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TIMESTAMP — Flashback (December of 2019) || After Back to the Beginning
Trigger Warnings — Mentions of suicide, memories of child abuse, violence
FT.Mikhial Zima & Ivan Vladinov Zima



Hell never looked so normal.

When Mika originally agreed to have lunch with his father, he had a million scenarios run through his head to the point where he created his own that weren’t even close to what was realistically possible. Scenarios of a what-if scenario, if you will. A life when he was never sent away - when he and his sisters were never sent to live in Edenridge. A life when his brother wasn’t an asshole nor where his parents ever split up.

That life was something that Mika thought about a lot, but especially as of late. Being back in the old house brought a lot of those old memories and this wasn’t the property in Brighton Beach. The buildings that were built like a fortress and looked like an upper east side condo. No, the house he was at was the house where everything bad in the first thirteen years of his life happened.

As he sat as tense and restless on the same couch that he had those rare fond memories with his mother and Uncle Sergei, just being a kid as much as he could, Mika also couldn’t help but be reminded of the other memories associated with this couch. And this house. It felt so empty with nobody in it. His mom’s light, the twins’ energy - there was something very ominous about the mansion he once called home.

It was strange. Being back here after almost four years, Mika thought by stepping back into it he would feel the same dread and forlornness that he was overtaken by that day he and his sisters were put on a car ride by Sergei and were driven to their destinations. From the time Sergei let him in, leaving himself so the two of them could talk and left Mika alone with Ivan who hadn’t made himself known yet. Mika spent several minutes in the eerie quiet. As he did, one thing became clear and it was that he did not feel as he once did. He was still so full of ire for his father but it wasn’t the raging storm he had been hoarding and letting fester inside him. It was subdued, under control, and mild.

Did it have anything to do with the pictures still remaining in view? The giant portrait of the family when they were all still happy that was staring back at him as he leaned back into the cushion? Maybe it was his recent losses that took some of the anger away and replaced it with a numb emptiness. Danny was his light for the few years that Mika knew him and Coach O’Hara made Mika feel like he was accepted into a family he was part of even though he wasn’t really. And then there was Cece, the only person after Veronika that Mika felt something true for, yet he couldn’t bring himself to let her know this part of his life. Not about who his family was. Not about where he came from. Not even about the first love of his life.

V was his childhood love (or puppy love to some people). If she were still alive to this day, there was no doubt in his mind that he would have married her. The life they spent so many years in their formative years. But she wasn’t.

And now he has lost two people that he loved dearly - two people that were so similar in the way they spoke and made their ways into Mika’s heart. He lost them through means that were out of his control. One to suicide and the other to Charlie Decker, someone Mika seldom had anything to do with.

That’s probably why his anger, especially considering where he was, had been consumed by an overwhelming grief that he had to keep bottled up.

“Deepest apologies for that, Mikhail. I hope you weren’t too bored waiting on me.” Ivan made himself present. He held his phone in his hand and pocketed it in his back pocket. Mika looked his way and saw a casually dressed man. He wore a turtleneck that was dark in color, jeans that looked expensive, and his blonde hair combed to perfection (as was the way of Ivan’s style). Always liked to appear like he was the most approachable man in the world. “As you know, work waits for nobody.”

Yeah, Mika remembered.

He watched as his father claimed the recliner chair across from him. His father always liked to sit where he could see everyone else. Where he sat, he was directly behind the family portrait. The sounds of the fire dancing, sparks flying in the immediate area of the fireplace provided an ambiance that only Ivan managed to rob any beauty of. He always had that way about him and Mika hated him for it. But he had to shrug that off as much as he could.

“It’s fine,” Mika fibbed, but feigned a smile, absentmindedly gesturing towards the photos. ”You left all the photos up. Even the ones from long ago.” Mika gestured to the left where the fireplace was. On top of it were Christmas decorations but also the photos of them.

Ivan smiled, following his son’s gaze. “Of course. Why would I take them down?” He remarked, mildly offended. “My family may not live here anymore…for reasons I’m sure you’re aware of. I cherish my family all the same.”

Bullshit. You only cherish us now because your actions drove us away. That was something Mika wanted to say, but he wasn’t trying to make this into a fight. If that happened, he knew, at some point, Ivan would cause it. He always knew how to ruin something civil. “Speaking of…What’s Viktor doing these days?” Mika felt the venom on his tongue as soon as he uttered his big brother’s name. Just the thought of Ivan’s perfect son, the son he wished Mika was, was poisoning all of the progress he knew he made in the three years, but he needed to give this a shot. And as damning as it was to his own well-being, with what happened with Hyde, Mika couldn’t help himself but be curious.

And as soon as he did ask, Mika knew that it was something of a sore topic for Ivan. His rather pleasant demeanor fell down some. Mika saw his father’s eyes grow dark like before he was about to say something that would for sure start a fight. As Ivan closed them, gripping both armrests of his chair for a brief moment, Ivan took in a deep breath. “Your brother…he is overseas. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but seeing as how you’re a man now and clearly capable of understanding the ugly truths that put a roof over your head, here it is: Viktor runs operations for the organization in London. He’s quite efficient. The clear successor when I retire.”

Mika didn’t know what to expect. He was never privileged enough to know the inner-workings of the business and to this day he never willingly asked about it, but hearing Ivan speak so openly about it was a shock. Where was the monster who terrorized him? Who beat him? Who made him feel like he was less than nothing? This wasn’t the Ivan Vladinov Zima that Mika called father. This was a man, if he didn’t know it any better, was treating Mika as an equal.

“I see. And…has he asked about how any of us are doing? Katie? Stacy? Mom?” Me? Mika hated he wanted to know if his brother even cared, but he couldn't take it back now.

Ivan hummed thoughtfully, thinking about his next words, seemingly in a careful manner. “Mikhail, do you think of your brother as some kind of monster?” Ivan asked bluntly. “I acknowledge that he was not the best to you growing up. Perhaps I am to blame for that. Perhaps you are--”

And there he is. “I never said--” Ivan raised his hand up and Mika flinched. Fuck, the trauma was coming back.

“Let me finish, son. Viktor never thought of you as less than himself. I admit, I made many mistakes when raising you. Your mother often reminded me of them and I was either too prideful or too stuck in my ways to listen. When she left me, that is when she heard about the shooting in Edenridge, not only did she fear that her dear older brother John was in trouble, but she feared the worst for you and your sister. And your brother had a similar dilemma with himself. Viktor wanted to drop everything too, but--”

“But what?” Before Mika could stop himself, he cut Ivan off. Again.

“Your mother insisted he stay in London. She would call him if anything happened and only then would he fly out.” Ivan leaned forward, his crossed leg dropping to the ground. “Your brother loves you, Mikhail. Like me, he is full of regrets about both how he treated you and how things were left between you two. I…know that you met another brother of yours. Cameron Hyde, is it?”

Of course he knew about that. Mika was, after all, sent to live with The Gonzalez. Ley was the one that Hyde nearly killed. So it stood to reason that Ivan knew about the existence of Hyde. He probably was aware of Anya, too. “I don’t want to talk about him.” Mika started to tremble inside. As much as he tried to hide it, there was no denying that it was a touchy subject for him. The terror that Hyde struck into Mika and the ragehe felt towards him was only rivaled by that very dread.

And Ivan saw it right away, but he didn’t press. “Of course.”

Truth was, Ivan knew a lot of things about Edenridge, more than Mikhial would ever know. He knew all the big players from the Fallen Angels to the line of connections the Serpents had. Ivan was well invested in Edenridge, but he also knew the kind of man that his second oldest son grew up to be. He did what he could and asked a favor of a close friend of his to keep an eye on Cameron Hyde. He didn’t know if it would be enough and understood the position that he put Charlie Taylor in, but that was something he had to risk. Perhaps on some level, Ivan felt remorse for some of the choices he made in life. April McMahon and Taisiya Kamensky were among two regrets he held deep in his heart.

As he thought about those two, he knew that April was around somewhere, but all of the sources he had that kept tabs on his family in Edenridge and Pinehurst, of them all within various gangs, organizations, and others that would be in the position to keep tabs, none could account for Taisiya even years after he spent an amazing few hours with her. It troubled Ivan to the degree that it led to part of the reason his wife could not handle staying with him any longer. To be honest, Ivan had not been the same since his children were sent away and that so clearly ate away at his soul.

But looking at Mikhail right now, as he sat across from him, so clearly disturbed by the sheer mention of his half-brother, Ivan could feel himself half-smiling. It was small and barely noticeable, especially for his son who had other things on his mind (and it showed on his face), the one thing Ivan knew he had a chance to do was, at the very least, try to make amends. “Mikhial.”

He came out of the daze that forced him to flashback to the less-than-cheery times in 2017 when Hyde had gone down a rabbit hole of crazy that left a lasting impression on him, his father’s voice had brought him out and he gave Ivan his semi-divided attention. “Yeah?” He responded with too much suspicion that there was no way Ivan wouldn’t pick up on it.

He chuckled but ignored the overwhelming air of reservation surrounding his son’s face. “If I promise to not bring him up again, would you do your father one favor and answer me a question. Truthfully and as honestly as you can.”

Okay, what was he up to? There was no way his monster of a father would even ask such a thing if it wasn’t going to come with a price. A favor of sorts that he’ll collect in a few years. Of course, that was the first thing that went through his mind, but on the off chance that Ivan had a no-strings-attached reasoning, then what harm could it do? As he shrugged, Mika said, “Fine. What’s your question?” He shifted in his seat. His hear was beating too fast for his own comfort. He was leaning forward but only slightly.

“I’m aware I was never the best father. I know you wished you had someone like Reynoldo Gonzalez, or even John O’Hara--”

“--How did you know about--”

Ivan laughed. “Mikhail. Don’t play me like an idiot. I am not one and you know that better than anyone. I don’t blame you for wanting to know your mother’s side of the family. And I do weep for David O’Hara’s death. I know how it pained your mother that she could not be at her brother’s side during that…unfortunate time in his life.”

Couldn’t? Or did you forbid her? Mika remembered that time. “Ivan, I won’t treat you like an idiot if you do the same for me.” Mika felt it. He felt that familiar rage starting to build for his father. It was held behind a wall that was created when Ivan did not bring up the bad times or showed shades of his old self, but a snake could only hide its true skin for so long before it had to shed its garden variety into a Black Mamba coat and Ivan Zima was far worse than a Black Mamba. “Just..ask your question!” He almost snapped but kept his voice as low as he could, but at the state he was in currently, it was becoming difficult to manage.

“When Sergei told you I wanted to have this meeting, you had a day to think about it. You could have left and gone back to Edenridge last night.” Ivan kept his cold blue eyes on his son, the thing they both shared. “I am no fool and I am also not oblivious to the…conflicting emotions you hold for me nor do I or will I blame you for them. I was cruel to you. VIktor was cruel to you. I raised him to be modeled after me. To be better than me. Sometimes Viktor showed too much initiative. And during a time where I was hoping you’d both would see what I was really trying to--”

As the pot of rage started to boil, it slipped through the cracks of Mika’s face and he stood up. He wanted to scream. He wanted to walk right up to Ivan and punch him. He almost did and in his eyes, past the watery eyes that had developed by just listening to what Ivan decided to bring up, which was a lot more than just Ivan. The past few months have been weighing heavily on Mika’s heart almost to the point where anything would set him over the edge.

His fists were balled up and he almost raised thim at ivan, but he stopped himself. “Ask. Your. Question. Mika gritted his teeth after calmly, yet eerily, speaking. This was the moment where Ivan had to choose between wanting to show Mika he really changed or validating what Honey Badger really wanted to do and that was to unload years of repressed ire on his father’s face.

Ivan sat and could only see his son with a sad, disappointed expression on his face. To think he was at his final point of doing something he’d regret or being better than Ivan ever gave him credit for. “Why did you decide to come here? You had such a terrible time in this house and in our apartment in Brooklyn. I was abusive to you. Viktor was abusive to you. I cheated on your mother more times than I can count on my hands. Am I proud of it? No, but I don’t regret it--”

Mika took a step forward. “You don’t regret it?! So my mother meant nothing to you then!? Anastasia and Katya meant nothing to you!?” Another step forward led into another and then another. Eventually, as Mika was standing…hovering over an unphased Ivan, his right hand gripped the man’s dark purple dress shirt while his other remained a balled cannon, waiting to be launched. “Our…family meant nothing to you!?” His voice cracked, rage, confusion, and a longing for a father that he wouldn’t know until Big Rey Gonzalez and Coach of the Edenridge Celtics, John O’Hara showed what a real father did. Ivan Zima was no man and no father.

Ivan Zima was scum.

And he was smiling at his son. “I see you gained the ability to finally show how you feel. That’s good. Finally, a real man stands in front of me--”

Before Mika could think about it. Before Ivan knew what was coming, all of the rage Mika had been repressing since he was thirteen was unleashed into Ivan’s smug face. One single left hook that would make Creed proud smashed into Ivan’s face, forcing the older man out of his seat. His body twitched and he was on his side, laughing in a way that brought Mika back to those early years.

Every positive thing in his life, every step he made to go forward in his life, forget about what Ivan Zima did to him. With just a laugh, it brought Mika back to the beginning. Back to the start of his downfall. First it was Veronika’s suicide that set so many things into a manic cycle of uncontrollable dominos that shaped his life from the age of thirteen to this moment with his father’s blood on his hands. The man that gave birth to the Devil himself and never apologized or took responsibility for the things he put into motion.

It was all for nothing. Meeting Natlaia at that party and forming a close friendship with her. Meeting Cece a year later at David’s grave. Basketball and Danny. Boa and Danny Boaz. The Gonzalez family -- his family. Everyone he met that helped him see there was more to life than just where he came from and the life that he would live if he stayed in it. Every single person who made him feel like a normal life was possible - it all was reduced to a single sound that erased all of that progress.

