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1 mo ago
Current in less than a week, kenny committed a double homicide on the same person. thoughts and prayers
5 yrs ago
"I don't attract what I want, I attract what I am. Dead as the bees buzzing inside my head." MM
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5 yrs ago
6 yrs ago
"If you have ghosts, you have everything."
6 yrs ago
Do you wanna start a cult with me?


Grim / Grimoire
It's been over a year since I've written creatively but here I am again.

Most Recent Posts

FT: AJ Tyler
Includes Dom's Garage Employees:
Eiran Goldstein & Chris Reyes
@LovelyComplex & @Grimoire Gaming
Small FT: Decky Boaz @Aces Away

With KIIS-FM radio station playing ‘Shut Up And Dance’ by Walk the Moon through the garage’s sound system, Eiran Goldstein spent this early morning drinking his black coffee and straightening up his office. Call him old fashioned but he liked the radio. It was less work than spotify, apple music, the youtube, or whatever these kids use nowadays. For the most part, he didn’t mind the latest hits. It kept him informed, up-to-date, and hip. Without the radio or the news on the TV, or his son who read articles on the web, Eiran would be considered, especially during this day and age, an old dog. An old dog that just had a hard time learning new tricks. New tricks like learning how to use a smartphone that could break if you didn’t buy a hefty case with it.

He wasn’t that old. He was thirty seven but with his upbringing, the only thing he cared about learning was the ins and outs of the garage. Everyone else can deal with the new software for the computer when Dom upgrades things every couple of years. Everyone else can keep the books in check and make sure they got inventory when they need parts. Everyone else can understand the business side of things while he focuses on the grease.

Something about keeping up with the times... just didn’t mesh well with Eiran Goldstein. He was a good mechanic, one of the best, but learning new gadgets and gizmos hurt his goddamn brain. Thank Hashem his son, brothers, nephews, Chris and all their friends were smart enough to get a keurig machine to work. Shit was hard! He remembered the days when he’d be grateful to even have water to drink, now they’re here living like kings with fancy coffee makers. Stupid technology.

He was in a good mood though. There were no calls from school that his family needed bailing. There were no calls from the cops that his family needed bailing. There were no calls from the power duo that was his wife, Devorah, and his best friend’s fiancée, Junie, that he, himself, or Zo needed bailing from. He’d consider that a good day when none of his family needed a get out of jail free card. With the music at a reasonable level, where he could hear the bell if someone entered the garage lobby, Eiran put his coffee mug on the desk and started dusting. His mug had a picture of him, his wife, and his son on it and over their head there was text that read: World’s Best Dad. He did a subtle head bob as he walked around the office with a rag and wiped down the shelves, counters and furniture.

Lifting picture frames of his family, having a frame for all those he loved — his garage family, his immediate family, his nephews, his brothers, his best friends, and all the gearheads that made the garage their second home — Eiran smiled to himself. He was proud of how far they all came. To think he used to sleep at graveyards just to get away from his parents. That was until Hershey was born. Now he had a home, he had a son, and he was able to take care of all his family. With the help of his wife and best friends, of course. And Dominic Tyler. He couldn’t have done any of this without Dom providing a stable source of income and a small pad to crash at for a bit until his crew was able to settle and build a proper life with security, safety and soundness of mind.

After wiping down the last bit of side table, holding a picture of the Boaz brothers in one hand, Eiran heard loud music from outside, louder than HIS music, and an even louder, abrupt honk. Maybe he spoke too soon about the sound of mind thing. This was a place that somehow had the worst teen drama and angst and that was solely because the heart of the pack was a DRAMA QUEEN. AJ-Fucking-Tyler. Nothing like his father. More like his mother. “Mordechai better not be with him,” Eiran grumbled under his breath.

Leaving the rag behind, knowing Chris was occupied with a job, Eiran left his office just when the bell rang. Today was Chris’ shop day and fortunately for Chris he had a part time job here. Eiran had no qualms for the boy to get paid with money AND credits. Eiran liked doing business with WVC. It was a good place. Set kids like him and Chris on the right path. He didn’t attend. By the time he settled in LA he was too old, but if he had the option when he was younger, he would’ve. When he reached the lobby Eiran stopped in his tracks. Dom’s son’s eyes were bloodshot, his face was wet, and his hair was going every which way because of the wind. This was not Eiran’s wheelhouse at all.

“Where’s Chris?” AJ unhooked his glasses off his shirt and put them back on his face, thinking that would be enough to hide the stress and pain boiling inside of him.

“Usual spot… back there. Doin’ a brake job. Uh, you…” Eiran stopped himself. He knew how AJ would answer if he checked up on him. Instead he decided to just leave it to Chris to do the heavy lifting. He didn’t get paid enough to be on AJ babysitting duty. “CHRIS, AJ IS HERE FOR YOU!” Rubbing his neck, Eiran cleared his throat, “There’s donuts… in the break room. If you want some.”

“I’m good, thanks,” AJ responded, giving a weak smile and trying to pretend that he didn’t want to jump off the nearest cliff. His phone vibrated. He checked it and saw that Decky texted him. As he made his way to the garage, he texted back:

TO: fellow fuckhead
I fucked up.
AJ Tyler

The response came back immediately.

FROM: fellow fuckhead
First: U safe?
Decky Boaz

TO: fellow fuckhead
Yeah. With Chris.
AJ Tyler

FROM: fellow fuckhead
Talk 2 Chris 4 now
There if u need me
talk l8r if not
Dont piss off my uncles
Decky Boaz

TO: fellow fuckhead
k… uh
AJ Tyler

AJ paused when he saw Chris’ feet from under a car. Should he? Or would that ruin Decky’s day? Biting his inner cheek, anxious, he decided to give into his impulse, knowing this could backfire and bring up a painful conversation later. He needed to, though. He was worried and Decky was one of his best friends.

TO: fellow fuckhead
if you see Jamie, can you make sure he is ok?
I’mma go now. ✌️
AJ Tyler

FROM: fellow fuckhead
Decky Boaz

The length of the message that eventually came through on his phone did not match the wait it took to send it.

FROM: fellow fuckhead
He’s fine
was bein usual dick self in hr
We’ll talk l8r bout it
Decky Boaz

Despite hearing Eiran call out from the front that AJ was here for him, Chrysler kept working at his current task. His job and internship at the garage was something, and perhaps the only thing, that Chris took seriously. Besides Emmy, of course — the two aspects of his life that he really didn’t want to fuck up — his future, if he had any choice in the matter.

A few moments passed before he heard the sound of footsteps in the bay he was stationed in for the day. There was an even longer pause after the footsteps ceased, the only noise coming from the wrench Chris was ratcheting a bolt tightened with.

“You’re quiet…” he said without sliding out from under the car he was replacing the brake line on. A quiet AJ was never a good sign.

“Isn’it a Friday too? Don’t ya have school or some shit?” The same could be asked of Chris, but Fridays were his internship days at the shop, which he got school credit for and was actually required for seniors at WVC. The internship day, that is, not specifically one at a garage. The Westwood Vocational Center taught all manner of trades.

