blew it out of proportion. Kylee also had to deal with Roddy being disappointed in her actions constantly, and her almost losing her best friend. He tried his best by doing scooby doo shenanigans with her but after… Adam left, well, a piece of her left with him too.

For once, the chaos that ensued before and after David O’Hara died was not something she spread. People would like to think she took part in that fire, but David was Danny’s friend. Danny Belmonte was her friend. Maybe not a best friend like Roddy, but she cared about the guy. She would never do that to the idiot, that was his goddamn idol (one of them at least). Part of her had a hard time believing that David was indeed what Mei called a diddler. He was exposed and it ruined his life. For what? Because he was a foundling?

Letting the silence in the room fill the room, deep in thought, Kylee leaned back in her seat and looked down at her notes. She was so focused on the mystery girl… that wasn’t the story at all, was it? She turned to glance at the boy with the camera, a foundling, and she looked at Jill, who sought comfort from the Dark Priestess herself, another foundling. Kylee was the mayor’s daughter, like Niles was the doctor’s son, but that did not hold the same weight as a foundling. Closing her notebook, leaving her pen in it, Kylee placed it on the coffee table and thought to herself, ‘Fuck the girl. She’s irrelevant… what good comes from proving that David did fuck someone underage? Aside from the town hating him more than they already do.’

Subconsciously, Kylee cracked her knuckles and began talking to the air, still deep in thought, “To be honest, I don’t really care about the girl in the story. It’s clearly not you two. But what do we gain from all this?” Kylee placed her hands on her thighs and looked at her two friends. “We repeat a vicious cycle that could lead to the girl OD’ing like Allison did, or getting so bloody drunk like David did, which led to his inevitable drowning. You know the day before he died, my sister told me, he was just at the bar. Drinking a shit ton. I mean, it was proven in the news with his blood alcohol levels.” Now that the past was coming back to light, Kylee realized how sad it all was for David. How lonely he must’ve felt.

“The rumors started spreading a little under a month before New Years. Allison Davies was so scared of her future, she turned to drugs. David’s image was ruined so quickly that he legitimately had no future anymore. But, like, he was still living in Edenridge at the time, so he probably was already depressed he had nothing going for him. Not like Clay, who wanted to be a cop. Not like Rhett, who had his whole life planned out for him, with the Hole. Francis, Russ… all his friends had a plan.” Kylee was standing up at this point. Finally ready to ask her a question. “Jill, you’re part of one of the founding families. Are you where you want to be? How’s that pressure feel?”

It was a long way to go to ask such an absolutely loaded question, especially given the connotations that Kylee had raised. Jill knew how close she was to having the best of both tragic deaths her friend had brought up. She had all the pressure and social stature of Allison and all the drinking of David rolled into one redheaded mess until recently. She knew she had played her part back then, spreading the rumors of the O'Hara boy's shame. Being an Elite didn't save you if you made such an egregious societal faux pas. However, hearing Kylee talk about the loneliness Coach must have felt made it even worse that the dark thoughts of her depressive spiral almost proved potent enough to lead her to be the latest in the line of tragic Edenridge cases. Charlie Decker and Mike Barrie just happened to be much more violent means to put her self-destuction on-track. Some would say Jill deserved such a fate as the latest sacrifice.

But she wasn’t dead. Nor appeared on the path to be anymore. Even as she sat on that beaten up couch, clutching a cold Sam Adams in her hand, it wasn’t the path down to despair that was well traversed the past year. It would be foolish to think a tropical-inspired beverage could lead to such pains until Jillian remembered how many times she switched up to Malibu in an attempt to “lighten her mood” and failed. This beer, like most recent drinks, tasted different. Things had felt different since she moved in with her girlfriend.

But was she where she wanted to be? Did she care about being a member of the founding families? Clearly it wasn’t as important as it once was in high school, when she felt she had to live up to her mother and sisters. She certainly didn’t have the career path that Shannon had already lived and Heather seemed to be well on the road to obtaining. Of course, trying to match Grace in a contest of sexual partners was like trying to match the night sky with merely twinkles in an eye, but Jill gave it more of a run than she would like to admit. Either way, she still fell short. She didn’t have the best of departure discussions with Grace, and Shannon just seemed happy to see her up and about, even if she was moving out the door.

Did the pressure get to her? Does it matter if the pressure didn’t matter anymore? It had already won in a lot of ways, but at least now, Jillian had her path to some kind of happiness. She could feel the torchlight in the grip of her hand. No, the career path still wasn’t set in stone, but she could focus on it now. She had the support in the endeavor.