“Why…Why do you always do this?” Mika spoke, breaking through the pain he felt, the overwhelming anguish and conflicting emotions he had for the man who was at his mercy. A battle was being waged inside Mika. The fight of Mikhail Zima, the son of Ivan Zima and Mikhail Zima, the abused, tortured son of Ivan Zima that loathed the man with everything he could spare. “Tell me WHY!! Mika screamed as his left foot dug itself into his stomach, everything in him red hot like the fire inside him that was spreading. The man who he refused to ever call father coughed up blood. “You had everything! You didn’t have to be like this! You didn’t have to…” Send us away.

That was the root of everything. He hated his childhood. He hated VIktor. He hated his father for what he did, but deep down, what he hated the most about everything that happened, was the fact that Ivan sent him and his sisters away. He broke up the family.

As Ivan gathered himself, not laying a hand on his son, but just sitting up. He grunted and coughed more droplets of blood, the taste of metal and iron in his mouth. He smiled a crimson grin. “You continue to surprise me, Mikhail. I knew you held hatred in your heart and knew it would eventually happen, but to think you’d strike your own father. Well, I’m impressed.” He knew it was only a matter of time before his son struck again. “You ask why? Why what? Why did I sleep with those rather flexible blondes that gave birth to two kids that I’ve never met? Or are you talking about sending the children I actually gave any damn about, away from the only home they knew to save their lives because of the actions of a truly foolish boy?” He laughed again, his expression turning almost smug as he kept those blue eyes on the true spawn of his seed. “ Be more specific, Mikhail. What do you wish for me to confess to you? You who are responsible for your own life, maybe you could help an old man out.”

“I hate you…”

Ivan faked an “ah” moment as he clapped despite the pain he was in everywhere ribcage and upward. “That’s such an original and riveting confession, Mikhail. Tell me, is that what this is about? Sergei could have told me that much!” Through grits and pain, Ivan forced himself up to his feet. “Let’s unpack everything, shall we? Say what you really mean.” His one arm that was free gestured to his son to indulge him. “I know you hate me. I’ve known since before you knew. It was the way you always looked at me. That same look that always managed to do everything I said, despite all I put him through. So that can’t be the only thing that plagues your mind. What else is there, Mikhail? You asked me to be honest with you and I was. So let your father ask the same of you: what is on your mind?”

Mika was frozen. He was as paralyzed as any man…no, he wasn’t a man. No, he most certainly wasn’t a man. He didn’t feel like one. Ivan had sapped all potential of him keeping the confidence he had when he walked in when he showed his true colors. Mika was physically in the present, but mentally, he was the scared twelve-year-old kid who had just lost his best friend and Ivan was his usual tough love self first, forcing him to stop crying. Told him to man up. Told him that there was no use crying for the dead when there were more important people still alive.

He was there and he wanted to leave so badly. So why did he hold such a grudge for Ivan when he was sent away? He wanted to be away from his father so bad, yet the anger and contempt grew and festered for his father. “I..I--”

“For the love of God! Mikhail, you need to get a hold of your emotions and just…” Ivan, in a frustrated state, gave karma to Mika as his left hand landed on his son’s nose, causing him to stagger back and lose his balance over the coffee table that was in the middle of the foyer. And in a simultaneous motion, Ivan fell back to the couch behind him. “Goddamn it. Don’t you see, I’m trying to make you address everything that has been lingering with you, Mikhail. I know I fucked up raising you, Viktor, and your sisters. I know I’m not the father you wanted or, quite frankly, deserve. I know I’m not John O’Hara or Reynoldo Gonzalez. Hell, Sergei was a better father to you kids than I ever was. He sure as hell acted as a better husband surrogate for Mary than I could ever provide. I’m not anyone who deserves to be called father or husband. And that’s why you need to unleash it all.” For better or worse, there was no denying that they were father and son. Stubborn, set in their ways, and refusing to address what they’re feeling.

Mika was staring at the ceiling, admiring the fan that spun and spun around. He tried to mute his father’s voice into white noise, but no matter how desperate he was to make that a reality, he couldn’t and he listened to Ivan. For the first time, without the excessive boiling rage within him refusing to let his father’s words really sink in, he heard him. For the first time in so many years, he heard Ivan Zima. The worst part about it all, which burned and tasted way worse than the metallic aroma the blood in his nose gave off, Ivan was right.

Ivan was right about it all.

It wasn’t only the fact that he was right that Mika needed to unburden himself about everything he had been burying inside for so many years. It was what he had told himself since he was shipped off to live with the Gonzlez’s. It was the lasting impression Ivan and VIktor left on him. It was the damage that closed him off and all of the repressed thoughts of being told he wasn’t good enough. Being told he wasn’t allowed to feel anything but the boiling anger that men on his father’s side of the family seemed to thrive in, yet Mika hated it.

He absolutely hated it.

Ivan, Cameron, and VIktor -- they were the same. The damage done to Mika wasn’t ever going to get better. The only times he ever felt like that he had a chance of being better was when he was with Cece and when he had the guidance of Coach and the boys on the team, but since the shooting, that’s been taken away from him. The lies that he kept from his uncle and the recurring habit of his to always retreat into the circle that a scared and angry thirteen-year-old boy lived.

Mika was no man. No man at all.

As he stood up, he did so at a crossroads. Face his demons right here, right now, address them with his father, or refuse it and go back to Edenridge as fast as he could drive back. It took a minute, but Mika was out of his childhood home. He didn’t say a word to Ivan, despite all of the things his father yelled at him. Saying he was a coward. Saying he was no man. Mika left and he drove as fast as he could out of that cursed home. In his heart, he knew his father was right.

Secrets. Lies. Refusal to face his demons head-on. He was no better than Ivan was.

A monster and his heir. How fitting.

TIMESTAMP — Afternoon, Tuesday, July 21st, 2021 || After Chase the Feeling & Charlie the Raven
FT. — Dreamchasers (Mordechai Boaz, Poppy James, and Jade Taylor))



Jade was back at Adora’s home, sitting on the couch, taking in the mid-afternoon rays from the sun that peeked through the window. After her rather enlightening and equally productive healing journey in the fields with Key, who was sitting next to her. They both had an exhausting, yet momentous morning, so they were enjoying the relaxing moment with each other. Jade found herself in a crossroads state of mind. She was at a fork where she was trying to figure out what the best course of action might be for her.

On one end was what her brain was telling her to do, the logical and most neutral decision of them all. To not do anything sudden. In the back of her mind, Jade didn’t want to leave Blue Hill so suddenly because that wouldn’t do anyone any good. She had dipped for so long without giving any word to her family and friends. And with her new friends, she definitely didn’t want to leave that bad impression that after being there for all of them for a majority of the past twenty-four hours, she would just dip again.

But then there was the other end where her heart was gravitating towards something that Key spoke about. How she shouldn’t let that person who meant so much to her, almost more than life itself, go. Which was funny as she thought about it more. Life to her was like a chosen angel whose wings were clipped. They could only look up at the malevolent sky, knowing Heaven was up there but without her divine wings, she couldn’t go anywhere but adjust to what her state was now.

That was Willow Jade Taylor’s life for nearly two years and it might’ve been her life had she not decided to take a step and call Poppy yesterday. But the truth of the matter was that she had more than just a moment of being tired of isolating. Anya was at the forefront of a lot of the progress she made before this journey to find Tena even began. Anya, her Pancake, helped her realize a lot about herself and how she needed to act on life itself. This was reinforced by the wise man sitting next to her. Of course, a lot about what happened yesterday was also accelerated by Cameron Hyde. That in itself was terrifying for Jade.

Maybe now more than ever, she couldn’t let her mind do anything for her. It had worked against her for so long. It put her into a daze of overthinking, depression, and using any and all poison to numb what hurt her. Jade had closed her heart for so long, but Anya was the one person to break down the walls. And now, with the magic that was Blue Hill, it was open for the first time in nearly six years.

There was a moment where Jade had mentally decided on what to do. Right as she was about to express this new revelation to Key, she heard a sound from the front entrance of the house. Momentarily, the blonde peeked her eyes and saw Poppy. Something she immediately had noticed aside from her glistening cheeks and her eyes was a rare sight even rarer than a drama-free week in Edenrdige. For as long as she could remember, long before Charlie’s death caused a permanant rift in the town and their quartet, was a smile on the ghostly face of her soul sister that she swore lit up the room and cleared it up of any and all negative energy.

She nudged Key in the shoulder to take notice. “Hey there Pops!” Jade stood up, greeting the brunette with a smile of her own. “Wanna fill us in?” Jade didn’t want to mince words. It wasn’t every day she got to see her best friend look this centered. She needed the deets! Her groundbreaking decision could wait.

Mordechai looked up when Jade nudged him and found a smile reaching his face as well. Poppy’s smile didn’t hide her tears or the tracks they’d made on her face but it certainly made it seem as though it was a good thing those tears were there. He knew from his own healings that tears can be an amazing cleanser for a wounded soul. When you carry so much darkness around inside you for so long, there are only so many ways to free it from your flesh that don’t cause harm to yourself or others. He’s tried many of the ways, and in the aftermath tears have by far been the least painful and guilt inducing.

“I think she went on her own version of our field walk,” He said softly as he too stood up to make space for Poppy to sit down between them on the couch. “Didn’t’cha Pops?”

“Mm, I did. I’m SLEEPY now,” Poppy shuffled to her friends, noting Charlie’s jacket she had left hanging on a dining room chair. Plopping herself down, not needing much room for her small frame, she relaxed herself before her friends rejoined her on the couch. She snuggled between them, grabbing both of their hands. When they all settled, she leaned her head back on the couch and giggled, “So Ronnie lied to us.” She shook her head at how silly this ruse was just to set them on the path of self discovery and healing. Ronnie was a clever woman. She always knew that but this move showed exactly why Pops looked up to her. “She did this to unite our two worlds and to heal. Mitena needs us, just as much as we need her.” Glancing from one friend to the next, she squeezed their hands, “We won’t get all the answers in one day but… I think we needed this and if you guys ever come back, I’d like to come with you. I really like it here.”

It was like she was sitting next to a completely different person, or someone Jade hadn’t seen in such a long time. This wasn’t just Poppy the friend who had been by her side for the past couple of years despite things in their lives collectively being crap, but this was Pops, her soul sister before the worst event of their lives changed the trajectory of their lives forever. She didn’t even seem to care that Ronnie lied. Ask Jade that yesterday and she might’ve felt differently, but she felt like she made so much progress within herself and seeing that in her two best friends, it was clear that this place was more than just another destination in this whole mystery surrounding Charlie and his letters. This felt like another place they could escape to.

“Though speaking of answers, what did we learn in class today?” Jade laughed at her own bad joke. She glanced at both Key and Poppy, seeing their faces and how those faces of theirs had familiar expressions. In all honesty, Jade hadn’t felt this relaxed in all ways implied in a very long time and sure as hell hasn’t felt this weightless in years.

Penelope came in with an inside joke between her and Resi and widely smiled, “Bagels. I’ve only seen bagels with salmon and cream cheese. It’s time I start shifting my bagel. Maybe put some chives on it instead.”

“It’s…great you’re interested in havin’ your own bagel?” Mordechai replied with no small amount of confusion, well aware he was missing an important piece to puzzle the sentence together.

Rolling her eyes at her best friend, she explained her own metaphor, “I don’t think it takes much for you guys to see I have an eating disorder. Today, Forrest gave me half a bagel. Everyone has to start somewhere, he said. But instead of salmon, which is all my mind has been thinking about. Charlie. Charlie loves salmon and my identity became Charlie. Not Penelope. Just Charlie. He put chives on it instead. I realized in that moment that while it won’t happen overnight, one day I’ll be whole again. I won’t ever be the same. I’ve been so used to salmon that it became all I am. I don’t necessarily have to let go of his memory since that’s honestly impossible. So instead of looking at it as if I'm leaving him behind, I’ll change how I look at things. I’ll carry his memory forward as I find me again. As I find Poppy and ‘grow towards the light like a flower’.... Tena said that last part.”

“That’s really great, Pops. Really, I’m happy you found that start of this incredible journey of…well, I’m not sure what we can call it.” Jade’s blue-green gaze was on her soul sister for a long moment. She let out a small laugh, almost a barely-audible chuckle as she still struggled to put a word to what happened to the three of them. Seeing that old version of her mixed with this new version of herself that was, from where the Angel Princess sat, started to take shape. She saw it because she knew Poppy wasn’t the only one breaking free from that cocoon of sorts. The soil here was rich with exactly what they needed.

“I’m real happy for ya, Pops,” Mordechai spoke up with genuine warmth as he leaned into her, squishing her firmly between the bigger two of the trio. His whole being was warm and relaxed and he was happy to have his two friends here with him and also experiencing levels of healing. He knew that things would be harder when they returned to the stress of their hometown; unlike Jade and Poppy, he’d been through the Blue Hill Experience yearly since he was ten years old. Blue Hill was safety and healing for those from Edenridge, but the town itself always received its residents back from their temporary loan outside its borders. They couldn’t stay happy forever, but they could actively work towards it once they cross back into town and face down their own separate demons, and Modechai was content in the moment with that knowledge.

“I’m gonna start living for myself,” He revealed after they’d all had a moment with the silence. His revelations with Adora and Jade were fresh on his mind and felt the need to share with his friends as they’ve continued to share with him. It felt right. “I can be fine with gettin’ sober for others but I’m gonna find out how to build a life that makes me happy…That includes tryin’ for somethin’ real with Sunshine a-and Mamba, if they’re for it.”