“Yeah, I guess so,” AJ whispered back, pocketing his phone and trying to gather his thoughts. The thoughts, his regret, the pain, and the fucking downright horror of what he did, replayed over and over and over in his mind. He looked at his hands, hands that were that of a man, hands that had power to heal and harm, and hands that hurt Jamie. Fidgety, he cracked his knuckles, debating if this was a mistake. Should he have just gone about his day? Should he have chased Jamie down? Should he have said he was sorry? Should he even be here? What was he even doing?

His father sometimes got angry, but he never hurt his mother, and if he did try to assert his dominance, she would slap him in the face or get violent. His mother was absolutely terrifying when she got angry. Why didn’t Jamie get violent? Why didn’t he fight back? Why didn’t he just… hate him? It would’ve been so much easier if he hated him but those eyes, that final gaze of pain in his eyes, fucking ruined AJ. He hated this. He hated this feeling so much. He went in thinking he was doing the right thing, breaking off their fuck buddy arrangement, but it only turned into him desperately wanting Jamie to admit that he loved him and he loved being loved by him. He just wanted Jamie and it was killing him. Killing him slowly.

He stopped in his tracks staring away from Chris, looking outside of the garage, at all the cars passing by. The more he pressed replay, the more he hated himself. The more he wanted to feel nothing. “I know what you’re going to say. ‘I told you so’. But yeah, you were fucking right. I shouldn’t have went back to him. I’m stupid for ever thinking Jamie actually was that into me.” What are you saying? You know he is into you. Just not enough to commit but certainly enough to feel absolute shock after you hurt him.

“Mm—” Chris grunted as he popped the line out and let the old brake fluid drain into the pan he had set out for that purpose. “Ain’t much for ‘I told ya so’s’. I know when I’m right, an’ whether or not ya come to see that’s true is on you, brother.”

Chris bent a knee and pushed himself out from under the bed of the car, aided by the creeper wheeler he was laying on. Sitting up and wiping the oil from his hands with a dirty shop rag, he looked up to his friend for the first time — noting the red cheeks and sunglasses indoors — and sighed. This was gonna be a doozy. “I guess I can donate ya’ my government mandated fifteen, Tyler. C’mon, I need a cig for this.”

The mechanic led AJ out back to his usual break spot, an old wooden bench just around the corner from the dumpsters with an upside down five gallon bucket that had an ashtray on top of it. Fishing the red and white pack of Marlboro’s and a black Bic lighter out of his pocket, he tapped a cigarette out and placed it between his lips before offering AJ one from the pack as well.

“So… what happened?” he asked, taking a large draw of breath as he lit the cigarette into a bright red cherry, drawing the spicy smoke deep down into the darkest depths of his lungs. Healthy? Of course not! Chris was here for a good time, not a long one.

Waving his hand, declining the offer of cigarettes, even if it was tempting, AJ took a seat next to his friend and clasped his hands together. His right foot restlessly bounced as he hunched over, thinking of how to put this. He knew nothing he would say would really get Chris upset at him. Disappointed, sure. But not outright upset because Chris knew AJ well enough to know that whatever was going on with him was something more than who he was as a person. “I, uh.”

AJ Tyler was struggling with finding the right words. His mind was fading in and out of clarity. He was hyper attentive to his surroundings, to his friend, to the aching feeling in his chest, but his mouth was dry, coming out empty. He was scared. The moment he said what he did would be the moment he admitted that he was a god awful person who had no handle over his emotions. That he allowed himself in a place where he was actively willing to harm Jamie because the idea of not having him was devastating and maybe if he had more control Jamie would want him again. Want him in a way that romantic lovers do, not just fuck buddies.

“I met with Jamie and I…” His leg bobbed profusely. “I let him go. But you know how… we get and I, um, I— The words stumbled out like tumbleweeds, following the direction of his heart but leaping and rolling slowly out of his mouth. This was harder than usual. “—I hurt him, Chris.” He profoundly stated, pausing afterwards to unclasp his hands just to roughly rub his face, from his lower mouth down to his chin. “I just got so into the moment that I hurt him.”

“Alright…” Chris said, sighing out a deep exhale of smoke. He squinted up at the sky, and passively scratched at his chin in deep thought. There were a lot of things to unpack in AJ’s words, but as a friend, there was far more to unpack in his actions. He was sweating, pale as fuck, twitching, losing his words and trains of thought. This was more than just emotions or anxiety, Chris knew his boy, and right now, he was tweaking out.

“We’ll get back to that, but first,” he flicked some ashes into the tray on top of the bucket. “Take your sunglasses off. Look me in the eye, right now.” There was a seriousness in his tone as sharp as barbed wire.

“What? Why?” AJ was quick to protest, even going out of his way to stand right up and put distance between him and his best friend. “I don’t see why my glasses have anything to do with me needing you.” There was a tense feeling in his chest and uneasiness coursing through his veins, like he was being cornered. “I’ve been crying, okay, and I don’t want you to see that shit.”

“It has everything to do with it, actually. For why you need me, specifically, and not one of your Hills’ chums.” Chrysler replied casually, remaining seated and calm throughout AJ’s reaction, to show he wasn’t a threat. Not yet, at least. Not until he knew exactly what he was dealing with. “Cuz ya been doin’ more than cryin’, and I don’t really give a shit about that. And you know that. So fine, stay hidin’ behind your shades, I’m still gonna have ya tell me what you’ve done. Because it sure as shit ain’t weed, and it better not involve a fuckin’ needle.”

Chris’ sharp words stung and like a defeated puppy, AJ took off his sunglasses and hooked them on his shirt. He didn’t look his friend in the eyes though. It was clear he wasn’t proud of his actions from this morning. There was a voice that was telling him that he didn’t need Chris. Who was he to tell him what to do? How would he understand how he felt, like really? Chris had Emeline, sure, but that was hardly the same. Or maybe it was. Who was AJ to judge someone else’s love story?

God, he couldn’t think straight and where there was that voice, there was another voice telling him to breathe, be still, and listen. You came here for a reason. Let it play out before you run away and make things worse. He wanted to listen to both but he could only pick one. For now, he’d pick the quieter one. It wasn’t fair to Chris for him to act like a child when AJ sought him out. He wanted Chris. No one else but him. There was value behind that.

“I just needed a little… courage. But maybe I did a little too much because I got pretty amped.” He dug into his jacket pocket and pulled out the remaining snow he had on his person. “Like father, like son, I guess,” he meekly mumbled. He still needed to tell Chris what he did but that part terrified him. What if Chris didn’t like him anymore? Why did he go to Chris specifically? If he went to Decky at least he’d be rewarded with a black eye. He didn’t know why his impulse led him here but it was too late to go back. He was already here so he just had to be patient, if that was even possible, and let things play out. If Chris hated him after this, then he deserved it.