“The pressure sucks, Ky,” Jill finally answered. “I feel like I tried to live up to so many things just because I’m an O’Brien. I tried to be a leader. I tried to be a lover. I tried to be a mom. Nothing ended up working out right and when you combine that with all the tragedy and the need to uphold the family name… maybe that’s what made it so easy to just give up the way I did. I know I was just a few bottles away from being another name on your list of lost souls.”

She looks at Mei. “But I’m definitely where I want to be at the moment.” Jill turns her attention back to the intrepid reporter. “As for where I’m going, I don’t know, but I have more faith that I’m going to figure it out now than I did before. That's more than I had when these letters started coming out.”

Turning the interview into a conversation between friends, Kylee nodded and admitted through her own melancholy feelings, “I get that,” She didn’t allow all of her deep-rooted sadness to take surface but an inkling was enough to show that she felt safe in the presence of Jill, Mei, and Adam. “I might not be a foundling, but I’m the most precious thing to my father. The goddamn mayor of this town. It sucks not knowing the answers and maybe that’s why these letters have helped keep me busy, you know? I feel like I could really help this town… it’s stupid, really, but I appreciate you guys letting me question you.”

Kylee crossed her arms in a way to hold herself together. Her face might’ve been inquisitive, curious, and sharp, but the reality was it was all a mask. A mask to hide her emotions. What gave it all away? Her eyes. Kylee Grimm was not doing good and while some people drowned themselves in vices like alcohol and drugs, she chose to immerse herself in an investigation. She was worried. She was worried about Clay because these letters really did a number on him. She was worried about Roddy because she no longer could check up on him like she used to. And she was worried about Wes. He still hadn’t texted her. Did she do something wrong?

“Same question for you, Adam,” She turned her attention to the camera boy. Uncrossing her arms, she gestured for him to give her the camera so she could record him. She needed to get out of the dark place before she started crying in front of her friends. “I know you haven’t been back in awhile but maybe you can speak from the Callahan perspective?”

“Oh shit, okay,” Adam wasn’t expecting to be on camera during this but Kylee’s line of questioning was forcing his hand. He handed her his camera, gently so as to not damage the beautiful machine and awkwardly waved once her lense was aimed at him. “Well, erm…” He paused for a moment. He was so used to adding all his commentary in post. Adam never really felt comfortable on screen, a bad sign for someone who wanted to make documentaries for a living. He rang his hands together a bit as his gaze fell between the three beauties starting at him. Holy fuck were these Goddesses intimidating.

“I mean, Jill knows this but walking around a town where streets and buildings are named after your ancestors is quite daunting. The fact that even now, to this day, being a Foundling is considered a high honor, it’s downright baffling really.” He ran both hands through his thick shaggy hair and leaned back against the chair he was sitting on. “Most of us, will try and just get on with it, you know? But then there are those of us who for what it’s worth had a talent, a talent that can’t be ignored. Franny or Clay for example. The pressure to use that talent to keep the name out there, it’s like gravity being turned up to eleven. It’s impossible to move. That’s what the curse really is. It’s being unable to move on from what came before. It’s safe to say, it’s rare for a Foundling to get out of this town alive.”

Wow. Damn. That went dark. “Thank you, Adam,” Kylee softly responded as she gingerly gestured for him to take his camera back. When he grabbed it from her hands, as if they were passing a baby to one another, Kylee had a pensive look on her face. This actually was more interesting than who David fucked. This could also lead to clues to any living Carlisle members still out there. The last known member being Nikolas Carlisle, the founder of Edenridge National Laboratory. He died in 1984.

Kylee had always been curious about what happened to the family that once lived in her house. She never did tell her dad about this but she found a secret stash in a hole on the wall, hidden behind this old grandfather clock. A stash of pictures mostly, and some heirlooms. But that was an ongoing investigation and not the point right now. As she thought deeper on what her two friends said, speaking into existence,

Kylee breathed out and smiled, “Roddy got out,” and as much as her heart missed him, she knew he would do great things in Texas versus here. “Talent, no talent, purpose, no purpose, that’s all pretty subjective don’t you think? We can’t really change the past,” Kylee thought to herself, the wheels constantly turning in her head, “What we do have control over is how we handle the present. I wasn’t raised here. I moved here, what? Like when I was eleven? But, if I didn’t move here I wouldn’t have you three, or Roddy, or Clay. I don’t think the problem is Edenridge, herself. It’s like living in Detroit, or Chicago. There's dark shit everywhere. It’s all in a matter of perspective. If you’re stuck here, might as well try to take care of her. Be a pebble in the pond that creates a ripple of change. That’s just me, though. I don’t like seeing my home as a trap town. She’s all I’ve ever had.”