“Mordechai’s in lurvessss,” Penelope teased, leaning into him and brushing her face against his body while he laughed. “Which reminds me, betch.” She playfully narrowed her eyes at Decky, really coming across as a whole new Poppy, less trauma filled and more optimistic of her future, “I don’t expect your family to be my family but I’d at least like a moment with them. If they love you, I hope they know I’m part of your life and I’m sick and tired of being the little girl that stays home waiting for her friends to come by. Let me fight for my place. ReyRey said it himself! He called me a baby snake when I was cursing him out during the whole Allison shitshow. I deserve the feeling of belonging, just as much as you and Jade do. You both,” Poppy glanced over to Jade, squeezing her hand a couple of times, “Have your southie families with the serpents and the angels. I’m not saying I want to be part of the gang life but I am saying: please don’t leave me behind anymore.”

“You're right,” Mordechai admitted easily, holding his free hand up in surrender and slumping his shoulders dramatically. “Can we at least wait until later in the week though? I already gotta meet ReyRey at the Edge tonight for placement and I gotta make my own rounds after that.” Mordechai tilted his head before adding. “Unless ya just wanna smush yours and mine t’gether and meet while everythin’s fresh.”

“If you really want to do it like that, I’m sure I could convince the Angels to let you use the clubhouse for whatever kind of rite of passage that Pops would need to go through.” She knew they knew she was only half-joking, but the jokes aside, there was something important in her words. “Or you could just become a prospect. You’re pretty much already a member because they aren’t just my southie family. You are, too. Both of you are. And really, all you’ll need is a working bike and they’ll accept you in.” She nudged Pops almost jokingly.

“My mom would scream and my dad would question his parenting. I’m sure that would end well if I became a hot, pale ass biker chick,” Poppy humored Jade, before turning to Decky, “I can wait. You know where I live. Literally a window away. Now,” Poppy released their hands and sat up, “I should be exhausted as fuck but I suddenly got a second wind. I’ve met so many people today and not once I had a panic attack! Progress! But that’s beside the point, what’s next on our agenda?” Poppy looked from side to side, patiently waiting for a response.

“Well…” There was a short moment where Jade’s glance fell to Key. He knew what she was leading to; she just had to find the right way to put it. “Since we’re sharing revelations, new breakthroughs, and the like, I think now might be a good time to mention that I found someone as well. Like how I imagine Mamba and Sunshine make Key feel, my person does the very same for me. After going to the fields with Key, I realized just how deeply I feel.” Just like when she first confessed it to Key, Jade’s heart had started to beat at a rather fast pace and her face felt hot all of a sudden.

“Jade’s also in lurvessss,” Mordechai laughed lightly as he mimicked Poppy’s earlier taunt. “Shit man you’re gettin’ red as Pops’ sunburn!”

“Am not!” She protested defensively. Just as she did, her face deepened a shade of red. “It’s just…hot in here. I swear Adora must love living in an oven...”

“The flames’a passion do make things pretty hot,” He shot back with a shit eating grin. “Ya sure it’s just your face heatin’ up?”

“Oh shut up!” She laughed, rolling her eyes with a smile of her own. It was literally like her face was on fire at this point. Jade usually didn’t let this sort of thing affect her, but it was and she extended her leg over to Key’s end as the sole of her foot hit Key’s shin lightly.

"Oh yeah, gonna be chasin' all kinds'a feelin's all night, I can already tell," the man snickered as he shifted his leg away playfully. "She's got it bad Pops, this is gonna be fun." It's been far too long since they were all able to play like this. Since they were able to prod and tease and toy without it ending in one of them feeling broken. He's missed his angels, and the stories they could've created together, and he finally feels like he's at a place where that's going to change. "I always had ta take shit for the people I saw, this is me bein' supportive."

Penelope’s laugh disrupted their playful banter and floated in the air like a sweet, uplifting melody. She felt little tears build up in her eyes as she continued to giggle in between her friends. Even after all this time, she still had more rain inside her. “I really missed this, all of this. I missed you both.” She wiped her eyes and the few tears that made their great escape. Brightly gleaming at each of them, one by one, and in between breaths, Poppy sincerely expressed, “Thank you for coming back home,” and placed her hands on her chest. On her heart. They could each take that how they want; it was directed to both of them and knowing Poppy, there was more meaning to it than just the literal.

As the events unfolded before them and the humans were asking more and more questions about Digivices and Sovereigns, most of which had gone way over the tiny lion-like Digimon's head, something that caught his eyes was something shadowy that was appearing behind or around the winged pink Digimon, MarineAngemon. Frimon was the kind of digimon that did not know how to convey words of his own yet, so he was learning how by mimicking Damian, who he found quite comforting in his new life. Mimicking him to the point where his thought originated from what Damian said.

But this seemed to be slightly different. "Shadows...What are shadows?" Frimon was asking himself, but Damian heard.

"What was that?"

"I Black on pink one." Frimon was having difficulties articulating exactly how to phrase it.

At the same moment, Marineangemon had zipped away into the forest. Damian was barely able to follow most of what the two pink Digimon were saying. He caught maybe half of it before he mentally checked out, but one thing that became apparent to him and especially in the limited time to act, was he couldn't stay here. Thankfully, he wasn't alone in figuring this out.

As Damian took after the siblings, following the trail of that little bug mon and the others, not certain where exactly this might lead to. While in the middle of a mild sprint, Damian looked at his little shoulder pal who had secured his position on his neck and shoulder a little tighter since Damian started to run. "Sorry, I didn't mean to ignore you. Did you say something about shadows or blackpink?" Damian wasn't aware they had K-Pop in this world, but then again he didn't know creatures like his new shoulder pal existed, so who knew what really went on in this strange world. "Anyway, shadows you know, caused by light or something." Damian made some clueless noises. "I never did pay attention during science. But I'm sure it's fine. We'll catch up with them and we'll be okay, dude!"

Frimon still couldn't sake that feeling. Whatever he saw, something about it rubbed him the wrong way. At the same time, he found Damian's words comforting. He found Damian's whole presence comforting. "It will be fine...dude." He repeated smiling and snuggling close as his friend kept running.

"Wouldn't you like to know, Ice Queen!"

Miki had scoffed at Melissa's inquiry of her being here. She was adamant to keep that reason to herself. Adamant to keep Missy Elliot from ever knowing anything that was going through her mind about her being here. Even if she decided to deem the blonde privy to this knowledge, she wouldn't get it. There was no way someone who has already achieved all that she could possibly understand why Miki stepped down from her position as the top of Sinnoh's Elite 4 for an opportunity to do something...more than what she had been doing.

And, if she was being honest, though she would never let Missy anywhere near to finding out, the comments about Cynthia had hit too close to home. Because Missy was right. No matter how many times she tried, be it in private 1-on-1 battles or officially-sactioned battles, Miki Park always came up short against the busty blonde of Sinnoh. So maybe she was running away, but she needed to get stronger. Her pokemon needed to get stronger with her. This opportunity that was presented to her, she knew she couldn't pass it up. To prove she was more than what Melissa always thought she was and more than she was herself.

As they made their way closer to the mansion that soon came in sight, Miki sighed as if in defeat. "If you must know, I came to be stronger," she admitted, gripping the shoulder strap of her bag, glaring at a singular person standing at the front entrance of the mansion that'd give the Indigo Plateau a run for its money. "The Elite Four wasn't doing it for me anymore. I needed something that would test me in every way. Coming here is the first step." Miki was actually telling the truth.

The two young women had come to a stop and Miki felt the need to make a remark. "And for the record, Blitz is a hell of a lot stronger than he was three years ago. Just wait: when this is all done and we are free to do what we please, you'll find out just how strong he is." Miki stuck out her tongue in a petty manner.

So their both here. Amazing. Can't believe the lies worked!

There indeed stood a man at the front-center entrance of the mansion that was behind him. An older man whose features would be familiar to those who knew of the Oaks of Pallet Town, though for those who weren't from there or even didn't know what the Oaks looked like in a general sense, then no doubt there was an odd sense of the unknown as a man in a long white trenchcoat looked at them, smiling widely (though he didn't intend for it to remain as such) at the two young women who were escorted out by a handful of guards in nice suits. They walked forward, stepping in a straight line behind the older man.

He coughed and those behind him were saluting. "Right, forgot you did that." He spoke gently, hand behind his head as he laughed in a nervous manner. Again, he cleared his throat. "Right, let's see..." He stepped forward closer to the two women who stood a few yards away. "Miki Park, Melissa Elliot, thank you for coming and accepting my offer. You must have a lot of questions and no doubt will have many more after this is explained. Please follow me inside. You must be exhausted after the long voyage. Sinnoh and Aloha, right?"

Miki glared at the man and stepped closer. "I'm not going anywhere until you tell me who the hell you are!"

"Oh!" He laughed in the same way as before. "I'm sorry it's been a long day for me too. I didn't have my morning tea, so it's hard to remember propor etiquette. As my grandfather used to say, 'there's a time and a place for that, Gary'."

Miki raised her eyebrows at him. "Gary?"

He nodded, giving both ladies a smile. "That's my name. Doctor Gary Oak. Happy to meet you both!"

In Edenridge 9 days ago Forum: Casual Roleplay
TIMESTAMP — Early Afternoon || Tuesday July 20, 2021 — After Forgiveness On a Raven’s Wing and Wrecking Ball
Ft. Mordechai Boaz & Jade Taylor



Jade had left Tena and Natalia alone, letting them get some quality time that she knew that two people who had…something needed. She knew she overstayed her welcome even if neither of them would ever come out and say it. That was something that Jade was coming to like about both Natalia and Mitena. Both could speak their mind as far as she could tell (though so clearly in very different ways) but had enough respect for those around them to not say it outright.

Initially, Jade was going to stop by the casino for a bit to unwind, but after they joked and laughed and had an exchange of sweet words, she just wanted to head back to Adora’s place, and unwind. One thing Jade knew, as she was heading back towards Adora Diamondheart’s pad, she was in high spirits (no pun intended of course). Yesterday was a lot to deal with: her heart-to-heart with Natalia, the fear coming into her heart when Key spotted ReyRey and then it apparently being a nonissue, the night spent here helped the Angel Princess do a lot of soul searching. Part of her felt guilty for taking in the sights when it wasn’t her land to begin with, but she was part of Charlie’s family, so it was okay. Tena said it herself.

As she slowed her walk, she became so lost in her thoughts, most of which ran the last month up and down her mind. Those days spent in her self-imposed isolation. She drowned herself in work, Jack Daniels, and the magic white powder. These past twenty-four hours forced her to take a hard look. Jade had a long way to go with Poppy, she knew that she and her soul sister were only at the beginning of being back to where they were - hell, one might even say they haven’t been there since Freshman year. There’s still plenty of time to right that wrong.

As soon as Jade stepped through the front door of Adora’s pad, she made her way up stairs as soon as she could. Hot on her mind was how Key left breakfast earlier. On her mind wasn’t just everything that happened to her since she’s been here but how Key was doing. On her mind was seeing how hard he took that particular topic of Danny and of Charlie, too. She wanted to check up on him and when she was upstairs, she saw the door of the room he was staying in was open. “Thought I’d find you here.” She gave him a smile, leaning against the wall at the entrance. “How are you holding up, Key?”

“I’ve already made a joke ‘bout that with Auntie, so I’ll spare ya,” The man answered from where he was laid back on the foot of his bed, feet planted firmly on the ground. Adora had left a few minutes ago, after all the energy had drained back out of him at his realizations and he had gone silent and contemplative as he zoned out to the twinkle lights. Poppy had yet to return, but he trusted Blue Hill to keep her safe. He lifted his head slightly to look at his bombshell friend in the doorway and gave her a soft smile, one more sure and warm than he’d been able to garner since returning to their cursed place of birth. Living for himself was going to be the hardest undertaking of his pathetic life, but Adora had soothed his initial hysteria and he had since been silent with his own thoughts. It had left him rather sedate and contemplative, but also more steady and sure than he’d been before. “I’m better, thanks. You?”

She could tell that he really was. He wasn’t lying to her for her sake or his. Whatever happened between when he took off and now, she saw it in his eyes. There was a light in them and that warmed her heart. Tried as she did, there was a lot to unpack with everything that was said at breakfast. “Yeah, about the same too,” she mused as she took in a semi-deep breath. The blonde kept her gaze on Key, though. “It’s eventful morning, to say the least. Got to know Mitena a bit more. She’s such a delight, Key. Actually said we are all welcome here.” She found herself smiling. Among other things that happened when it was just her, Tena, and Natalia, that stuck. “I won’t lie, I don’t think this will be the first time I’ll venture up here. There’s something…unexplainably wonderful about Blue Hill.”

“I’ll be comin’ back too,” Mordechai replied. “I can’t just never come back now that Auntie knows I’m back in town,” He laughed a bit and finally sat up fully. “So long as we stay outta R2’s hair of course. But I’m glad ya got ta know Mitena, maybe I’ll try again soon now that I’ve leveled out again.”

He looked around the room that still had all the little tchotchkes of their youth. There was plenty of Creed and Jokes’ stuff on the far end of the room where the other twin sized mattress sat, still neatly made and untouched. His own bed had actually been shared with Danny when all of the Briteson-Kraeter crew would come visit and drag the Boaz brothers along, the kids all sharing this room while the adults had the one next door. The odd mix of books, comics, and posters gave the room more of a permanent residence feel than the guest suite it was supposed to be, and Mordechai felt a flutter in his heart at the thought of seeing those two- and all the other Serpents- again. All their lives, all of them have been so intertwined for so long, it’s no wonder he started feeling empty the moment he earned his jump out in Junior year. It’s no wonder he couldn’t settle in New York with Legs and the kids when so many souls called out to his own, yearning to tangle their strings of fate once more.