Chris took another long drag from his cigarette. He’d be lying if he said he didn’t feel a tidal wave of relief at seeing that it was just coke in the baggie AJ fished out of his jacket. A rich people drug… it was addictive, sure, but not nearly as dangerous as smack or some of the other opioids going around the streets these days. “Courage, huh? I told you that shit’s for parties, it ain't for when you’re already feelin’ low.” Chris leaned back into the bench, crossing an ankle over his knee while his thumb drummed out a beat on his thigh.

“Makes shit worse. Alright, so you showed up all coked up to see your ex. And you…. hurt him? How? Like ya’ll came to blows or…?” he somewhat nervously awaited the answer. Chris held no love in his heart for the sandy-haired twink that made a game of ruining his homie’s life, but he certainly didn’t wish him injury, or worse… “And sit back the fuck down, please. Ain’t no safer place to be than with me right now, and you know I hate having to look up to people.” Short king problems.

Okay, fuck.

He’d sit back down.

Now beside Chris once more, AJ rubbed his jeans, trying to once again, amp himself up to say what he did. This was a lot harder than it looked like and it seemed that the coke had backfired; hardcore. “I was trying to prove a point,” he started, carefully treading forward, hesitant to sink before he even got to the point. “That Jamie only wants to fuck me because of how I make him feel. If you took out the heart and the fact that I can’t get him out of my fucking head, he’d hate me in seconds. That…” his voice trailed off momentarily as he felt the friction of his pants.

In a way this feeling was keeping him rooted to the chair. Doing something to keep him preoccupied as he spoke his painful truth was a good thing and it felt nice. His pants felt nice. While it probably looked silly, or concerning, it allowed his friend to see someone incredibly weak and stupid. It allowed AJ to not wear a cool mask and reveal how much of a mess he was and it was all because he put himself in a place to be so incredibly codependent on a boy that didn’t give a damn about him. “...that wouldn’t be a bad thing. If Jamie hated me. Maybe it would make things easy, you know?”

Finally, AJ looked at his friend and admitted, “I slammed him against a wall and treated him like a piece of meat. I wasn’t going to go too far, I promise. I couldn’t, or at least I thought I couldn’t… do something like that. All I did was overpower him and mark his neck… which could be hot, in like any other circumstance. He wasn’t listening to me. He was running away, like he always does and I just fucking grabbed him. Oh god, what if I did more to him? What if I have it in me to rape someone Chris? This is so fucking scary. I’m such a fucking horrible person.” And the tears started rushing out and AJ buried his face in his hands. “Why am I like this? Why do I care so much? I just want this pain to stop, Chris. I hate him so much.”

“You don’t, man. You’re right, it’d be easier if you did, hell, I wish you did hate that little shit, but you still love ‘em.” Chris stabbed out the spent cig in the ashtray and leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees now. Folding his fingers together, he made a point to only look forward as he spoke, giving his friend the privacy to grieve the loss of his beau, and the loss of a piece of himself along the way. Some actions can’t be taken back, and there’s consequences you have to live with. That’s life, and it’s messy as fuck.

“That’s why your arrangement was never really going to work out, and it sucks that this is how it ended up. But, what’s done is done. Ya ain’t a horrible person, you just weren’t fully yourself with that snow in your system, and Jamie — he pushes buttons. That’s what he does, kid fucking makes a hobby of airing peoples dirty laundry in a shitty school newspaper, but never once looks at the pile of shit in his own hamper.” Chris stopped himself before he got too heated. He really, really did not like that snake.

“I’ma keep it real, what ya did ain’t great,” It was, by technical definition, sexual assault. Chris scratched the back of his head and raked his fingers through his gelled hair a couple of times before lacing his hands back together. “The way I see it, ya got two options, an’ they both kinda suck, but ya gotta choose one. First, you reach out, probably text him, it’s easier to get your words right and not get…. distracted.” As AJ would no doubt be if it was an in person conversation. “And apologize. Be totally for real, say you weren’t sober and you acted out of pocket and that you feel horrible. Be completely honest. And then, no matter what he says or does, just let it all go. I’m so serious, just, never talk again. Move on and start healing, there are literally so many other people out there.”

As selfishly satisfying as it would be to only provide that one line of advice and have his friend follow it, Chris knew AJ too well to leave it at that. The kid felt too deeply. “The second option starts much like the first. Come clean, honest apology, let all them feelings out. And then, say exactly what you were trying to tell him before he tried to run and you… acted out. Put those words in writing. Lay it out blank. Kid’s a so-called writer, right? So let him read it, then. Tell him how you feel, how he makes you feel, and how you want to feel. And if you can’t come to a mutual agreement, then this plan ends a bit like the first. Let it go, no contact, move on, heal, fuck somebody else. Love somebody else. Ya got a big heart, man, I know you got it in you.”

Both options were hard options. Admitting your flaws and coming clean, when he deliberately filtered his drug use from his ex, wasn’t going to be easy. Getting Jamie to listen, actively, wasn’t going to be easy. Letting go, well, that sounded damn near impossible. He was right, though. Of course Chris was right. He always was. He had a clear conscience and was a perfect third party. Not caught in the drama and heat that was Beverly Hills High.

Both options sounded painful but which one was worse? Cutting him completely off and moving on, or saying his peace, seeing the results, and if it still bears no fruit, cutting him off and moving on? Was it worth the effort to keep trying? It was obvious that no matter what he did, he was beating a dead horse. Being in such close vicinity to Jamie was not doing him any good or anyone for that matter. He just needed to decide and commit. Leave it at that. It wasn’t like he was alone. Not really. He had Rye and while it wasn’t love, it made him less lonely. Rye kept him company and it was nice. Maybe Rye was the answer to AJ moving on and finding someone that was good for him.

“Yeah, okay. I can do that,” AJ replied, his voice a little shaky as he tried to convince himself that this would be okay. He had a good support system and that goes a long way with grief. “... like now?” Pulling out his phone, AJ stared at it, debating if he should sober up a little or should he just speak out everything he just did with Chris, now that he’d calmed down?

“Maybe get donuts in you first,” Eiran came out to join them, making his presence known. The moment was coming to an end and soon Chris would need to get back to work. They had more jobs coming their way and lord knows Eiran didn’t want to stay at the garage all day on a Friday.

The whole garage consisted of Jewish men which meant they might all have a nosy spirit in them, especially his younger brother, Hirsch. Tiny little shit was hiding somewhere. “Seriously, you two go get some before Zo eats it all. Fuckin’ guy eating his nerves away because Junie can pop like any day now.”

Chris startled slightly at the voice of one of his superiors at the shop. He checked his phone quickly to make sure he hadn’t gone over fifteen on his “break”, if you could call it that. Hearing out AJ was more work than any measure of manual labor sometimes. “You got it, boss” he said coolly, standing up from the bench at long last. He looked back to his friend and noticed the baggie of white powder was still sitting on the bucket near the ashtray. Before heading off to fetch a donut, he said one last piece. A friendly zinger to lighten the mood, a return to the normalcy of their somewhat unlikely kinship. “And take your shit with you, please. Some of us need to work for a living, I ain’t havin’ your ass get me fired.”

