An @Aces Away, @LovelyComplex, & @metanoia Collaboration || Featuring The Lost Trio
Mordechai had tensed when he registered the footsteps behind him, but he had already heard their voices echoing from the bleachers. He knew they were there from the moment Jade's panicked exclamation shot through the tense silence, and he also knew couldn't turn around yet. Not without breaking.
But then Poppy spoke up from just behind him, her voice muffled and quiet, but just as demanding of attention as ever. And as she started to tear into him all he could do was turn to stare at her, taking in her haggard state and mentally comparing it to his own. He could barely see any of her, but she was definitely even smaller than before and her eyes were sunken and a bit dull- though they gained a bit of fire as she ranted. Her clothes were swamping her and-
And that was Charlie's hoodie hiding her frame.
He tried to ignore the way his heart stuttered and stopped before kicking back into high gear, but at that point Poppy's breathing had picked up too, and Danny Belmonte was stepping in for some reason. Mordechai couldn't help but bear his teeth in a sneer at the other man despite him being completely civil, but he tucked the bat between his knees and dropped the broken liquor bottle to the floor in order to rip off his own oversized hoodie, exposing his scarred arms and fresh track marks, as well as the still vibrant Serpent's tattoo on his left shoulder. Left in a tank top, Mordechai put the bat casually back over his shoulder while tossing his hoodie lightly over Poppy's head so that even if she opened her eyes she would be fine. He turned her around, arm across her shoulders in order to lead her back to Jade and whoever else they'd shown up with.
"C'mon Pops, you fuckin' got me, told me off good. Let's both go sit an' calm down, yeah?"
Wrapped in a cocoon, known as Decky’s jacket, Poppy took in his scent. It was musky, a little sweaty, and naturally earthy. No distinct cologne. Then again, she wasn’t good with brands even if he was wearing Old Spice or Axe. If anything his scent reminded her of woodwork and camping. It also made her feel safe and warm. His scent, such a simple thing, brought in feelings of old and reminded her that she still had loved ones alive and well. He was alive and well.
Mordechai’s familiar and reassuring presence had given her the extra measure she needed to become focused and functional once more. Part of her was sad because instead of greeting her childhood friend with pleasantries, appreciating the sight of him, she scolded him, like she had done many times in the past. Well, unlike then, she wasn’t calm and composed. If only she could go back in time when interactions like this didn’t feel so daunting.
As she stood there, his arm across her shoulders, she wondered if he knew how she was feeling. How desperately she needed to isolate herself because of the all-consuming information that overloaded her mind. People. All the fucking people.
They weren’t her friends, they weren’t people that cared about her, and they didn’t know her. They didn’t care about her story. Or Decky’s. Or Charlie’s for that matter! All they cared about was forgetting and twisting the truth because no one wanted to hear that they could’ve been a villain in someone else’s story.
Did he understand that?
Poppy wasn’t blind. She saw the hurt and she knew everyone lost somebody. In the process, they also lost pieces of themselves. Pieces that needed to mend, but once the glass was shattered, nobody had it in them to put themselves back together. So... why not work together?
As simple as that notion sounds, it isn’t that easy. Some people wanted to act like their pain was worse than everyone else’s. Some people wanted to run away. And some people, like herself, liked to pretend it was only just a dream. When push came to shove and they could support one another, the first thing they wanted to do was play the blame game or attack, attack, attack.
People. Fucking people. They sucked.
Instead of being protected by Jade’s shadow, Poppy was now in Decky’s safe bubble, a dark, comforting blanket, and without saying any immediate words, her hand closest to her friend reached out of the jacket and grabbed the end of his tank. Clutching the cloth, she tugged at it and apologetically whispered, “Sorry.” Clear guilt in her tone.
What a sad state she was in, where her brain chose to be a coward, giving her little to no voice because she was nothing but an empty shell. An absolute nobody. Did he see how much of a mess she was? How much of a mess she was without… Charlie?
"Fuck, Pops," Mordechai replied, pulling her into his chest with the arm around her shoulders and dropping his cheek on her head. "Ain't got nothin' to apologize for, you were right. 'M just strung out and itchin' ta beat some fuckers into the ground. Had to be some Northie fuck that thinks they're bein' cute, I swear." He mumbled into her covered head.
His thoughts beat around in his head like a boxer, screaming at him for leaving Poppy to get this bad, whimpering that he had to take care of himself; what good would he have been if he'd just killed himself a week after the shooting? He had to get away!
He shouldn't have gone. He should have bucked the fuck up. He made the right choice, getting the toxicity that was him out of their lives. He was the root of all their problems. He had to be.
He betrayed his brother, their friend, and it lead to Charlie sweeping through Edenridge like the Angel of Death through Rameses' Egypt. His own time away was less of a 'let my people go' and more of a 'my people are better without me.' Coming back was more selfish of him than he let on, even if it did hurt him non-stop in the process.