Mordechai looked out the window to the early afternoon sun and then traced the beams of light it cast right back to one of those very souls, tied in with him and the Serpents just as much as the Angels through her cousins Molotov and TNT. He knew his friend also suffered from the feeling of disconnection from those around her, just as Poppy did. Though, their mutual friend had more cause to feel that way as she had been actively kept from forming those bonds, whereas the two occupants of the bedroom had them but couldn’t see or appreciate them.

“If you’re ready,” He spoke up, standing and stretching, revealing his plaster covered hands to the blonde from where they had been hidden interlocked beneath his head. The hair on the back of his head was now a soft powdery gray and if Adora hadn’t been so focused on being supportive earlier she would have given him shit for getting the sheets as dirty as he did. “I think the light’ll be hittin’ the field real beautiful soon.”

Jade had always admired Key’s ability to press on despite what might be going through his mind. That was a trait that she didn’t know if she’d ever possess or not. In an ideal world, she’d be able to address her demons with very little problem but life wasn’t a storybook and her life wasn’t the kind of story you found in modern-day fairy tales. She smiled and nodded. “Yeah, let's do it!”

When Tena had pointed it out earlier, she saw it briefly, but Jade couldn’t get a good glance at it in the short time she had when Tena was pointing to it. Between what Key told her about it yesterday and the additional details Tena provided, Jade was in the mood for some healing. Already being at Blue Hill just for a day, Jade had felt the effects of being removed from the darkness and trauma center that was her hometown. Not to mention, she wanted to see this place because it meant something to Key. It meant a great deal to him and she wanted to experience that with him.

As Jade moved out of the doorway to let Key out and they started heading downstairs, she looked at him as she reached the bottom and he started to walk past her. She saw the gray on his hair and she reached over, wiping some of it off. “Think you forgot something.” Jade giggled in a way that felt foreign to her. She was grinning, too, something else Jade hadn’t done so frequently in a really long time.

“Hey, what if I wanted it there?” He smiled back and bumped his head against her outstretched palm after repressing his initial reflex to jerk away. Despite his newly relaxed muscles and motivation, despite his revelations and lower energy, his first reaction had always been to flinch away from the hands that reached out to him. He learned early in life that only pain came from outstretched hands, and his life has been a running test of everyone he met after trying to prove him otherwise while he reacted like a cornered stray. He was tired of warming up only to shrink away again, if he was going to live for himself he was going to finally put that to rest. A reason worth fighting for? How about finally feeling safe and secure in the skin that his parents had branded so he would never even see it as his own.

How about finally accepting the home he had formed years ago with his friends and since left derelict in his self-depreciative wanderings. How about letting himself be a little more free in general. The thought brought forward a certain level of childlike mischief he wasn’t expecting, and his smile turned into a grin as he turned around and opened the door into the fresh air.

“Race ya ta the field?”

Jade’s expression matched Key’s. She didn’t know where this suddenly came from, but she gave him a nod. “Okay, but..” There was a pause as she took off ahead of him. “Winner has to buy the loser a month’s worth of coffee!” She called out as she ran backwards with a wide smile on her face as she saw him start to run after her and she picked up the pace, running for real in the direction of the fields.

The race was fun, had his heart beating faster in a healthy way instead of the emotionally distraught strain it’s been paced at for the past two years and change. He was limping a bit by the end of it, the scarring in his muscles sending feelings of fire across his upper leg that he hadn’t felt since the wound had finally healed. Chest heaving as he stood next to Jade while staring out at the beginning of the field with the sun cast its golden rays upon the Big Bluestem and Purpletop, contrasting the blues of the New England Aster and making the Goldenrod glow, Mordechai couldn’t really find it in himself to let the permanent reminder of that day affect his mood. He took a deep breath and let the Wild Bergamot fill his senses.

“It’s as beautiful as I remember.”

Jade had trailed behind Key about a few seconds, almost out of breath and damn near wheezing as she took a few moments to collect herself as she was hunched over, hands on her knees and her blonde locks falling in front of her face. In that moment, she knew she lost, which meant he won and for the next month, any and all coffee he needed or wanted was on her. She accepted that and maybe, on some level, she lost intentionally. Maybe on a subconscious level, she lost on purpose. Perhaps this was her way of kicking her own ass into shape to make up for the lost time.

Once she caught enough breath, the scents around her were the first thing that caught her attention. Her gaze went all around. She wasn’t even trying to focus on one patch of flowers because everything around her felt like something out of a movie. Tena had told her it had healing elements and she tried to envision what it would feel like, but nothing could do it any justice. Jade was rarely left speechless. She may have internalized a lot of the thoughts she didn’t say, but this wasn’t like those times. She genuinely had nothing to say or think. The Angel Princess just took in the sights, mirroring what Key said, muttering “It really is,” as she walked a bit further into the fields, only taking a few steps in front of Key.

“It’s like I’m in a dream. Or God-forbid, heaven.” Jade wasn’t a religious woman. Ironic, right? Given her family were fallen angels, but she never believed that deeply in God or religion, but she felt something flow through her that was more than anything she could put into words.

“Yeah,” Mordechai laughed, stuffing his hands in his pockets and stepping up next to her, bumping her shoulder with his own. The next breath he took was for fortification instead of oxygen, but it was just as deep. His eyes drifted to the way the sun was making Jade’s hair glow like a halo, much like it had as it rose behind Poppy this morning. His Angels were beacons of light to him. “Danny was shorter than all this Bluestem the first time we came here, I was too if I’m bein’ honest, and I kept gettin’ scared that he’d wander too far and I’d lose ‘im,” Despite them both being tall enough to not have to worry, Mordechai grabbed Jade’s hand like he always had Danny’s- like holding onto a memory- and gently led her forward through the small wander paths that had been created by the Blue Hill residents’ own visits and management of the prairie area. He took his other hand out of his pocket and let it brush through the flowers and stems as the tops bent into the path to tickle their faces. “Never thought I’d be in here as a way ta feel him again, but ta find a bit’a me.”

Jade had let out a small giggle as Key was talking about the last time he was in the fields. She was imagining him and Danny being here, both being small enough to potentially get lost in the flowers. For someone who towered over her some, she found that to be a funny thing to entertain. They both went through a massive growth spurt at some point. The part of growing up, but as he grabbed her hand and Jade, of course, was almost surprised by this action, but only because she wasn’t expecting it. Naturally, the blonde didn’t fight it.

As he led them through the path, she took in all the sights, the different colored flowers, the floral scents they gave off - Jade could understand why this place was one of healing like Tena implied. The longer she spent with one of her favorite people, her Key, the clearer her understanding of the true magic of this whole place became to her. “That sounds like some full circle kind of shit, Key.” Jade had never been known for her deep words. “And it’s a beautiful thing. I know that this place must hold a lot of memories -- and painful ones, at that -- for you, but you made it back here for a reason. Now you know I’m not the poet of our group, or anything close to it, but there was this quote.” Jade hummed thoughtfully as she tried to recall it. “I don’t remember who said it or where I remember hearing it from. Probably from Mr. Beau, if I had to guess, but it said sometimes the end and the beginning are the same place.” Speaking that out loud had forced Jade’s insides to twist in a way when she knew she was going to an emotional place. Her feelings and bond for Key were so strong that, even though the Angel Princess didn’t intend to, she was in her feels. Certainly a side effect of being here with one of her top three favorite people.

"'What we call the beginnin' is often the end, and ta make an end is ta make a beginnin'. The end is where we start from.' TS Elliot," Mordechai clarified, a smile on his face and a bittersweet twist in his heart at the blurry memories the quote brought to the surface. "We actually heard it from Charlie before Beau, but they've both said it. Pretty sure Charlie mentioned it durin’ y'all's first Juvie visit ta me, when Danny was whinin' that me bein' gone was like the end'a the world," he laughed a little, remembering the comforting arm Charlie had slung over his little brother's shoulder-since he technically couldn't- while Danny pouted. Jade, on Danny's other side, had rolled her eyes while Poppy had flanked Charlie's right and had been smiling wide at the warm sight. In the safety of the glowing field, he let that memory be pure and untainted by the shadows of later events. He let the memory help him instead of harm him. He let himself take a step forward. He closed his eyes and listened to the wind as it wove through the field, and if he dusted off and focused his imagination, he could practically hear Danny’s laugh as though he were just somewhere further in the grass stalks. “There’s a clearin’ up ahead so we can lay down.”

Jade remembered that day. It felt so distant, like something that was slowly out of reach, yet at the same time, firmly in their grasp. She remembered that lighthearted day. Circumstances of Key’s situation aside, she remembered it because it might as well have been one of the last times all of them were able to spend with each other before everything around them started to crumble. Jade liked to think of that as a time where they could all go back to occasionally and remember how simpler things were.

She smiled at the thought, lingered on it for a few moments as she and Key walked to the clearing he mentioned. She laid down on the cool grass. Despite the sun above, it hadn’t affected it as it may have back in Edenridge. The blonde let out a relieved sigh, letting the scents around her consume her and take her to a place that brought her the most comfort. If this were a month ago, it would have been with her Uncle Charlie, but at this moment, she was in Dolly’s. Despite so much, that place had been her saving grace in the past month. “Damn, Tena really was right. This place does heal you.” She mentioned almost instinctively as she opened her eyes, looking up at the clouds passing them overhead. The glare of the sun didn’t seem so bad. “Hey Key? Can I tell you something? Something I haven’t told anyone yet?” She asked as she looked over to him.

He turned his head to stare at her profile while she watched the shifting clouds. He almost wanted to make a joke, something like ’well shit, at this point I’d sure hope so,’ but the way she had asked him had seemed so fragile that he didn’t want to insult her by laughing it off.

“Of course, Harley Head, I’m here for ya,” He answered instead, rolling over so that he was laying on his side and giving her his full attention as the midday rays warmed their bodies and kept them safe in the light. “What’s up?”

There was a slight tension in Jade’s stomach. Even though she had been the one to start it, to admit it to anyone was a whole nother matter altogether. Key had always been one of two people she could trust almost anything with. One of the few people in this world she never had to feel weird for being more than her usual self. Still, as she thought about…this...this thing eating away at her, she couldn’t help but think about what that meant for her. She was feelings all sorts of things. None of them were bad per se, but they were so foreign to her.

“Well…” How on Earth did Jade even begin? Seeing Key’s eyes, she knew this was a safe space and that had little to do with why she was hesitating. At her side, her hands gripped the grass beneath her as she tried to figure out the best way to put it. “How do I put it?” She struggled again, biting her lip as she again tried to find the right words. “You know when you meet someone that can be such a random thing, but the way they make you feel, it’s like you don’t know how to properly describe it, but it just fills you with something…positive?”

"Oh, this is that kinda talk," the suddenly too-sober man replied with an awkward smile before laughing it off and making a show of fucking his hands under his head as if they were at another Southie Sleepover. Embracing life. But what could he tell her? He'd felt that with a few people, honestly. Sunshine first and foremost, since the day they first saw each other through their locked windows and realized there was a world a little bigger than their parents' hate. He'd felt it in Lanie when they first met, before his personality got in the way and currents of tension had underlaid their relationship while he'd worked to get him and Danny a better life. He'd felt it with a certain Serpent girl that he and Sunshine enjoyed teasing mercilessly back in the day, even when he knew it bothered Lanie. Now that he's older he can admit she was right to be upset. But he's never talked about it, and he's never been asked about it. He certainly never let himself sit in silence long enough to think about it until this past month. To think about them; the ones that made his heart sing in a note others just couldn't reach.

"Yeah," he finally answered after his own drawn out silence, the smile on his face softening into something as vulnerable as her own. "Yeah, I've had people that do that for me. It's fuckin' scary as shit ain't it?"

“Literally the most frightening, nerve-racking thing I’ve ever experienced.” Jade could only laugh out a rough chuckle as her heart skipped so many beats, it felt tight, yet free like she was riding down a perfect country road on her Harley, her golden locks flying free as she had her person clinging to her back. It made her smile in a genuine way that she couldn’t possibly explain. But also, she was so very nervous. Afraid that this was too good to be real. Frightened that she’d fuck it up somehow.

Two times in her life, Jade came close to feeling things for people that made her feel this way. Once was with the Serpent Princess herself, Aleyda Gonzalez, but Jade was far too young to appreciate the bond that she had with her and the time just wasn’t right for them. The second person was Roddy Callahan. In that case, Jade was too lost in her head to acknowledge that maybe the reason she pushed him away wa snot because he was developing feelings for her, but rather maybe she didn’t want to let herself become vulnerable again, so she gave an excuse that pushed him away.

But Anya? She was different. “I swear I have avoided letting myself fall for anyone for as long as I can remember. It’s easier that way. There’s no added complications. Nothing that spoils the fun and forces either of us to become too invested. Sex and that’s it. But Key, this feels…different. ” Jade’s heart went harder as she thought about her Pancake. Hair as golden as the breakfast treats she drowned in syrup, the sweetness likely even more so than how innocent her smile was that always managed to make the resident Princess of Resting Bitch Face™ turn that frown into a genuine grin like she was some cookie cutter schoolgirl who just got asked out by the prettiest girl in school. Even just laying here, talking about how that one person made her feel connected to this shitty world, all the Angel Princess could visualize was her face. Her Russian accent trying to think of simple words because she couldn’t pronounce the more complex ones and how she saw through all of Jade’s bullshit. Nobody since Aleyda had been able to make her feel so seen and vulnerable at the same time. She probably didn’t even realize what she was doing, yet that didn’t stop Jade from coming to a realization. At this moment, she understood something. “Like, I just don’t want to give her my body — I want to give her my heart and soul, too.”

"Damn J, ya got it bad," Mordechai concluded in a supportive tone, gaze soft as he watched his friend alight from her own inner glow rather than that of the sun. "Can I say somethin' that might be shitty advice, but it's advice I'm probably gonna take myself when we get back?"