“And I don’t want to go back to rehab,” Eiran humored the two, hoping his stupidity at least helped with the mood a little. Where was his wife when he needed her? Devorah was far better at this mushy, emotional shit. He held the door open for the two to come in. “Now come on, let's be fat before we have to be responsible.”

As Chris got up, AJ looked at his phone. He could do this, after a donut. Grabbing his packet, he slipped it into his pocket and followed his best friend and his dad’s confidant into the garage.

AJ was quiet again. The only words he had left to say were for Jamie and that was all thanks to his buddy Chris. This was a good visit. He needed it.

Timestamp: Before School Starts
Location: The Thomas Residence → Outside of Jade’s House
Main Characters: Oliver “Oli” Thomas @Grimoire Gaming
Cameos: Kit & Min Thomas by @Hey Im Jordan & @Fabricant451
Aesthetics: Credit to @LovelyComplex
TW: body weight/dysmorphia


As the sun began its slow ascent over the Beverly Hills skyline, casting golden hues through the windows of the converted 4-car garage home gym, Oli Thomas grunted amidst a symphony of clinking weights and the pulsating beats of GOT7. With the rhythm of the music driving his movements, he pushed himself through another set of deadlifts, the metallic clang echoing in the spacious room.

나 한번 뜨면 게임 다 정리돼
Once I appear, the game is over

His mind was divided between the musical motivation and the mental VOD review of the mistakes made in his final match last night. Each lift was a step closer to perfecting his physical prowess, a testament to the dedication that had propelled him to the upper echelons of both gaming and social media. A dedication that wouldn’t end until he reached the summit of success — there were always more rungs in the ladder to climb.

원하는 걸 전부 다 갖게 돼
I get everything I want

The cool morning air mingled with the faint scent of sweat as Oli's muscles tensed and flexed with each repetition, his determination unwavering despite the early morning hour. He relished these solitary moments, where the only competition he faced was against himself. That said, his greatest competition had always been himself — sacrificing body, mind, and a healthy social life in favor of the rise and grind.

물 타는 법을 알아
I know how to flow with the water

As the final chords of the punchy k-pop banger faded into the background, Oli wiped the sheen of sweat from his brow, a satisfied grin spreading across his face. With one last glance at the clock, he knew it was time to wrap up his workout and prepare for the day ahead. His phone screen flashed to life as he swiped past the myriad of notifications that he’d long since learned to ignore. There were only so many DMs and comments that one high school boy could react to in a day.

난 오늘도 할 일 해 하드캐리해
Again today, I do what I have to, hard carry

Oli made his way to the shower his moms had installed in the garage-now-home-gym, lest he track his nasty man stink into their meticulously curated home. Washing away the sweat of his work out, he stepped out to dry off, snapping a good morning pic for Jade with a very carefully placed towel draped just below freshly cleaned and flexed abs. A good morning tease was, perhaps, a more apt description of the photo. Tossing the towel in the hamper, he got dressed in the red and black themed outfit he had picked out earlier that morning.

The sweet scent of fresh pancakes greeted his nose as Oli made his way back to the main house. The overweight middle school kid that lived inside him lusted after the taste of them, but he couldn’t cave. Being raised on meals catered to his stoner mom’s tastes did not treat his body kindly growing up, and he would do his damnedest to not fall back into old habits of the pudgy kid and preteen that he despised having been.

“Mornin’ moms,” he greeted casually upon entering the kitchen where the both of them were stationed. Oli went straight to the cabinet, pulling out the blender, a jar peanut butter, a canister of post-workout recovery powder, and his daily vitamins.

It wasn’t every morning that Min-seo was at the breakfast table let alone in the house itself. The high profile world of an in-demand fashion designer meant that, unfortunately, sometimes Min had to travel across the country or across the oceans for industry events, but when she was home she made sure to be around as often as possible before disappearing into her atelier. As often as possible tended to last until the youngest of her children were either on the way to school or otherwise not at risk of wandering into her work station and spilling their drink over her pages. Never again.

Presently, Min was sipping a cup of coffee that had the logo of Kitastrophe on it with a label on the bottom that said “MOTHER” on it. So they knew whose it was, of course. In front of her was a bowl with a bright yolked fried egg sitting on top of a nest of lightly fried tofu, a sauce made of Korean chili flakes and soup soy sauce, and rice. A skillet containing a larger portion of the dish was on the center of the table. “You don’t have to have a shake, you know.” Min said, setting her cup of coffee down on a coaster. “I made maewon dubu dalgyal jjim.” The Korean name for the dish she had prepared, spicy tofu and egg, was spoken in Min’s mother tongue for the express reason of trying to help Oli get in the habit of speaking it as well. Min might have been an American citizen now, but Korea would always be her first home. “You used to love my cooking.” Unintentionally or otherwise, Min’s words always seemed to be dipped in the pool of guilt tripping.

“그리고 당신은 요리를 하기 위해 집에 더 자주 있었죠 (And you used to be home more to cook it).” The eldest of Min’s three children replied, matching her energy, as he had learned from the very best after all. Oli held his breath, waiting to be corrected on his poor pronunciation. Grabbing a fork, he stabbed a couple of mouthfuls of the Korean dish, directly from the center skillet.

“And I still love it, it’s good. I just love when my clothes fit more.” He said through chewing, phrasing it in a way that his Momma would no doubt understand, as a fashion designer that worked with the often dysmorphic members of the modeling industry. Oli fetched some ice and sliced frozen bananas from the freezer, gathering the final ingredients to make the aforementioned shake. The blender roared for a few moments before Oliver served the contents into a mason jar swirled with just a touch of chocolate syrup to quell his sweet tooth that craved the flavor of the decadent dessert his other mother was having for breakfast. He snapped a quick pic, including an abbreviated recipe, and posted it for his followers on the socials before enjoying a healthy sip of his creation.

“You’ve been practicing? Just remember, that hard consonant at the end, it has more of a blending of J and Ch. Like you’re saying ‘Choe’. Double consonants are tricky.” Min paused for a moment, listening again in her mind to the words spoken by her son. She waited until he had finished taking his pictures - Min was aware that being ‘online’ was just…a thing for some members of this family - before reaching for Oli’s arm and holding it gently, patting the top of his hand with her fingers, almost like she was trying to console a loved one in a moment of grief.

“가능하다면 내가 집에 더 자주 올 거라는 걸 알잖아요. 난 최선을 다해 아들아 (You know I’d be home more often if I could. I do my best, son).” Min retracted her hands and went for her coffee mug again, sipping the still hot black liquid. “Will you and Jade be going to the game tonight? Will you need a ride?”