He deserved everything coming at him.
Danny Boaz had deserved none of it.
He took a deep breath to fortify himself, to make sure the mask doesn't break despite all the cracks, and then pulled back only enough to get them to start shuffling back to Jade and who he now saw was Marco.
"'Sides," he finally added once he got back out of his head. "I prefer y'all's company anyway." he hoped that they ignored the strained tone he spoke in, given that the two Southie girls would be the only ones able to detect it. Shakily, Mordechai finally met Jade's eyes, letting nothing show but not being able to hold back the shudder that shook him, and by extension Poppy. "Hey, Harley Head, long time…"
”Hey..y-eha, it has…” In a very uncharacteristic way, Jade’s voice was shaky, almost as though the blonde had no idea how to respond to a simple greeting from her old ex-friend(?).
The pit in her stomach that made her feel like she was sinking had gotten worse. She literally felt like she was being swallowed up by the memories of that night, the friendships that tore themselves apart from a series of inactions on her part. The gnawing pain that left her heart in shambles, yet hearing Mordechai’s deep voice call her by that name.
He still calls me it despite everything?
As she looked away from Decky and down into her lap, thumbs twiddling with each other, she heard the groans coming from her left and she saw Marco do as much as he could to silently self-excuse himself, but as he slid down the bleachers, the silent aspect was nearly impossible. She rolled her eyes and then found herself returning to Decky’s gaze. She couldn’t avoid this. It had been nearly two years since the shooting and a year since she set eyes on Decky. If nothing else, she needed to confront this particular obstacle.
Before she opened her mouth, she wanted to ask how he was. She wanted to ask if he was taking care of himself. Wherever he was, she wanted to know if he had good accommodations. But one look and the old Jade, no matter how rare of a sighting she was, came through and she said, ”You’re skinnier than I remember.” She didn’t know whether to laugh or hit herself for saying that, of all things. “Have you been eating?”
Mordechai let out a humorless chuckle before having the grace to look a little abashed. "I eat when I can afford to," he offered with an uncomfortable shrug, trying not to shift so his tank would hang differently, maybe make him look more filled out. He knew he was kidding himself anyways, he'd lost pounds in the double digits and he was never a bulky guy to begin with. After he had left New York, Allegra and the kids, he had struck out on his own again while keeping in contact as best as he could- and that had always been shitty at best- but he constantly found himself scraping by in a way he hadn't had to since before he joined the Serpents. He was hungry, broke, and nostalgic, as well as high enough when he had been asked that he agreed to return. Mordechai never makes promises, but he does his damndest not to back out on his word when he gives it. "Had a good corner run every now and then, or some of the truckers I was hitchin' with would stop at a fast food place."
He cleared his throat instead of letting the sentence fall into an awkward pause. It was weird, it was wrong, but it was right in a way that Mordechai hadn't known was wrong before. Having Jade and Poppy around him settled a buzzing in his chest he had gotten so used to he thought it was normal. They were standing in the gym where their classmates and loved ones lost their lives or sanity, drawn like moths to a flame by some jackass klepto with a photocopying fetish and surrounded by people that had different approaches to the same thing: stop this shit.
But for right now, he was secluded in the corner with his Harley Head and Street Angel, just like they would always be secluded at their lunch table before it all fell apart.
"Uh, Sunshine said you were workin' at the Edge, so you might be- I'll be around with Sunshine y'know?" he stumbled, wishing to swallow back his words. That was real great; Hey, I'm back, be seein' you with my gang boyfriend at the strip club
”Yeah. Been there for almost a year now, ever since Charlie--” Jade caught herself almost immediately, ”--My uncle, I mean, he got locked up. Bogus-ass gun charges.” She spat on the Gym floor as a bit of emphasis of the unfair circumstances of her uncle’s arrest. ”Anyway, yeah I had to think of a way to pay bills. And Rey Rey hooked me up with a job.” At some point, Jade realized she was getting way off-topic, so she’d draw it back and away from her personal problems. ”I’m sure R2 loves that. I mean, you being back. Have you gone to see him yet?”
Mordechai's grip on Poppy tightened for a brief moment as bats and blood flashed across his mind before they were roughly kicked back to the dark corner were they belonged. In return, Poppy leaned on him, using her warmth and touch as emotional support. He let his shoulders relax a bit at her casual tone and nodded. "Sorry to hear about your uncle, he's a good guy. I saw ReyRey this afternoon. Hence the busted lip," his laugh was still rough but this time it rang with sincerity. "It's been nice...seeing the old crew. Still got my stops to make though."
He glanced around the room, taking stock of everyone's whereabouts before finally bringing himself and Poppy down to sit on the bleachers. He'd spent a few nights sleeping in them back when everything was still shit with his parents, but now they were cold and dirty, with blood that's been washed away but never removed. Never one to be good with it in the first place, Mordechai dropped the small talk.