Her gaze remained on Key and she half-raised her right eyebrow at him. “I’ll be the judge on whether it’s shitty or not,” she remarked, laughing for a few seconds. “Hit me!”

"If they make ya as happy as I'm seein' that ya are from just thinkin' about 'em, follow it. Follow that fucking feelin'," he encouraged, rolling back onto his back and reaching one hand up towards the sky, closing his fist over the sun as though he'd caught it tight in his grasp. "Straight ta the person that causes it and don't let go of 'em. Don't steer away and don't let your mind fill up with others' ideas on what that feelin' should be. There's so much that ya lose when ya sit there thinkin' that the other side has greener grass," he thought to Lanie, the Northie cheerleader with a savior complex a mile wide, something he didn't know how to identify back when he was with her. Mordechai had wanted emancipation and that was as far as he'd thought for getting him and Danny out from under their parents, but Lanie had been the one to bring him to the conclusion that he had to leave the Southside behind to truly get away from his traumas. She had been uncomfortable with the relationships he had there and worried that if he continued to hang around with them that Mordechai would backslide and lose the freedom for him and Danny that he'd worked so hard- and she'd helped so much- to gain.

Mordechai could never truly stop crossing back over the tracks, though, because by the time senior year had rolled around he had been itching for a bit of freedom from the life he was building with her. He had never really understood the monogamy thing, but he had done it for her, another shot at playing for a ‘normal’ life. It wasn’t enough for her, since he couldn’t stop flirting with Sunshine because you can’t just change up the way you’ve interacted with someone basically your entire life and for some reason he is only recently beginning to understand, he couldn’t keep himself from messing with Mamba and watching as that fire blazed in her dark brown eyes and they seemed to glow like the richest amber. The more he spoke to encourage Jade, the more he solidified his decision to go chase his own feeling. Or rather, feelings.

“I don’t care if everyone around ya is tellin’ ya that you’re makin’ a mistake, or that ya need ta take the safest path ya know, the road most traveled. Fuck that shit Harls, spit in their faces and then chase that feelin’ right inta the arms of the ones that are actually right for ya and hold ‘em so fuckin’ tight that it feels like ya could never possibly lose 'em. Hold ‘em like that every damn day until the one when it’s not possible anymore,” his hand finally let go of its faux grasp on the sun and dropped softly to the bed of grass they lay on. Exhaling slowly, he turned his head to gaze into Jade's eyes and smiled at her once more. “That’s my two cents, at least.”

What Key was saying gave Jade a lot to think about. It ran deeper than any alcohol and pill-induced high could ever produce. Nothing about that ever came close to what she was feeling right now. Both with Key encouraging her to go to Anya and that adorable blonde herself, the one that knew how to make the butterflies that Jade thought had moved on flutter in a way she hadn’t experienced. She had people in her corner and just the last twenty-four hours were enough to make her really see that. Key had always been there for her. Her family had always been there for her and now, despite everything in her power to run away from what made her happy, maybe Anya, too, was on that list of people she could lean on.

Jade stared at the sky, focusing on the radiant sun, her senses filling up with the scents around her and all Jade could think about was how genuinely blessed she felt. Blessed for those in her life who didn’t give up on her when she had given up on herself and blessed to have made new friends in Tena and Natalia. That sister of Charlie’s was absolutely right. This was a place that healed. “Key I love you and your beautiful soul.” As Jade spoke, a light trail of tears fell down her face and she smiled, looking at the sun, her heart feeling full of something she couldn’t quite explain.

Unsure of how to reply to such a kind sentence, Mordechai settled for reaching down and gently grasping her hand as he too let the sun and the field heal some of the old fissures on his beautiful soul.

In Edenridge 21 days ago Forum: Casual Roleplay
TIMESTAMP — Tuesday Morning July 20th, 2021 || After The Five Pieces of Charlie Decker
FT.Jade Taylor, Mitena Strongbow, & Natalia Belmonte



A few minutes had passed since both Poppy and Key left right after each other and all Jade could think about was how she thought she was doing the right thing. Mitena was blaming herself and Jade thought she was doing right by her - and maybe by Charlie too - by telling her it was okay. She still held firm that Charlie’s sister, the one person not tethered to any of the pain, yet at the center of it, had nothing to apologize for. Why would she? She wasn’t to blame for any of the reactions. The anger, guilt, regret - that was all part of a life that was long before they knew Charlie had a sister.

And yet, unknowingly, the reactions she saw were a direct result of the past coming full speed into the present. Jade knew as soon as Mitena addressed him by the name Decky, that was it for him. And she wanted to follow, but what could she do in this situation? Poppy flat out said not to follow her and she didn’t keep her eyes on Key long enough to know where he ran off to.

As the blonde looked at the two girls across from her, for a moment the blue-green gaze that lacked the raccoon eyeshadow that was trademark to Jade at this point fell on Natalia. Among the entire thing, she had been quiet. She came to understand the Italian girl’s reason for being here more and more. A conversation yesterday that led to Jade finding her first step forward in forever. So what could she be thinking? What was on her mind?

“I’m sorry.” Jade finally mouthed after minutes of silence, leaning forward somewhat, reaching for one of the pieces of toast and buttered it with aimless motions. She didn’t realize it until she looked down and the one piece of bread had about a fourth of a stick of butter on it. She chuckled and then felt her throat tighten up. “I’m really sorry.. To both of you. I let my mouth go too far earlier. I assumed the wrong things. Pops wasn’t ready, Key wasn’t ready.” Jade wasn’t as ready as she thought…

She kept her eyes down, feeling them start to water and she smiled at her own pathetic state. “I don’t have any right to assume what they are ready for. How could I when I shut them out for a month because I wasn’t ready to face my own demons?”

Mitena watched the blonde silently for a moment. A lot had just happened and she really wasn’t fully sure what to make of it. Everything for them was still very raw, very fresh and very real. Tena herself didn’t exist in the scope of their vision twenty-four hours ago but there she was, the lost sister of their Charlie. She didn’t know what she was expecting from the group but she certainly wasn’t expecting this. It was obvious that all four of them had been completely and utterly shattered by her brother's darkest action and they were nowhere near recovered. Taking a deep breath, Tena reached out her hand across the table and placed it on Jade’s wrist.

“I don’t think any of us are ever truly ready. How can we be when we don’t know what the turn in the next corner holds?” She spoke softly but with assuredness behind her words. “You have nothing to be sorry for. Thank you for being honest with me and showing me a piece of your heart. It was very brave of you.” Mitena leaned back, aware of Jade’s space and hoping that she hadn't encroached upon it. She was always a tactile person and the last thing she wanted was to upset the blonde even further. “The others will find me whenever they want. My door will always be open to you all. You were his family, so that makes you mine.”

Feeling Tena’s hand touch her slender wrist, even though her eyes were watery as the blonde couldn’t hide the fact that her mind had just gone to a dark place, she met the same gaze that she remembered Charlie had in him before his light slowly faded. She hadn’t doubted it since before all hell broke loose, Jade knew she was without a doubt Charlie’s sister. It wasn’t just her eyes or that familiar skin tone or the dark locks. Charlie had a way about him. It was hidden under a bunch of insecurities and uncertainty, but his heart was always there. Jade heard and saw that in Mitena.

Taking a moment for herself to wipe away the tears that had formed, Jade half-laughed. “I’m not sure how brave it is,” she half-murmured. “But thank you, Tena.” She picked up that piece of bread with all the butter on it and took a big bite out of it. Her mind still felt heavy with so much of..everything, but she needed to eat something. Swallowing part of it, she once again looked at Natalia. She wanted to say something but the look in the former supreme’s eyes was very telling. Physically she was here, but Jade suspected her mind was elsewhere.

Tena watched the blonde's gaze fall upon her lover who had remained silent throughout the entire breakfast scene. Natalia had brought the native girl such joy and warm feeling in their brief whisper together and part of that was because Mitena felt like she had known the Italian girl her whole life despite only meeting the night before. That was thanks to Charlie and his words. In her brother's manuscript and letters he described her as a sensitive and thoughtful girl, carrying a weight beyond her means. Tena knew why Tal was lost in her own feelings, she knew that her Stargirl held a very important chapter of this book in her heart. Yet she also knew that the words in Natalia’s soul were hers and hers alone to share when and if she was ever ready.

Mitena drifted her hand behind the Italian girl, slipping her fingers beneath the pale beauty’s shirt and allowing them to softly dance upon her skin. Her mind wandered and she wondered what her brother might say to his heart pieces in a moment such as this. "May the stars carry your sadness away. May the flowers fill your heart with beauty. May hope forever wipe away your tears. And, above all, may silence make you strong.” Tena quoted as she thought perhaps Charlie would have. “Chief Dan George of Tsleil-Waututh Nation.” A bright smile crossed her round face and a small chuckle escaped her throat and lips. “I’m such a dork.”

Although her glassy eyes were locked on the table, Natalia could feel the eyes of both women around the table fixated on her. As much as she wanted to be comforted by Mitena’s touch and the heartfelt, beautiful words she had used in an attempt to soothe her soul, she felt the same old guilt and intrusive thoughts starting to weigh heavily on her shoulders once again. Did she even deserve to be here? Sure, she and Charlie had been fairly close for at least two years before his passing. But that was nothing compared to the life-long ties he had from growing up alongside Mordechai, Poppy and Jade. She had known him as the thoughtful, caring, perceptive Serpent with a dark humor, a love for books and a penchant for words; who carried the crushing weight of his family’s misfortune and the disdain of the town he called home on his shoulders. The others had known him as something beyond that: the person he was before calamity struck his life again again.

Sitting at this table-- surrounded by three of the people who knew Charlie best and listening to them voice so many personal questions or experiences while contributing nothing-- made the Belmonte girl uncomfortable. Witnessing their heartbreaking reactions made it even worse. By the time Tena was praising Jade for her bravery in opening up her heart, the panicked Natalia was desperately seeking a way out of being the next one expected to bare her soul.

“Maybe we can, um, change the subject or something…” she tentatively suggested, hoping the two women were just as emotionally exhausted with the scene that had just transpired as she was and would take her up on her offer.

Over the course of the time at the picnic table, Tena had been noting all of her new lover's looks and gazes. Every subtle movement of her hands and body. She wasn’t just uncomfortable; there was so much more to it and now she knew. Tena could read Tal’s face like it was an open book. It seemed obvious now. Beyond letters and novels and words on a piece of paper. The look in those starry eyes told Mitena everything she needed to know about Natalia and her brother, about how she felt and why she had been dancing precariously on the edge of a precipice ever since his name had come up. Natalia Belmonte, the other girl in the story, had been in love with Charlie Decker, the monster at the end of the book.

Tena could feel, through Natalia’s skin, a shift in her spirit. Throughout the evening, as their words danced around a feeling, through the night as their bodies merged into one, the tribal girl felt her Stargirl’s warmth radiate like a dying supernova into her very heart. Yet there in the cold light of day, where truths lay uncovered by the shade of night, Tal’s spirit had become bashful, quiet and afraid. She didn’t want to be there anymore and it all had to do with Charlie. This brother of hers, this phantom pain, he was long buried but it seemed that the anguish he caused had seeped into the very ground, into the very soil beneath their feet.

What’s the plan, Charlie Jay? What’s next in your story?

“Sure.” Mitena, despite the weight she carried in her own heart, wanted to be able to support Natalia, to support Jade and Mordechai and Poppy. The strength they had was used to get them here, now it was time for her to use her own to help them. “Sure.” She repeated before drying her eyes with the base of her thumb. At that moment, Tena realized how the end of this conversation would come. She realized that when it was all over, they would all go home together and she would be left alone with a wound in her soul reopened. The spirit would test her on this day. “So!” She masked her voice with a wave of joy. “What’s next? You want me to take you to the corral so you can check out and maybe ride some horses? You wanna hike the Pronghorn trail? Or maybe you wanna go to the casino or longhouse and get your early morning fucked up on?”

Natalia pursed her lips together, choosing not to respond right away as she felt another stab of guilt at Mitena's wounded response to her suggestion. Although they barely knew each other and she was actively trying to hide it, she could tell that changing the subject was not something that Tena wanted to do. And it’s not like she could blame her, either. If her brother had done what Charlie had and she was presented with the opportunity to get insight and answers straight from those who knew him best, you could bet that Tal would go to any lengths necessary to get the information she wanted. If anything, she admired Tena’s tact and patience on how she was approaching this whole thing, because she wouldn't have handled the situation with half of the grace Mitena had.

Her sympathy towards the other woman, however, didn't sway Natalia’s resistance to sharing that side of her life story. Talking about her mother’s illness, her goals, aspirations and other thought-provoking topics was one thing. Telling your new lover that the reason your paths came together in the first place was all because of a tangled mess of unaddressed romantic feelings between you and her deceased brother? That wasn’t something that needed to be addressed anytime soon… If at all.

But Tena deserved answers. She deserved to have that glimpse at her late brother's life. Even if Tal didn't disclose everything, she could at least offer her some comfort by telling her the same thing she'd told Jade the day before… On a different day, when she was ready.

“I'm sorry. I… I wasn't trying to be inconsiderate or an asshole when I asked to change the subject,” the Belmonte girl apologized to both women, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear and uncomfortably looking away. "It's just… Talking about Charlie isn't something I like to do. Actually, talking about any kind of feelings isn't exactly something I'm a fan of, if I'm honest.” She blurted the explanation with an awkward chuckle, momentarily shifting her eyes to Jade and then back to Mitena. They could thank the influence of Tiziano Belmonte for that one. "But if you really want me to, maybe one day I could share some of the memories I have with him-- when I’m ready." She softly told the brunette, reaching out to wipe the girl's eyes with her thumb before using it to gently caress her cheek.