“I know, Momma, I was just fu—” Oli caught himself before fully cursing, “I was just messing with you back, that’s all. And yeah, we’re going to the game, gotta support my boys in the Elite. But I’m not gonna smoke or anything, I wanna be able to run some solo queue after, so we can just ride my bike.” He took a few large gulps, nearly downing half of his shake in one go. Working out gave him a hell of an appetite. That, and the pancake smell. “We could use a ride to the dance tomorrow though, ain’t no way I'll make it through all that sober.”

Oli’s other mom, Kit, had been happy to let her son and her wife have a conversation without her involvement. She was pretty focused on her own breakfast anyway; Min-seo had made her favorite, pancakes. Kit had probably eaten about eight so far that morning, but Min-seo had denied her when she asked for more, saying she needed to feed Oli instead. Kit knew that was a fruitless endeavor, but Min-seo tended to not listen to her, so Kit had simply shut up and poured syrup on the final short stack.

“Leave him be, ducky, geeze.” Kit used her pet name for Min to hopefully get her off of Oli’s back, though she was smart enough to make sure she finished chewing her food before talking. Min had let her get away with that in high school and even college, but these days? Kit had to be an adult, or so her wife claimed. “If Oli don’t wanna eat what you made, I’ll eat it.” She offered with a bright smile. Breakfast was the most important meal of the day, and should be the most filling.

She turned her attention to her son, “I’ll give you some we— “ Kit caught herself as Oli’s younger siblings found their way into the kitchen. “Flowers for the dance and the afterparty.” No after party had been announced, but she’d been a high schooler too. So she assumed.

“I can take you to the dance. If you’re going to be out late afterwards, at least call so I don’t have to worry.” Some might have assumed Min was being a touch too overprotective but Min-seo, like her wife, had been a high schooler in America at one point. Afterparties had a tendency to go..overboard. And those were just the normal ones. “Just…be safe. I’m too young to be a grandmother.” It wouldn’t be breakfast at the Thomas household without a healthy serving of awkward.

“Momma! Oh my god,” Oliver reacted with a mortified blush, nearly choking on the last suck of his post-workout shake at the implication of accidental parenthood. He would never risk that.

Fortunately, the arrival of the younger children was like a blade cutting through the vines of awkward parental conversations. The youngest, Alice, gripped Oli’s knees in a bear hug that he rewarded by ruffling her hair. Nessie, the eleven year old with a developing preteen attitude problem, was doing her best to ignore her family because she thought she was too cool for school these days.

“At last, people who appreciate my cooking.” Min offered Oli a little teasing smile before beginning to speak in Mom Mode to the kids. She stood from the table and began setting out plates for the kids, her attention on them for the moment.

“I told you I enjoyed it!” Oli replied with an exaggerated eye roll to show that he recognized she was just teasing. He rinsed out the mason jar and blender pitcher before placing them in the dishwasher. After slinging on a leather riding jacket, he once again tapped at his phone, this time sending a text to Jade that he was on his way.

“I gotta go,” he announced, tucking the phone in his pocket before beginning the goodbye hug train. The tracks stopped at Vanessa, whose eyes blazed like she might hit him with a hellish rebuke if he hugged her. “BYE NESSIE!” Oli said in an exaggerated tone, sticking out his tongue at her before also ruffling her hair, regardless of the consequences.

Oliver left his family to continue to enjoy their morning breakfast and headed to the part of the garage that actually still functioned as such. Despite the Thomas family’s new-money wealth, the only two vehicles parked there were the family van and Oliver’s sixteenth birthday present. Oli roared the Ducati to life and secured a sleek black helmet on before taking off down the streets towards his girlfriend’s house with a loud BRRAAAPPPP. He had noticed that she hadn’t responded to any texts yet, including the semi-lewd one, which was rather uncharacteristic. She better not still be a-fucking-sleep… E-girls and their whack sleep schedules, he thought as he turned the corner to Jade’s road.

Timestamp: Before School Starts
Location: The Crawford’s House → Ms. Belmonte’s Homeroom
Main Characters: Cael Crawford @Grimoire Gaming & Philomena Ramsey @LovelyComplex
Aesthetics: Credit to @LovelyComplex



Cael Crawford was a napper. From infancy to rambunctious childhood and all the way through an effervescent adolescence, a full night’s sleep had always eluded him. Cael got his rest in short sporadic bursts throughout the day, and night, hardly ever sleeping for longer than five hours at a time. This insomnia of sorts is especially magnified when Cael has something to look forward to upon waking, as was the case this morning. Friday — Black & Red Day — the final day of BHHS’ Homecoming Week! So, even though he and his bestie had stayed up to the wee hours of the night perfecting the recipes of their school spirit-filled confections, Cael’s eyes were open long before dawn's light crested the horizon.

After about a half hour of stifling giggles and gasps as he reacted to muted reels in bed, the clock finally read five AM — an acceptable hour for neuronormal humans to wake up! Probably. It hardly mattered either way! He and Minnie still needed to frost the red velvet cupcakes and wrap the french vanilla black & red sprinkle funfetti cake pops in cellophane to hand out to their friends and teachers all day PLUS get dressed — and they hadn’t even fully planned their outfits yet!

“Min?” Cael whispered, leaning his lavender bedhead over the edge of the blankets to peer down at his friend sleeping on the air mattress below. Unlike most of their peers Cael’s family home was modest and lacked an abundance of guest rooms, or any for that matter, so his sleepover buddies either took to the floor, or shared his twin bed like the most intimately acquainted of spoons. “Minnnnnie, are youu uppp?” he drawled out, whispering a little louder now as a curious finger sailed down to poke her cheek.

Buried under a herd of squishmallows, hugging the purple octopus, Philomena Ramsey dreamed that she and her best friend were in a haunted house, coming straight out of coffins like vampires. While the house was gothic, they were not. She didn’t even know how they got there. All she knew was when Cael rose from the dead he was swiftly on the move, ready to spread chaos and mischief, which was something he did best. Minnie found herself chasing him, getting out of breath, which never happens since she was always full of energy. Her friend was on a mission and for once, she didn’t know what that mission was.

Suddenly, he disappeared right in front of her eyes, evaporated in thin air, and she was left alone, in the scary house. She checked every nook and every cranny. She checked every room and under every bed. Cael vanished and she was growing increasingly sad without her friend. He probably found one of his FWBs or maybe he found a new toy. Whatever he found, she knew nothing about it and it made her sad. She found herself hearing his giggle and decided to follow it, going straight into the unsettling, spine-chilling basement. She would go anywhere, if she knew Cael was there.

When she got to the basement, Minnie looked around and observed her environment. This wasn’t Dracula’s manor anymore. No longer in the haunted house, she found herself at her dad’s funeral home and straight ahead there was an open coffin. She was at a funeral and she was dressed in a black, long lace dress. Those sitting in the pews were that of her classmates. She made her way down the aisle, chewing on her bottom lip and wrapping her arms around her waist, to hold onto something. Anything. Her heart was pounding the closer she got to the coffin. When she reached it, her heart dropped. There lying cold, motionless, and ‘asleep’, her best friend was dressed in his red cap and gown, no longer moving. He was gone. He promised he wouldn’t leave her but here he was gone. He promised!