Mei cocked her eyebrow as she listened to the trio talk about their respective paths through this garden of Eden. Her Jillybean, an O’Brien, often considered the greatest and most delicate beauties in Edenridge history. Adam, the Callahan, they were the good guys, the honourable men living in dishonourable times. Then there was Kylee, a transplant herself but with roots to the town’s very foundation. Three different people, so entrenched in what this place was, is and could be. It was truly fascinating.

“For what it’s worth, I am sorry, truly, that you and all the other Foundlings have suffered so.” The Wiccan pressed a soft gentle kiss to the top of the fiery haired head of her girlfriend. “What you go through, makes you more prone to mistakes, more prone to succumbing to things that we all try not to. This place, our town, it is home but it’s also a fucking Hellmouth,” Mei tightened her grip on the back of Jil’s neck lovingly. “And it’s about time that changed. Our class, our friends, our family have suffered way too much and it’s about time someone stopped all that pain. This is going to end, I’m going to end this. Even if it fucking kills me.”

Jill subtly matched Mei’s grip with her own on Miss Midnight’s thigh. “You don’t get to die before I do. That’s the rule. You fucking promised me.” She moved her hand away and rested it back on her lap. “If this is to end in fire, then we shall both burn together.” Even if she was a day late to the goth scene, cherry picked Ed Sheeran lyrics helped Jill fit right in to the vibe.

Getting to her feet, the goth girl polished off her beer and tossed it into the recycle bin. “Now, unless this turns into a foursome, which I’m absolutely here for, then I think you’ve asked all your questions and it's time to wrap this orgy up.”

Glancing at her watch, Kylee noticed the time. Oh shit. She had a lunch date with Marco at the park. “I lost track of time,” Grabbing her small notebook off the table, Kylee stood up and went to the girl that Mei introduced, years ago, who was growing to be one of her closest friends. Kneeling down, Kylee brought Jill into a warm embrace and whispered, “Thank you. I know I might be in over my head but thank you. This means a lot.”

The redhead happily returned the embrace. She was a hugger. Anyone who ran into one of her drunken spells at the Hole knew that. It was nice to be able to enjoy the enveloping feeling without the fog in the way though. It was funny that Kylee didn’t have the full on pedigree that herself and Adam and Coach and Caitlin had, but maybe that was Jill's role as a Foundling. To bridge the gap to those on the outside and try and make Eden a less closed-off place. Even if that meant putting herself at risk.

“You’re welcome, KyHigh,” Jillian confirmed. “And if you need any help tracking Cece down, give me a heads up. I know I wasn’t able to fill in many blanks for you, but she should have the best memory out of the remaining cheerleaders, so hopefully she has some better answers for you.”

“Kay, unless we’re getting naked, time to make a manoeuvre,” Mei smiled, a rare sight as always. She winked towards Kylee and then made her way to Adam as he fiddled with his camera. She leaned down, placing her painted fingers on his deceptively strong looking shoulder and whispered in his ear. “Take care of her, she’s special. If you don’t, I’m having your balls for breakfast.” She stood back up to her full height and turned to face her best friend and girlfriend once again.

“Jilly, the Afterlife awaits.”

“But it’s 2:30… you know what, nevermind,” Kylee kissed Jill’s cheek before releasing her and making her way to Adam.

The youngest O’Brien, barring any kids that Kieran might have had that she didn’t know about, smiled back at her intrepid friend. “Don’t worry, we have walked among the dead in the Afterlife for quite some time. We’re well versed in traversing the vampires at all times of day.” Jillian stood up and moved over to Mei, linking her hands with the Ramsey girl’s own. “Let me grab a couple things, finish my beer and then I’ll be ready to cross the River Styx.” She glanced over at Kylee and to confirm the positive feelings were still there for a change, she smiled again.

Looking back at her two friends, her best girlfriends, Ky gave her signature Tigger wave and goodbye, “Ta ta for now. Until next time, ladies.” Exiting the apartment, she led the charge, her friend in tow, “Craving Chinese? Because I promised a friend I’d treat him.”

Adam hurrying, grabbed his camera and offered a brief wave to Fire and Darkness before following Ky out of the door. “I’m down for some Chinese, I haven’t eaten in a minute.” He looked back at the door of the apartment as he and the good lady Grimm stepped into the elevator. Another world ago, Jill and Mei were two of the most popular girls in school (although Mei hated that) and now there they were, locked together in love but so utterly broken by the years of heartache that this town caused. It did make him wonder, in spite of what she had said, why Kylee was so desperate to save it?

Was it really worth it?
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