There it was again; that feeling, striking at Tena’s heart like a bolt of lightning sent down from the heavens by the Thunderbird itself. She leaned her warm face into Natalia’s palm and placed her own hand atop her Stargirl’s. This offcomer girl had stolen into her life like a thief in the dead of night and had cracked the safe that kept a hold of Mitena’s heart. She could tell just how uncomfortable all of this was making Tal and the raven-haired Indian girl didn’t want to keep poking the bear out of a deep fear of upsetting her. Yet her curiosity had not fully been satiated, not even close.

She didn’t want to be curious but there was so much left unsaid. There were so many unfinished songs in her book. The tribe had done much to raise Tena following her mothers death from cancer and as progressive as some members of the community were, there were still those that clung to the old ways. Both Mitena’s father and her long-lost brother were Craven. They were the unspoken dead that dare not be uttered even in whispers. There was so much of the songstress' past that was a mystery to her, and these strangers from another land might just hold the key to that box of secrets. The problem, it seemed, was that opening that box caused nothing but pain for everyone involved, and it seemed that that pain may not be something manageable.

“I would love to know everything.” Tena began as she cupped Natalia’s hand. “But I don’t want to bring you, any of you, any pain or suffering. More so than I already have. You got to have Charlie in your life, whatever that meant to you, and that is yours to share if and when you want. I’ve been waiting for my big brother for twenty years, I can wait a little longer.”

Looking between the two dark-haired women, Jade knew that somewhere in the glances she caught going between each other that there was an obvious deep connection between them. It was profound, and rivaled one that she herself was starting to find with Anya, her Pancake. It felt like it was something personal. Something that, if anyone knew (not like they were being subtle about it), it would be uncomfortable and awkward to talk about anything with them. Jade understood what that meant. When you found that person that connected you to the world, everything was different. Your outlook on the world was different.

The golden-haired Angel Princess backed her chair out a bit, and stood up. She knew this would alarm the both of them in some manner and Jade immediately put up a hand. “Don’t worry. I think I’m going to take a walk around.” She smiled at both of them, but centered her gaze on Natalia. She didn’t say anything, but it was a mutually-understanding, empathetic expression that should tell her everything she needed to know. “Maybe I’ll steal your suggestion and go to the casino for a bit.” Jade laughed, shooting Tena a wink.

Mitena smiled. She liked Jade. It seemed, at least to her, that behind the rough leather exterior and mad bad attitude, there was a heart made of gold; just like Charlie had said. She reminded the native siren of her bandmate Ryan. “Tell them I sent you and they’ll give you some credits on the house.” She reached out and took a hold of Jade’s hand and with a genuine smile, Tena mused. “Just don’t win too much or they’ll bury you in the desert with the rest of the white folk. Things do come to the Rez to get lost after all.”

Natalia could decipher without words what the very empathetic Jade was trying to convey. She understood the bond she and Mitena shared. There was no judgment of any kind coming from her. She was offering to give them their space. For that, the Italian girl was grateful yet guilty at the same time. She hadn’t wanted her actions to make Jade uncomfortable to the point of wanting to leave the room.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to make you feel weird.” Natalia apologized in earnest, thinking about how she’d said 'sorry' more in the last two days than she ever had in all her life. She knew it was the right thing to do and say, but it didn't make her any less fond of admitting potential fault.

Tena let go of Jade’s hand and then placed her own back onto her lap, ringing her fingers together as she did. “I think this whole thing has been weird. I don’t think that’s your fault, Tal. I mean, look at this situation. Feels like some angsty teen drama.” She tried to laugh. Maybe some levity would be enough to turn the page and continue the story. “We should pitch this to a network.”

Even with the heaviness from the topic of Charlie Decker still thickly hanging in the air, Natalia couldn’t help but snort at Mitena’s comment. If any movie producer or script writer became aware of the tragic history of Edenridge, there was no doubt in Tal’s mind that they’d become billionaires in no time. “With the amount of shit that’s happened in Edenridge in the past, the present and probably the future, they’d have enough source material to last for as many seasons as Supernatural did,” she joked with a chuckle, turning to Jade again. “Isn’t that right, Jade?”

Jade felt obligated to let this sudden burst of laughter that came deep from her gut that it made her entire upper body hurt, Jade did so with a smile wider than any that had come before it. God, why was she laughing so hard at that? “God if we’re comparing it to SPN, then we better not have some pandering ending with whoever our Dean and Castiel equivalents are.That shit made me so irate that I’m still refusing to acknowledge it as the true ending.” In that moment, Jade just let a small bit about one of her guiltiest guilty pleasures slip, yet she wasn’t hiding from it because why would she?. “Fuck, guess I just outed myself, but I can’t help it. Sam and Dean-- woof woof! And don’t even get me started on season 3 Ruby.” Katie Cassidy did a far better job than Genevieve Padalecki ever did and that was a fact. “But with all of the tragic crap that happens to our town, I’m willing to bet there would be enough for spinoffs and prequels. Even special episodes about what life would be like if the town wasn’t cursed. Now that would be a sight to see.”

Tena struggled to contain her laughter. This was her hope. Even if she learned nothing more about Charlie, seeing the smiles on the faces of Jade and her Stargirl was enough to fill her heart. She always remembered her mother cracking jokes and making people smile. She used to say laughter worked just as well as any medicine. Tena believed that was all a con for when her Mom was jabbing some poor kid with a needle at the clinic and was trying to keep them happy as she did. Now, the songstress wasn’t so sure. Now, she wondered, if laughter really was the best medicine to heal a heart?

“Just make sure when you sell the rights that a really hot indigenous girl gets cast to play me. Even if I’m only a guest star.”

Jade laughed again, blue-green eyes going from Tena, to Natalia, then back to the Native girl. “I’m sure that won’t be a problem. I have it on good authority you’ll make main cast member status by next season. Maybe even in the last couple of episodes.”

"Are you kidding me?” Natalia playfully raised her eyebrows at Jade, a smile dancing around the corners of her lips before turning to Mitena. “The casting agents will take one look at her pretty little face and those gorgeous brown eyes, and they'll send the rest of us packing." She commented with a genuine laugh, winking at Tena before tilting her chin up and momentarily pressing her lips to hers.

Encouraged by the way her lovely features lit up brighter than the sun outside, the Belmonte girl took the hand closest to her of Mitena’s and carried on with her words, her guarded demeanor softening up. "I know it might not seem that way, but I promise that you haven't upset me, caused me pain or suffering with anything you've said or done so far. Any feelings of that sort that I may be feeling are not your fault. All you've done since we met is treat me amazing, made me feel welcome and like I can trust you with anything-- I don't do that with just anyone. Just because I'm not ready to talk about things doesn't mean that I want to take it all back and forget about you. Shit, the whole reason I came to Blue Hill in the first place was because I wanted to get to know you. And now that we met, you couldn’t pay me to ever want to forget about you-- ever. That much I can promise you.”

Mitena had to fight back the tears again. Natalia’s words were filling her up, warming her body with a feeling of want. The kiss she stole from her lips sent a current of electricity to her spirit. She didn’t want Tal to go. She wanted her to stay at Blue Hill, be with her. Raising her head, glassy-eyed, Tena drifted her gaze between the two women as she held tightly onto the Italian’s hand. In appearance, the two girls couldn’t be more different. But in spirit and soul, it seemed they shared more than even they realized-- all of the outsiders did. Charlie tethered them in ways that Tena did not yet fully understand but hopefully in time, she would. Whenever the quartet decided it was time to go home, to a land that Tena’s ancestors once called theirs, she prayed to the Spirit that it wouldn’t be the last time she saw them. There was still so much of the story she hadn’t read yet.

“Thank you.” Mitena whispered as she wiped her eyes with her free hand. “Thank you all for coming and giving me this chance to glimpse into his world, your world.”

"Thank you for letting us give it to you, sweetheart.”

The subject of her brother needed to pass, for now. It seemed that Charlie hung over them like both a ray of sunlight and a cloud of darkness simultaneously. It seemed that the two wolves of his soul now walked amongst his heart pieces, waiting to be fed. Perhaps it was best to starve them for just a little longer?

Inhaling sharply, Tena let a wide smile across her face, allowing her natural beauty to penetrate the sadness. “So!” She began. “I don’t know when you guys have to get back but you should totally try and do a few things before you go.” Her eyes sailed towards the house in the direction where Mordechai had run and where Auntie Adora was likely listening in to their entire conversation. “Jade, maybe you might wanna take Mordechai to see the wildflowers? They’re just down the way. My Auntie Jenny used to say that they had healing powers. Just breathe them in, you know?”

It wasn’t that long ago that any form of PDA made Jade’s stomach turn like she was going to throw up, but in the same way that she could see Natalia had changed in just the span of one day spent at this majestic and mysterious reservation, Jade’s own views have been changed about watching others be happy and not be ashamed of it. Mitena was to Natalia how Pancake was to Jade. With the thought of her own, Jade could only smile.

And at the mention of the wildflowers, that smile turned into a small laugh. “I swear you must be psychic or something, because we are actually going there today.” The blonde briefly remembered the subject of the wildflowers and how she wanted to go there not just to have quality time spent with Key, but to help him and herself through this self-discovery journey she found herself in the middle of.

“I’m not psychic. I’ve just got some good medicine in the bank.” Mitena returned her full attention to Natalia and her face softened. “And what about you, Stargirl? What am I gonna do with you?”

Natalia's face broke into an actual smile, green eyes sparkling with a hint of mischief. "Oh, I don't know. I mean, I'm sure we can come up with something to do…" she replied to Mitena, keeping her tone casual so as not to make Jade uncomfortable again but discreetly squeezing the hand of Tena's that she was holding to convey the double meaning of her words to her new lover.

Tena returned Natalia’s mischievous smile with one of her own as she traced the back of Tal’s hand with her fingertip, slowly making her way up her befreckled arm. She briefly looked at the table where sat a bunch of untouched food. She’d have to apologize to Resi when she saw him next. Her cousin didn’t have a lot going for him outside of his food truck and she had specifically asked for a feast for the morning and her new friends. Forrest being Forrest, he gave her everything for free. Mitena couldn’t say she wasn’t famished but the look in her Stargirl’s eyes was making her hungry for something else.

“Look over there.” Mitena pointed to the open fields and dirt roads that led down to the Reservation. She looked at Jade and then back to Tal, sliding her hand around the alabaster-skinned form of her lover and planting a soft kiss behind the girl's ear as she stared out across the pasture. “This is my world. It’s yours too now, if you want it, both of you, all of you. You’ll always be welcome here.”

The indigenous singer’s doe eyes drifted to the window, to a spot behind Natalia’s head. Sitting perched on a tree branch was a solitary raven. To most, they would simply assume that the creature was scavenging for food and the large feast was an appealing sight to it. Tena locked eyes with the avian, staring into his dark eyes with her own. In her culture, the raven symbolizes creation, transformation, knowledge, prestige as well as the complexity of nature and the subtlety of truth. He is a symbol of the unknown, of the different ways one can see the world. The raven was the keeper of secrets, the truth sought for hidden in the feathers of his wings.

For a brief moment, Tena wondered if that Raven was Charlie; watching over the pieces of his heart as they searched for his secrets; as they searched for his truth.

TIMESTAMP — Tuesday, July 20th, 2021 - Morning || After The Afterglow
FTMikhial Zima, John O’Hara & Mary-Anne O’Hara



The air was heavy with a crippling anticipation that Mika could feel in his bones and in his soul. Between narrowly escaping many of the residents on Scott Street, who no doubt heard his truck leave the cul-de-sac portion of the gated community. If he wasn’t the talk of the neighborhood, then he’d be a little disappointed, but whatever the case, he went home to his apartment. As much as he would have loved to catch a few extra hours of sleep, that’d have to wait for later in the day. Because there was something else he had to take care of. Something that, among everything that happened in just the past 24 hours alone, seemed small but it was everything but.

Mika made a beeline for his mother’s apartment. After yesterday and after the tense meeting with Coach, something happened that neither Mika nor Mary were ready for when he told her what was happening. Since then, both had been mentally preparing themselves for what was happening shortly. Since yesterday she had been preparing the perfect breakfast. Mary-Anne couldn’t leave her apartment, but she could have Mika pick up some things.

And that’s what he did. Everything that she had told him to get. Mika had to go to a few places yesterday and again this morning. Most of the ingredients he could find at the Darling Farm and others he had to go into Boston to find. Eventually, he found everything and while Mika had been dealing with everything he was yesterday, especially with Cece, Danny, and then Anya, MAry was hard at work. Slaving over everything to make sure it was perfect.

Mika had been in his mother’s apartment for an hour now, the smell of everything from the beans, which had been baking in the oven since he arrived, the sausage and black pudding, which wasn’t something Mika was an exceptional fan of but it was a taste of simpler times and this was what that was all about.

As he sat on the couch, sounds from the kitchen, Mika felt his phone go off. He answered it. “Yeah?” It was one of the Fallen Angel prospects who were on guard duty at the entrance of Lost Souls. They told him that his guest was there. “Alright, I’ll be there in a few.”

Standing up, Mika looked over at his mother. “Be back in a few, mom. He’s here.”

“Okie Doke!” She replied with a cheerful tone.

Mika knew what that meant. Outside she was all smiles and optimism overload, but inside, she was almost boiling over with anxiety. Like mother like son, huh?

In a matter of minutes, Mika had made it to ground level, and as he walked towards the entrance, there he saw him, standing in the entrance, two Angels keeping him at bay. This was the moment that yesterday’s game settled. Mika couldn’t tell if Coach was as nervous as he was or if Mika was hoping he was so it wouldn’t be as painfully awkward. He had no idea of knowing how this would go only that it was happening and there was no turning back now. “You’re early, Coach. But you never did like to make anyone wait.” Mika laughed, giving the two young Angels a nod as they stepped aside, letting John O’Hara through.