Stirring awake, little tears trailing down her face, just when her alarm went off, Minnie searched in the dark until she found Cael’s head. She sat up and ran her fingers in his hair, letting her music continue to fill his room. She leaned her head forward and pressed it against his forehead, allowing her racing heart to steady. She sniffled, “I had a bad dream again.” Once again it was some distorted version of her fear of losing touch with her best friend after graduation. She had the Candies, sure, but Cael was her best friend and she knew after they graduated, things wouldn’t be the same. They’d be forced to grow up. She didn’t want to grow up. She didn’t want to lose Cael. If she had the power, she would extend senior year so it would last forever. That was Cael’s burden to carry for being Minnie’s favorite person. She was needy and the only channel she had was him.

The pastel prince of Candyland smiled lazily down at Minnie as she ran her fingers through his purple locks. Whether it be romantic or otherwise, Cael loved the feeling of having his hair touched and played with, a fact his bestie knew full well. It brought them both comfort in quiet moments like this. From the outside looking in, one might think them a perfectly happy couple, and at one point they were, and would probably still be if not for the sexual incompatibility. But the real truth was this is what a close friendship with Cael looked like — his love overflowed without restraint, he flirted with, doted upon, snuggled, and even sometimes kissed the majority of his favorite people, because they deserved to feel good. To feel loved. That’s what being a Candy meant to him.

“You wanna talk about it, Minty?” The usual mischief in his mismatched gaze was replaced by a warm, genuine concern about her nightmares. He tucked a lock of pale pink bed-mussed hair behind her ear and smirked, a hint of naughtiness returning to his expression. “Orrr,” his voice dropped to a devious whisper, “...we could go eat cake for breakfast!”

“Or both!” Cael chirped happily, jumping out of bed with way more energy than a teenager had any right to be well before six AM. “I hope the white chocolate on the cake pops set okay in the fridge overnight with all the red coloring we added…”

The sadness was buried when the pace changed from nightmares to sweet dreams. Minnie scurried up, bringing an armful of plushies with her like she was a muscle woman. Narrowing her eyes at her opponent, she impishly smirked. Cake for breakfast? Her mom would have a heart attack. CLEARLY, she had to indulge! What were daughters for? To give their parents grief! There was a spark in her eyes and then it happened. She attacked, smooshy-smooshes straight to the face. “Take that, and that!” She called out each move, putting some umph in each throw.

She had the powah!

Suddenly, her smirk turned into a grin. It was time to bring out the big guns. As fast as lightning, or really as fast as an athletic, hyperactive teenage girl with ADHD, Minnie threw the rest of the creatures onto her best friend, overwhelming him with cuteness, before squealing in liveliness, fully awake, “Last one downstairs has to do a dare!” This was tradition. Randomly, no matter what time or day, what place they were at or what mood they were in, whether or not they were in class or at home, they could challenge each other with WHATEVER. Whoever wins gets to dare the other. Of course, this was all for funsies.

What were friends for if not to push you out of your comfort zone? What were friends for if they failed to help you not let your dreams just be dreams? What were friends for if they didn’t know how to have fun? As Spongebob sang: F was for friends who did stuff together. U was for you and me. N is for anywhere and anytime at all. Down here in the deep blue sea! It was as if Philomena was no longer haunted by her fear of losing her friend and ever present, in the moment, matching his infectious vigor. Her mood was already shifting or at least she was putting the bad thoughts in the back, back, double back burner and will only worry about it if Cael actively pressed on about it. Right now though? They were both distracted.

With her cute PJs on, the dancing princess did a near ballet leap to get over the clutter and giggled, “You’re too slow”. Rushing, she threw the door open and raced down the hall to get to the stairs. This wasn’t just a race though. Both Minnie and Cael were about FLAIR and being DUMB. Humming Lazy Town ‘Cooking By the Book’, which she had sung all night while they made cupcakes, she leaped over the railing and gracefully landed on the stairs, having done this plenty of times before.

“AM NOT!” The pastel pixie yelled out after her fleeing form. His dancer feet nimbly prancing between the landmines of squishmallows, blanket piles, and scattered pillows now littered throughout his room. Cael chucked a few of the mini squishies after her, eliciting a peel of giggles from the stairwell. Philomena might know the lay of the land well from their countless sleepovers, but not as well as Cael knew his own home.

While Minnie had leapt over the side railing in an attempt to gain further advantage, Cael bravely chose the upper rail. It had been restored by his master carpenter father’s own hands two years prior, which meant it was nearly as strong as the foundation of the house itself. The lavender-haired boy leapt to perch on top of it, gripped the rail, and then recklessly swung himself underneath and forward, skipping the stairs entirely.

Having never made the jump before, he overestimated the amount of force needed to swing himself past the stairs, and instead flew straight into the opposite wall of the hallway downstairs. “Shit!” he hissed as the wind knocked out of him. He barely managed to slap his hands against two picture frames to prevent them from falling, but a third — an embarrassing baby photo of his — went crashing down to the wood floor below. Shattered glass scattered across the hall that led to his parents’ bedroom.

“CAEL LEE CRAWFORD!” His mother’s voice bellowed as the door flew open, revealing a tired woman wearing slippers and a powder pink house robe. Her scowl lessened only slightly when Minnie cautiously peeked around the corner of the stairwell. WHY are you two destroying the house at 5:07 AM?!”

“SORRY MOM!” Cael peeped, still holding the two other photos in place against the wall. “It was my fault! I’ll clean it, promise!”

“You better, and keep it down, I still have another forty minutes to sleep. And do NOT leave the kitchen a mess. Again. Please.” With that final request, she closed the door and prayed the teenagers had some measure of mercy on a weary middle school health teacher.

“I sowwie…” Minnie whispered, with her indoor voice, as she joined her best friend by the wall and the lady of the house disappeared into her bedroom. Apologizing here became a common thing because the hyperactive squirrels couldn’t help themselves. They had too much energy that not even their parents knew how to contain. Regardless of the amount of times they got scolded, grounded or disciplined, they never seemed to learn and their punishments weren’t ever that bad. That’s why the pastel pixie pair got away with murder. They were menaces. Well, they both were neurodivergent too… still, they were so hyper that kids on sugar highs, bouncing off the walls, seem mild in comparison. It was honestly a feat their friends enjoyed their presence and didn’t get too drained.

“I WIN!” Cael whispered in quiet victory over his bestie. “Dare’s on hold till we get this cleaned up. I’ll get a broom, can you pull out the cake pops and get everything set up for us?”

Saluting to her charge, Minnie grinned, “Yes sir!” Her eyes widened when she realized she raised her voice too damn high. “Oopsie. I mean: sir, yes, sir.” She immediately apologized, lowering the octave. She could be quiet. How hard could it be? Quiet was in her blood! Or well she was forced to be silent a lot of times when her dad needed her help at funerals. If she wasn’t crying loudly then she had to hush and be respectful to the grieving family and the dead. That’s just how sad etiquette worked.