"What do you guys want me to do about whoever is behind this-" he waved his hand vaguely. "With, of course,planning and an alibi." he threw in the last part quickly, Poppy's rant still in the forefront of his mind.
“We wait,” Penelope chimed in, poking her head out finally to the brightness of the gym. Eek. She hated seeing the light, but she knew she had to stop hiding and being a weirdo. Resting Decky’s jacket on her shoulders, she shook her head, “We don’t have enough information and I really don’t want you two getting hurt for something stupid.”
Pops’ last comment made Jade chuckle. She couldn’t place it, but as she looked between Poppy and Decky, she couldn’t stop herself from laughing. It would be between the two of them to do something so idiotic as to react without all the facts. “When you’re right sis, you’re absolutely right.” Another laugh came as Jade leaned back as much as she could without completely falling back into the row behind her. She lazily drew her gaze to Decks, who held it. “And if we are going to do something stupid, wouldn’t you prefer to know who the person responsible is and not deciding so blindly?”
Poppy shook her head, surveying her classmates, even glancing at the door where Roddy and Lanie were, "Unless it’s more than one person.” while she agreed with both Decky and Jade that there was someone guilty and that they needed to do something about it, she was and always will be the inquisitive type. She felt like there were more questions that needed to be asked and that they shouldn’t assume only one person was behind this. Everyone was guilty until proven innocent. They just needed to find people with strong enough motives and push them to talk.
Following Poppy's gaze, Mordechai's breath caught in his throat and refused to leave, his whole body tensing like he'd stepped on a live wire. Lanie was still beautiful, still straight-backed and determined, and still everything that Moredchai had to leave behind before he ruined.
He had to have known, deep down, that he was never good enough for her. There were always small sabotages he created before even realizing it, and he loved her unlike anyone else- because she was unlike anyone else in his life. Her and Danny's well being demanded he do better, so he did. But Mordechai had lost not just a brother, but someone he raised since birth, and that's not something you get to just live with. If he had stayed he would have dragged down Lanie and everyone close to him in the inevitable spiral of despair and grief. He knew he left selfishly, but he also knew that even back then he was aware it was for Lanie's own good.
Because he was no good. It's why Allegra was raising Chaim alone and they were only ever just friends. It's why Charlie got lost and Danny was killed and his world imploded; when you build a whole world out of duct tape and glass shards it's bound to fall apart or cut you up at some point.
If possible, he hugged Poppy tighter like he would shatter if he moved, and harshly tore his gaze from the blonde and back to his girls before Lanie caught him staring. This was becoming a lot and he definitely didn't get high enough before coming here, considering this was only the beginning. He couldn't even register Roddy Callahan's presence attached to Lanie's right now. Nope.
"Well, it's not like there's no experience hidin' bodies in our little trio, and I got a friend in New York who knows a few tricks too." he offered, voice suddenly scratchy. "But we have to beat them into the ground on principle first, for twisting Ch- for twisting him like this," his tone was a boiling pit of lava and acid. "More conspirators just means more curb stomps."
Taking in Decky’s facial expressions as he one, held her tight, and two, used his words to hide his inner turmoil, Penelope sighed. This was a face she hadn’t seen in a couple of years and he felt like yesterday. If yesterday was a feeling, that would be what Decky felt like to her. As if nothing had changed.
If anything, he had more baggage, she didn’t doubt it, but as expected, he dealt with it all the same. Continuing to use his chest as support, she turned away from him to intensely look at their class. How much has really changed? Were they truly cursed? Was this town so fucked that there was no way out? No light at the end of this dark tunnel?
Frowning behind her face mask, Poppy started to impatiently tap her right foot on the bleacher in front of her and fidget with her hands. The questions started flooding her mind as the clock continued to move forward. Was it eight o’clock yet? Who were they waiting for? What were they waiting for? How long would they wait here, expecting a sign? Was this really going to help? Or was this supposed to cause more disruption in their little town? As if they didn’t have enough bullshit going on. Why would someone use a dead boy’s journal? What was there to gain? And why…why did Charlie know so much? Why didn’t he tell her?
And then, instinctively, Jade force-grabbed Poppy’s hand. The blonde looked at her, then to Decky. She didn’t say anything. She didn’t offer some final words to ease their anxious spirits, because Jade was just as anxious as they were. But in the short time she and Decky talked, before Poppy came in and did what she always did best and guided them both into a safe middle, Jade realized something. You hype something painful and that’s uncomfortable to face, thinking it’ll be the end of the world, but talking with Decky and trying to face the awkwardness head-on, Jade realized that he was in as much pain as she was.
And maybe it was her own insecurities hindering what was right in front of her, but now she could honestly say that, when it really mattered, the Southies had each other’s back. And that gave Jade’s anxiety a fifteen-minute break and it allowed her to actually smile for the first time. A genuine, authentic smile.