“Well like my Daddy used to say, it’s always better to be early than late.” Coach passes the biker goons to reach his former player, student….nephew. There was a lot to unpack there and hopefully that particular bag would be empty by the end of the following meeting. Lord knew that John O’Hara didn’t need any more stress right now.

Fear was something that the Coach had tried to force out of his life at every turn. As a young boy, John O’Hara was fearless, brazen even. Then he spent a summer at Camp Eden and everything changed. The noose around his neck, the scar of which was still visible was a constant reminder of fear. The letters flying around town, painting his David’s name with a new brush, that caused fear. When he stretched every morning and felt the wound on his stomach from Charlie Decker’s shotgun burn like hell, that instilled fear. John hearing Jamie weep for hours every night? Yeah that brought fear into his life too. The pair of big bastards trying to stop him from meeting the sister that left him behind? That was easy.

John had opted for a civilian attire on this bright morning, a rarity for the Celtic coach. He lived and breathed for that team but today wasn’t about that, today was about being an O’Hara: so a t-shirt and jeans would suffice instead of a team branded windbreaker and khakis. With his hands on his hips. John looked up at the building that stood before him, the Lost Souls. “You know I remember when this place was just a field of grass? I hope there’s an elevator in here because my legs ain’t what they used to be.” It was pure banter as everyone knew that Coach O’Hara’s fitness regime was insane for a man of his age. “Lead the way, kiddo.”

Mika let out an involuntary chuckle at Coach’s elevator comment. The trek inside Lost Souls felt like a short one. Uncle and nephew spent most of it talking. Talking about Mary. About the state of basketball and what chances the Celtics had this season, but when they ran out of things to talk about, when they were halfway up to the top floor, silence claimed them. It became apparent to Mika and somewhere in his mind, he wondered if the same had became the same for Coach…Uncle John, that when the high of their mutual love for the sport faded, there was still an intense awkwardness that lingered int he air and had been left there since the shooting. Everything between that and David, Mika felt the knot in his stomach increase.

And when they got to his mother’s apartment, Mika stopped in front of the door. He didn’t knock and only hesitated because…well he didn’t know what to call it. It wasn’t dread, but rather a deep apprehension for his mother. But he knew he had to swallow it. Well here goes nothing.

Knock knock! Knock knock!

As the door opened, the weight on Mika’s shoulders at that moment intensified. Mary answered with a smile, wearing an outfit that almost mirrored Coach’s: a T shirt that was green in color and dark blue jeans. She had her hair tied up in a somewhat loose single ponytail. As she smiled at both her big brother and son, she swallowed the high emotion in her heart.“John…” There was a tenseness in Mary-Anne’s voice, like she was forcing herself to speak lest her voice betray her. She wanted to say so much right now. So many things consumed her mind that it was crippling her ability to think straight. “I..Please come in.” She stepped to the side, doing the only thing she could stomach right now and that was to invite her brother inside her apartment.

“Mary.” John didn’t really know what to say as he entered the apartment at his sister's request. He looked upon her, aged but barely, she looked so much like their mother, a look that David and Jamie had both inherited with their combination of pale skin, thick lips and dark hair. John liked to think he had a good memory and one of his most cherished was the day that his mother and father brought home Mary Anne. She had the same hair as their father but she carried the hazel eyes of their mother. When he first held her, Mary Anne cried and cried and cried until he took her out into the garden in Scott Street. Gazing upon his younger sister, John couldn’t help but see his youngest child. The way they carried themselves, it was a mirror reflecting time. “You look well. Beautiful as always.”

It was a lot. Having her big brother - her protector - here. It was surreal because for so many years, before she came back to Edenridge (against her husband..ex-husband’s advice) she had dreamed of this moment. She entertained the moment they’d be able to stand opposite of each other. Be face to face again. Mary never imagined the first time after decades of not seeing her big brother would be on one of the worst days to curse her hometown. For nearly two years after that moment, Mary had almost lost hope of having a redo of that.

At least, that was until Mika came to her yesterday, telling her she would get exactly that. A redo. A second chance to build a new bridge to the one person who she felt she disappointed the most.

Smiling at him, she couldn’t control the waterfall that started to rain down her porcelain cheeks. She took a moment for herself, taking deep breaths like she had been practicing, and found herself in the middle of a half-laugh, half-wheezing fit. Emotions were so high already. “And you haven’t changed a bit.” She took another moment to look at her son. He stood beside John. At that moment, she swore she couldn’t tell them apart. Mika had his father’s eyes, of course, but she swore she was looking at her brother and the younger version of her brother with lighter hair and blue eyes. That alone was able to quell the pain of regret in her heart and fill it with a respite. “Well, I guess except for the lack of your favorite jersey.” Mary laughed again, memories of their childhood coming to the forefront of her mind. Remembering her big brother’s fondness for jerseys.

John was doing his best out of respect for Mika to try and work through his frustrations silently. He didn’t want the conversation to devolve into an argument and the doctors were already worried about his blood pressure. Now that she was there, standing before him, the Coach still felt a level of disdain and sadness gazing upon his younger sister. She had abandoned the family, the family that had given her everything her girl could desire and chose danger and a life unbecoming of a girl from Scott Street. He wanted to be open about it, he wanted to just support her in her decisions but John struggled to find that within himself that thought Mary rubbing off with Ivan was a good idea.

“I’m not allowed to wear it out of the house anymore, Lizzy says it makes me look like an old man trying to relive his youth.” All he could do was answer questions honestly and try to maintain a rational train of thought. He did promise that he would try, for Mika. “Smells amazing in here, full English just like dad used to make.” John commented. The patriarch of the clan O’Hara was a hard but fair man. Like John, Mary, David and Jamie, he was born, raised and died in that old house on Scott Street. He knew the pressures of the name, of their status and did what he could to equip his children with the tools to manage what it meant to be an O’Hara in Edenridge.

John took off his cap and stuffed it into the back of his pants pocket before looking around the obviously well lived-in apartment. Mary had obviously been in town for a while, hidden away from the world and the coach could only assume that was due in part to her wretch of a husband. Reaching out, Coach put his hands on Mika’s shoulder with a firm but comforting grip. “You okay son?”

The easy answer would to just say no, but for all he knew that could ruin what felt like a moment of peace between his mother and Coach. She seemed optimistic, as Mary-Anne O’Hara always had been. She liked to see the brighter side of things. At least, whenever Mika was around, she never seemed sad until the situation became so dire that she couldn’t fake it anymore. Mika looked at Coach, giving the older man a small nod. “Just tired. It’s been a long couple of days and I’ve barely had a chance to catch a proper night’s sleep.” He truly felt exhausted in more ways than just sleep. Mentally done because of…everything that he’s had to tackle in just the past twenty-four hours.

Mary looked between the two. She knew her Mika and knew there was something he wasn’t saying. Showing concern on her face, she turned her attention to her brother. “Ah yes, well when Mika told me yesterday that..well this was happening, I wanted to make it special…” Mary was trying so desperately to not fall into those old habits of hers. She wasn’t so removed from reality to acknowledge the truth of the matter and that was between her and John, there was a lot to unpack. She knew she had to choose her words carefully and tread with care so she didn’t bring up a wound that was not ready to be healed. “I hope I made the beans just like daddy used to make them. It’s been a long time since I attempted it.”

“You can’t really go wrong with beans, Mary-Anne. You stick them in a pan for a few minutes…” Coach stopped himself, realizing the sharpness of his words. He was trying to hold off on his anger and really push forward, for Mika. There had been such space between him and his sister, such a black hole of gravity that even looking at her now, despite her looking the same as she always had, John struggled to see his baby sibling. “Sorry.” The Coach placed his hands upon his hips and glanced over at his nephew again. He needed to keep in his heart why he was doing this in the first place. Lizette had been oh so supporting of this endeavor and Jamie, well he just didn’t know. She seemed happy for John to rekindle his relationship with god sister but something in her eyes, the same eyes she shared with Mary-Anne, something was off. “You know he’s a good boy, hard headed but a good boy.”

“Like someone else I know.” She smiled sweetly at her big brother. It was true, Mika and Johnny were essentially the same. She didn’t know everything that went on in her son’s life. He tried to tell her as much as he could, that much she knew, but he was his own man with his own life. Plus it was safer for her, or at least that’s what she told herself. She understood that certain dangers would come her way if she didn’t keep to this apartment. Mika, her baby, was carrying such a load of that alone and his father. Both of the men in this apartment carried such weights and both seemed to keep it bottled up to a point.

Mary-Anne stepped towards the kitchen, giving the finishing touches to the assortment of food. The silence had caught the air around them and it was about a minute before Mary-Anne opted to do something about it. “Mika!” She turned around, facing her son. It took him a few seconds to look her way, so clear that Johnny was right about something being off. “You want to help set up the table?” She asked him, looking at Johnny’s way too. “Maybe you can help him? It’s almost done.”

He exchanged a glance with his uncle. Not sure what really to say at this moment. Exhaustion aside, Mika had been stuck in his head for a few minutes now. As he tried not to think about it, being here with Coach and his mother, he couldn’t help but think about when he had gone to New York just a couple of years ago. The first time since he was sent away, he saw his father and had a meal with him. Maybe it was the weight of everything that happened yesterday, but as Mika walked silently over to the cupboards to the left of the oven, he grabbed three plates, three knives (worn out as they were, they did their job), and three forks. Right over a bit more to the left was a small table. It wasn't much but it was something. Three chairs because usually it was Mika, but when Boa came around last month sometime, Mika bought another chair.

“Sorry it’s not much. I’ve been meaning to buy her a new table, so it seemed more like a home.” He said in a low but audible tone to Coach as he handed him a plate.

“We can’t all be born on Scott Street, Mika” It was a loaded sentence. John hated seeing his sister living in a place like this though he was aware of the fact it was her choice. He was under no illusion of his own wealth either and had tried his hardest not to be the type of man that flaunted it. The house high in the hill in Scott Street where he raised his children, where he lives now, it was the same house his father lived in, the same one his grandfather lived in. And it was most definitely the same one Mary-Anne grew up in. Despite the modern decor of most, Scott Street was one of the oldest territories in Edenridge and its homes built specifically for Foundlings, though few remained in their ancestral estate in the present day.

John helped Mika set the table and although he was enjoying himself, if that was the right word, there was still palpable tension in the air. Mary had abandoned them all. Chosen a life that twisted her into knots, put the family at risk and now here she was, crawling back and hoping that everything could go back to the way it was more than twenty years ago? The big brother in him wanted to let the past lie dead. The father in him wanted to tell her to turn the other way and not look back. He already lost one child and the other was an Angel dancing precariously on a pinhead.

“It’s never about money kiddo, no matter how much you have. Home is where you leave your heart.”

Coach gave Mika a lot to digest, but even as he thought about it himself, he thought about his mother. No matter how dark things were, she never forgot where her home was. Mika was too young to understand when she would talk about her hometown, but now he understood exactly what she was telling him. He glanced at Coach, almost giving his uncle a small smile. “Maybe you’re right, Coach…Uncle John. Maybe that’s why she couldn’t stay away any longer. It’s like you said, no amount of wealth could strip away where home was.”

Mika was looking at his mother now, who was making the final touches to the pots and pans that had the array of food on them, getting them ready to serve. One day, Mika hoped they could all sit around a table with all of them: Aunt Liz, Jamie, his mother, his sisters…Maybe a lot to ask for, given the state of his life and the ever present danger of The Devil lurking on every corner, but it was something Mika yearned for desperately.

Like he was on queue or she was psychic, Mary-Anne clapped her hands in a rather loud way, grinning so much that she was hoping they didn’t see the level of exhaustion on her face. “It’s finally done!” In a way, that was a weight lifted off of her shoulders. She spent an entire day making sure everything was perfect and as she glanced at it all, the eggs, the sausages, black pudding, beans, and toast -- it brought her back to home. Growing up as the youngest O’Hara, sometimes in the shadow that Johnny cast, so many complicated feelings were tied to her memories of her younger years but what balanced everything (and more importantly made this moment possible) were the days spent around the table, eating good food that their father made and perfected and being happy and thankful by just being surrounded by family.

It wasn’t perfect yet. It wasn’t even close to being like it was then. Mary-Anne had no illusion that it ever would be, but this was the first step in making that possible. Maybe next time her girls could meet their uncle. Maybe even they could be out in her hometown without any worry of being in danger.

John took his seat at the table, opposite his sister and next to his nephew. Things were changing. As he looked upon the family he thought forgotten, the Coach couldn’t help but think of the family he still had. His mind drifted to his children; his son, God his son, every rain drop that fell the previous day during the storm could not fill the space left in his heart that belonged to David. Jamie, his dearest Jamie; named for his and Mary-Anne’s father James. She was so gentle, so fragile, so filled with a desperate need to love and be loved. He could see the sparkle in Mika’s eyes; the hope that the O’Hara’s could be whole again. John knew that could never be true.

But breakfast was a start.

𝓫 𝓮 𝓪 𝓬 𝓱 𝓼 𝓲 𝓭 𝓮 𝓽 𝓱 𝓮 𝓻 𝓪 𝓹 𝔂
𝓫 𝓮 𝓪 𝓬 𝓱 𝓼 𝓲 𝓭 𝓮 𝓽 𝓱 𝓮 𝓻 𝓪 𝓹 𝔂

𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗺𝗽 — Late night
𝐥𝐨𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 — Beach - Near Poseidon's Waterfront home
𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬: Poseidon @metanoia || Phobos @Danvers
𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 — Athena || Hades || Zeus

Compared to the morning and afternoon that the God of the Sea had, the rest of the day proved to be an unfortunate series of events. It was after he returned home from spending a few hours with his old friend, Jormaangandr did Poseidon return home. It was then he received a personal visit from his niece, Athena. Not an unusual visit. Even in the days pre-fall, Poseidon never did have anything against his niece nor she against him. At most, they were at a neutral position and at least, mutual respect was between them. It was through that mutual respect when she told him.