Going to the fridge, she opened it and went to grab the cake pops, chilled on a large lined baking sheet and already frosted. It was time to wrap them up and make the frosting for the cupcakes. As she set up the island with the ingredients for the frosting, the cake pops, the cellophane, the cute ribbons to secure the pops, and the silver aluminum foil pans to help with delivery, she backtracked and finally explained her nightmare, “You died. In my dream. Or you were already dead, like a vampire. It made me really sad.” She sniffled a little at just the thought. It was too early in the morning to think about losing her best friend. “It’s our last year together and I think that really scares me.”

“A vampire?” Cael inquired curiously as he dumped the dustpan of broken glass into the trash. “Was I hot? Sparkly??” He washed his hands and sided up to his best friend in the whole state of California. His face was once again nothing but warmth and love as he spoke. “I know you’re worried, but I’m not going anywhere, Minty, honest!” Cael started adding the frosting ingredients into a mixing bowl as he spoke.

“I’ll be going to college nearby, and I don’t have any big, grandiose, globe-trotting dreams or anything… I mean, honestly, what other city in the world would suit me besides Beverly Hills? Do you think I’m gonna go crawling back to fuckin Ohio after tasting all that the sunshine state has to offer? No ma’am!!” The cream cheese frosting blended together, probably making far too much noise than his mother would like, but at least this activity was pre-planned and vetted by the Crawford matriarch the day before. He removed one of the mixing beaters and licked it to test the flavor, having approved of it, he gathered a dollop of frosting from the other side with his finger.

“Then I’m probs just gonna open up a cute lil bakery, and maybe you can work there too, and we’ll both find cute boys to smooch on, and we’ll be best friends forever!” Cael swiped the glob of frosting on her nose with a giggle. “So, the only thing you should be worried about is the fact that you’re STUCK with me!”

He was rewarded with a sweet like cake smile and she gave a faux, shooketh gasp when he booped her nose with frosting, “Oh no you didn’t!” Intrusive thought taking over, she grabbed the mixing spoon and slid it down Cael’s face, frosting and all. It wasn’t until she saw the mess she made that she realized what she did and giggled in both happiness and embarrassment. She blushed, taking a couple of steps back, “Sorry, sorry, sorry! I couldn’t help myself. I just saw all the frosting and I was like what if I just covered your whole face. You started it anyways.” She tried to defend her childish behavior. “It isn’t like I’ll find anyone! So, Cael, you really are stuck with me five-ever.”

“Min-NIE!!” Cael shrieked the latter half of her name shrilly as he wiped at the frosting smeared all down his cheek. He brought the beater he was holding to the sink where he began to wash the frosting off himself as well. “If this gives me pimples, I swear I’m going to bite you with my big, SCARY vampire teeth!” He turned with a snapping chomp of his perfectly squared, non-vampire teeth for emphasis.

Minnie avoided eye contact when he threatened to bite her. It wasn’t like he hadn’t bitten her before. She kind of liked it. Bites were nice. But! She needed to focus. One thing she wasn’t going to do was talk about plans for her future because the reality was all Minnie wanted to do was dance and maybe one day create choreography for celebs. You don’t need a degree to dance. All she needed was experience, which she already had. She’s been dancing her whole life. Her mom, however, wanted her to go to college. Applications needed to be completed by early winter unless you were one of those crazy nerds that did an early decision application. She had no idea what college she wanted to go to because she didn’t want to go to college. She wondered if she told her parents, would they ship her off to her homeland? Hoping her culture would set her right? Or was she just a nervous wreck and overthinking everything and she could pursue what makes her happy? No matter. This wasn’t the time to think about her future. Today was the GAME and the PEP RALLY! They needed to practice their cheer and dance routine during lunch. There was so little time and they had to be perfect and sparkle.

“MAYBE.” She had an epiphany. Her mind was going too fast for this conversation. Not realizing everything she was saying was coming out as one run on sentence and for anyone else it would be hard to keep up but Cael was used to his friend. They were SOULMATES after all. “We should be SPARKLY VAMPIRES for Halloween.”

“OMG living out our Twilight fantasy, YASS, QUEEN!! But first, we need to focus on our outfits. Well… second first, I guess. First first is finishing up these goodies for our friends, and then getting dressed.” A few moments later, Cael’s mother once again appeared. Instead of a scolding that would no doubt be as ineffective as the rest, she sleepily shuffled past the squealing teens and went straight for the coffee pot. Raising a child with ADHD hardly held a candle to teaching middle schoolers about the birds and the bees… she had a long day ahead of her.

The hyperactive besties continued to chatter as they finished up their confectionery project, volume levels now fully unrestricted since Cael’s mom was awake and his father was out of town on business. Once the finishing touches were completed, the pair sprinted back upstairs to spend the next half hour meticulously planning their perfectly coordinated red and black outfits and getting ready for the day. Cael’s outfit most notably included spraying his lavender locks with bright red temporary hair color to further match the day’s theme. It would probably wear off throughout the day, so he made sure to stash the bottle in his backpack for any necessary touch ups.

Cael carefully loaded the trays of cupcakes and cake pops into the back seat of his green punch buggy before hopping into the driver’s side. Minnie sat beside him in the passenger’s seat that was set exactly to her most comfortable settings. It was her daily seat on the way to school, after all. “So… we’ve managed to get everything done perfectly and we’re only running like…” He glanced at the car’s clock and winced. “Ten minutes late, yikes. Anyway! There’s only two of us and like hundreds of classmates, so what’s the plan for not getting bum rushed by the masses? I want to make sure the people we know and like get first dibs on the goods!”

“Hmmmmmmmmmm,” Minnie got herself situated as a passenger princess and pulled out her phone. “I could use my handy dandy phone and tell them to meet us… after homeroom? Maybe we should keep the treats in…” Not the car, that would be too hot. Not in the cafeteria, because everyone would fight to get the goodies. Not in their lockers, they were too small. Maybe they should put the cupcakes and cake pops in… “The nurse’s office! She’s usually super nice and if we asked, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind storing some aside for our friends. Then we can deliver the rest to whoever throughout the day but our friends will have their goodies in her office. I think that is the best plan. What do you think?”

“Hmmmm,” Cael unintentionally mimicked her. “I dunno, kinda weird to get cupcakes from the place you go when you’re sick, isn’t it? Fuck it, just text Mo to meet us in Ms. Belmonte’s room. We’ll bring them all to homeroom, Stella is probably already there, so we can make sure she gets one too.” The plans were finalized as the pair made their way down the streets to BHHS. After tucking his car into a spot in the section of the senior lot where people with perfectly average, non-gearhead cars parked, Cael and Minnie went about executing their plans.

Homeroom was suspiciously empty for them having arrived ten minutes after the first bell. Before the young, exasperated teacher could give them a proper tongue-lashing, Cael offered her the first choice from their school spirited treats.

“Sorry Ms. B! The finishing touches took a little longer than expected, but we really wanted to show our Pirate Pride and sweeten up everyone’s friday!” Cael apologized with a glittering smile that only the devil incarnate could truly get mad at, and Ms. Belmonte was the furthest thing from diabolic. Cael then took to his usual seat, the tray of cupcakes on the desk for his peers to come and have a taste. He leaned over to whisper to Minnie once she sat down beside him with the cake pops on her desk.

“Don’t think I forgot about the dare I won, by the way.” he cooed, wearing a candilicious smirk that dripped with his trademarked fae-like meddling. “I dare you, Miss Philomena Ramsey, to ask someone — that is not me — to be your date to the homecoming dance tomorrow.” His shit-eating grin was cut short only by the desire to finally try his own delicacy, nomming into a big bite of cupcake for breakfast.

Credit to @LovelyComplex for the aesthetics!
Credit to @LovelyComplex for the aesthetics!

Oh... we're so fucking back, baby.

Credit to @LovelyComplex for the aesthetics!

have no fear, my fellow queer, my rear is also here

Location: The Hall → Nightshade Commons
Mentions: Charlie @Danvers & Teddy @smarty0114


Niklaus listened to the headmaster drone on through his welcome speech with more than mild disinterest. There was a far more intimidating and infuriating presence in the assembly hall that was capturing his attention — the Seekers. Any would-be reassuring messages of safety were promptly quashed by their attendance. They were the Academies enforcers, those that would hunt down any supernaturals who dared to think differently from what the mystical tyrants lording over the Academies declared as moral. Niklaus was far from safe in their presence — were his diet choices and ambitions to be found out, he’d be on their hit list rather than under their protection.

Before the headmaster could finish well wishes of luck for the year, Niko was out of his seat and making his way to the exit. Since his luggage had been valeted away by the academy staff upon arrival, he was just as eager to check out the quality of his new lodgings as he was to be away from the Seekers. He quickly found his name on the dormitory list and was briefly caught off guard by the hall he wasn’t listed under — Hemlock Hall — it’s name a painful reminder of the Academy he should be attending for his third year, and he was grateful to not have been assigned to that dorm.

Niko followed the temporary signage likely posted for the first years and rare transfer students such as himself towards Nightshade Commons. As if the cliche name wasn’t cringey enough, the overtly gothic style of the winding tower was enough to set Niko’s eyes rolling. He hoped that European architecture was more to blame than the stereotypical thinking that all vampires lived in dark, foreboding castles filled with black candles and pipe organs.

The youngest Tepes was a new-age vampire accustomed to city living, modern estates, penthouses, and state of the art technology. So far Hawthorne felt like time traveling back to the dark ages, especially upon arriving within the dorm itself. “Oh, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me…” Niklaus remaked in shock as he took in the sight of the shared sleeping quarters, separated only by school year and gender. Bunk beds — as if they were students at some tax-funded public university rather than a prestigious magical academy. Eager to share in the disgust and outrage of his situation, Niko pulled out his cellphone to snap a photo of it.

To: Nia
can you believe this shit? fucking bunk beds

Niko was about to send a follow up text joking about it being akin to a poor orphanage when he realized that the previous message hadn’t sent. The wheel spun before returning a ’failed to send’ notice. Niko clicked his tongue and huffed before trying to resend it, this time holding the phone up high above his head. Gods help them if this archaic prison didn’t have cell service and wifi… After a few failed attempts, Niko grumbled curses and scrolled up in the chat history with his sister. He saw a message that he’d missed earlier — her reply to his announcement that he’d arrived safely at the Academy.

From: Nia
Be bold, Niko.

Kasania always used full punctuation in texts because, as young as she might look and act, she had lived over a century before Niko was even born. The formality wasn’t what shook him, it was her words, which she often repeated to him in times of distress — the very same she had spoken the day that their father announced his plans to temporarily disown his children so that they might learn from failure and achieve their own successes. All for the greater good of his legacy, but that much went unspoken. The announcement had come without any warning, and in a meeting room full of their peers — fellow esteemed, pureblood families that ruled over New York City, both friend and foe alike, as it was oftentimes difficult to tell the difference among their kind. Never had the rug been so violently pulled from beneath Niko’s feet, and Kasania had sensed his spiraling downfall in that moment.

“Niklaus, look at me.” she had said, holding his face in her hands, ever the master of gentle commands.
“You remember the words I always said to you as a boy, yes? Live boldly, Niko.
You are the son of a king and a keeper of loyal friends.
Luck has it you were blessed with an amazing sister too.
We will be just fine.
Now, stand tall, they are all watching how the children of their King react to the news.
Dogs smell fear, and the Tepes fear no one.”

Niko closed his eyes with a sigh, attempting to push the memory away. Momentarily free from the past, he opened his eyes once more and checked to see if he’d missed any other notifications. As though merely thinking of the devil could summon him, there were three unread messages from his father. Reluctantly, Niko opened them.

From: Dmitri
No more distractions.
Study hard, Niklaus.
Do not disappoint me.

His breath caught in his throat, reading the words thrice over. The finality. The expectation. The threat. The Tepes fear no one… except for themselves, of course. Niko closed the texts and realized for the first time that it wasn’t that there were no bars of service on his phone, they were crossed out entirely. No more distractions. He’d been cut off not just financially, but socially. From every bit of support he’d ever known. From Kasania.

Niklaus’ rage was sudden and all-consuming, his grip tightening around the device that had triggered it. Once the blood red filter over his vision subsided, Niko looked down to find the useless phone was nothing more than a chunk of crumpled metal and shattered glass in his palm. He aggressively chucked the remains of it into the trash bin and paced the room, attempting to calm his emotions as other students began filtering into the dorm.

He needed further distraction than the din of excited strangers catching up with each other provided. He needed to do something with his hands. Thinking that folding and putting his clothes away might prove somewhat therapeutic, Niko sought out his luggage. He found his carry-on bag near the foot of a bed, but his larger suitcase was missing. After thoroughly checking the third year room, Niko ventured out into the shared lounge and other sleeping areas to investigate.

Niko’s search ended promptly in the fifth year room. Two brown-haired boys seemed to be bickering, one holding a pair of black and gold Versace boxer briefs that looked just like his between pinched fingers. There was a pile of sopping wet clothing near an open window along with a couple of soggy suitcases, including his own that was distinctly marked with a luggage tag. Stepping forward, Niklaus once again saw red as he snatched his underwear away from one of the offending parties.

“Which one of you did this?” he growled, his eyes bouncing between them. “Is this some form of newbie hazing? Because I assure you that I am not some meak first year nor will I be an easy target for your pranks. Explain yourself, immediately.” Behind the obvious anger there was an unmistakable air of superiority. The youngest Tepes prince was not used to being disrespected and he’d far surpassed his threshold of frustrations for the day.

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