His brothers children, Zagreus and Macaria, were dead. Slain by a weapon. She didn’t elaborate and Poseidon did not inquire further. He was not part of the team on the case, so it was not his place to ask for further details. Regardless, it was the fact that his brother had lost two children. His brother and his wife, Persephone, whom Poseidon felt pain for when Hades took her as his wife. Not pain for her but pain for her mother. This all grew more and more complicated for the God of the Sea because he had not been on the best of terms with Hades in a very long time. Long before Olympus. They both seemed to be screwed out of what was rightfully theirs: the head of the table, as it were. To be King of Atlantis.

But that was a long time ago. Poseidon, near the end of what he didn’t know was their last days of divinity, Poseidon grew weary of Olympus. Those last “days” were more like decades and decades spent in the ocean.

Much like it was now. Poseidon was back at the beach near his house. It was night, so completely opposite of what his day started out, yet as he gazed upon the moonlit sky that reflected off of the water, he had to wonder: should he reach out to Hades? In all of the time that passed between them, Poseidon regretted never reaching out sooner.

As he pulled out his phone, oddly he had his brother’s number. He kept his thoughtful gaze on the contact info. Just as he was about to hit the green phone, Poseidon heard a sound. A man grunting and falling forward about five paces to his right. The smell of expensive alcohol filled his senses and a shaggy mess of dark locks that Poseidon could see thanks to the glorious light of the moon. “Hey, are you okay--” As Poseidon approached, thinking the man was a stranger, he wanted to help, but realizing who it was stopped him in his tracks momentarily.

“Phobos? Is that you?” In that moment, Poseidon still did what he originally planned on but with the knowledge that it was his great-nephew, he handled it with care. He didn’t touch the son of war, but he’d still kneel next to him. As the God of the Sea was on one knee, he simply asked, “Is everything okay? How can I help?”

Phobos looked up at the sound of a soft voice, his eyebrows furrowing as he tried to figure out if there were really two of the well-dressed man. He came to the conclusion that there probably was not. "You're not grandfather." He let out a low humorless laugh before stumbling to his feet, intent on continuing his slow progress towards the gently lapping waves. Even through the haze of intoxication, which was impressive as it took gods large quantities of alcohol to get more than a little tipsy, he could feel the uncontrolled fear radiating away from him. It had been for this reason that he was on the beach alone, any mortal who had even come close struck by a deep seated feeling of uncertainty and panic. No, humans did not sit well with fear, they never had.

"Grandfather…" He slurred as he continued walking, talking seemingly to no-one at all. "I have some bad news. Your grandson Eros is an asshole." He shook his head, curls falling in his face though he did not seem to notice. "Though who are we kidding…I'm an asshole too." Phobos smirked at this admission. "Maybe Deimos had the right idea all along. We should never have left the battlefield, that's where we belonged and taking us away, well…" The god paused, perhaps lost in thought or perhaps he had lost his thought.

The God of the Sea could only look on as Phobos rambled on. Did he even know that it was Poseidon here? It didn’t seem like it, but Poseidon didn’t want to startle him. Whether it was Zeus he saw or Poseidon, what the sea God would do is just be there for his grandnephew in whatever way he could. “I’m sure that’s not true. You are not an asshole, Phobos.” Poseidon frowned, feeling as helpless as he’s been for most of his existence. Right now he could help Phobos, but he didn’t know how to. Yet. “Why don’t you walk me through what happened? What did Eros do?” He asked of the son of war. He hadn’t touched his grandnephew in any form of support. That might spook him.

"Eros?” The epitome of fear frowned, momentarily having forgotten he'd even been talking of the god of love. "Oh, him." A muscle in his jaw tensed at the returned thought of his brother. It was lucky for them both that he had taken himself away from Acropolis, yet the thought was sobering. Not sobering enough but still. Turning, he clamped his hands tightly atop Poseidon's shoulders, barely aware of how firm his grip was. "Tell me fine sir…" He paused for a moment, trying and failing to ease off on the fear. "What would you do if your brother was an interfering, pompous, egomaniacal excuse for a god?"

For a brief moment, the old Poseidon surfaced as he chuckled. It had been a long time since he had allowed himself to think of his brother Zeus as such. As much as he was certain Zeus may have possibly changed, a leopard cannot change its spots. A snake can shed its skin but it still slithers. And Zeus may profess to the heavens he used to command that he was different and better, but he would still be the self-righteous clown that threw fits and stuck his…lightning bolt into anything that moved.

“I know the type all too well.” Poseidon spoke with a corrected, level headedness as he suddenly felt his stomach toss and turn, like he had suddenly come under an unexplainable uneasiness. He looked at Phobos, trying to understand what was happening. His Grandnephew was the embodiment of fear. So this was his doing. But why? What was eating away at him so much?

Wincing but powering through it, Poseidon kept his gaze on Phobos. “I admit, I am not my old self. I have not been that person in so long, so I can’t tell you what he would have done. But, if such a person makes you feel so…agitated, distance yourself from that person. You may become labeled a coward, but to be near such a person would only further your ire, Phobos.” As he spoke, he could feel the uneasiness starting to quell, so that allowed him to think clearer and he couldn’t help but think about Zeus more. It wasn’t in a negative light per se. Poseidon could see Zeus wasn’t a total jackass. He was just… “My own brother is a plague on our kind, but I do love him despite all of his many…many faults. It’s hard to deal with someone like that when you are currently under the negative effects of their doing. Putting space between you and him is the best thing to allow a clear head to prevail.” Poseidon was drawing from his own experiences and how he handled Zeus. It was the best way he knew how to deal with the Almighty Asshole of Olympus, so perhaps Phobos could take it to heart.

Phobos listened to the advice, eyes glassy and unseeing, before offering a nonchalant shrug. "You're so silly. I'm not concerned about myself." He slung an arm around Poseidon's shoulders, drawing him closer as if he were about to impart some great and valuable secret. As if they had shared such back and forths many times before. They had not. "I'm worried about Mel..." He muttered softly, looking around for a moment, seemingly satisfied that the goddess was not going to just rise unbidden out of the sea. "She's moved into Acropolis y'know." A smirk crossed his face though he did not really find the situation funny and he stumbled for a moment, his purchase on Poseidon the only thing stopping him from falling.

Poseidon sat firm, being the pillar of support that Phobos so desperately needed right now. He must admit, though, hearing that Melinoe moved into Acropolis, the hilariously named party pad for Apollo and Hercules-led mansion, was partly amusing, given Melinoe was a child of Hades. A few times, Poseidon had attended his nephew’s party just to check it out. Poseidon himself often felt like he was still youthful at spirit. He could easily find his calling with those rambunctious younger Gods, but the fact was he preferred the tranquility of his waterfront home and the SS Atlantis. “Are you worried she won’t be well looked after by them?” The God of the Sea asked his grandnephew. “I know those at Acropolis are…of a different breed - at least, by my more relaxed measurements. But Hercules is not his father…for the most part. He is a good person with an even more admirable heart.” Poseidon spoke with confidence that Melinoe should be safe with the Acropolis residents. Apollo was at least more level-headed than Hercules sometimes, so perhaps he could ring in Hercules should he get too wild.

Phobos grunted in reply, having been momentarily distracted by searching through his coat pockets. Finally, he pulled out a small flask. "She doesn't need anyone to look after her…" He muttered sullenly, he could feel the edge of the alcohol wearing off and he didn't like it. "I…" He paused before taking a long swig, seemingly content in the knowledge that he was not going to imminently sober up. A couple had been wandering towards the beach from the road hand in hand, but as soon as they set foot on the sand a look of panic flashed across their faces and they quickly turned around. Phobos saw enough to glare after them before turning back to his companion. "I don't know." He finally admitted, unwilling or unable to admit how he really felt. "Whiskey?" The god added as an afterthought, holding the flask out towards Poseidon.

He nodded at his grandnephew, taking the flask in silent acceptance. While he was never a fan of whiskey because it was too harsh for his tastes. He much preferred the sweeter sensation of a spiced rum, but when in Seattle, you take what you can get. As he took a deep swig of it, he murmured as he swallowed. Surprised and pleasantly so, it was not so harsh. His nephew was certainly worse for wear, but his choice of whiskey was a good one. It went down smooth. Of course, there was still that aftertaste that burned worse than Hephaestus’ forge - but he did not mind it.

Actually, Poseidon took another, smaller swig of it before he handed it back to Fear. “You have a superb taste in whiskey, Phobos.” Poseidon felt the need to acknowledge that particular elephant in the room before he went for the slightly larger one. His eyes fell on the sea, feeling something stirring in it though without direct contact, he could not tell for certain. And it was clear Phobos’ effect on him remained. “I wish I could ease your pain. The most I can do is assure you that Melinoe, for everything I feel she might need at this time, perhaps you are right and she does not need someone to look after her, but having someone there for you even if you don’t think you need them is a comforting thought.” He turned to face Fear, placing a comforting hand on the nearest shoulder. “Hercules, Apollo, and all of those who live in Acropolis interchangeably will do for Melinoe what I promise to do for you. Phobos, my door is always open.” The God of the Sea spoke with as much sincerity in his voice as he could muster. “I am not Anubis, so I may not be able to help you in ways he can, but no matter what, my doors will always be open. All you need to do is follow the waves.” His gaze on his nephew was stern as he did not want Fear to assume it was for naught.

There it was again - a sense of something stirring in the sea, but Poseidon could not understand why it was calling to him now, of all times.

Poseidon's words were not familiar ones to the god. His own father had been intense and brutal on the battlefield, and this had not stopped after the fall. He expected more than Phobos was willing or Deimos was able to give. And in that moment, the earth-shaker showed him such kindness that Ares never had. His eyebrows furrowed, wanting to throw the words back at him but finally admitting defeat, let out a small sigh. "Thank you though I--" Phobos paused mid-thought, his gaze traveling to where the waves lapped against the sand. Rolling torrents of water flowed unceaselessly forward, nothing unusual...but something felt off.

His blue eyes narrowed, adrenaline coursing through his body and pulling his attention to the now. He would have moved forward to investigate if a sudden form had not begun to rise from the water. Tall and slight, but with well worked muscles, it came stepping onto the beach, a head of curly dark brown hair shaking back and forth akin to a dog after an unwelcome bath. Water droplets sprayed everywhere and it let out a loud laugh.

"Dude, that wave carried me so far out! Though I lost another board...Brad?" Triton paused to look around the empty beach, it slowly dawning on him that the beach was empty and Brad was nowhere to be seen. The former merman pouted, "Oh man, it happened again..." Had he really ended up swimming for so long? It had been so fun though. What a bummer.

TIMESTAMP — Flashback (December of 2019)
A few days after Badger, Boa, Bambi & A Baby


It hadn’t even been a full week since Mika was last in New York. The last time he was here, he had come of his own volition. He had sought out Boa because of the months that went by since he had seen his brother and occasional fuck buddy (not so much anymore). He spent the night with him, Bambs, and little Viva. They lit the menorah in Danny’s honor and Mika had dinner with them, caught up on lost time, and spent the first night since before the shooting with his brother and in a state of temporary bliss.

But ever since that day, ever since he came back out here, there was a black cloud lingering over Honey Badger. This black cloud was cast before he left Brooklyn. It reached out to him.

Timestamp - Just hours leaving Boa and Bambi’s apartment - Brighton Beach

The day even before Mika had found where Boa had been staying since he left in August, Mika had received a text. The text was from Sergei. Sergei was one of Ivan’s most trusted bodyguards. What he did for the family was pretty much what being Ivan’s direct bodyguard implied: he protected Ivan and Ivan’s interests. Mika didn’t know an extensive amount of what that bastard did nor did he care to know, but Sergei had been around him for as long as he could remember.

Dyadya Sergei. Uncle Sergei.

Mika’s memories of Sergei were, for the most part, pleasant. Despite being around the cancer that was Ivan Zima, Sergei never was aggressive or treated him or his mother or his sisters like Ivan often did. So that’s why Mika wasn’t against meeting with Sergei at a playground in Brighton Beach.

The playground itself was as Mika remembered. So vibrant and colorful, like the core memories that came up as Mika sat down on a bench, looking through nostalgia glasses. The rare times in his life when Mika wasn’t always angry, he was here with his mother and the twins.

“After all this time, it still hasn’t changed.” Mika’s voice was full of fondness as he turned his head. The blonde Russian man, who was so clearly many years his senior, sat as he always did: hunched forward, elbows resting on his thighs, and a stern expression on his face.

“You and Boris used to play over there all the time--” Sergei pointed his head at the jungle gym. “You’d climb to the top and Boris would follow. He always followed you, Mikhail.”

Mika chuckled. “And what did that get him? He fell and cracked a rib.”

Sergei laughed even harder. It came from deep within the older Russian man. “Boris is strong. Like his mother. He survived. No regrets. He never had any when he was with you.” Sergei laughed again. “He misses you. Denis too. They wish you didn’t move.”

And here it was. Mika should have expected it, but Sergei always liked to reel in with talk of family then came in with the guilt-tripping, but he didn’t mind it. Truth was, he missed them too. “You know your sons are clueless without me, right?”

Sergei laughed again, knowing what Mika said is a truth even he can't deny. “Denis is too chaotic for his own good. And Boris has no sense of leadership. You kept them in line. Especially after…”

Both men knew what that meant and chose not to speak any further. Speaking of Veronika was a wound neither men were willing to reopen at the moment.

Silence took hold of their conversation for a few moments, all of which during, neither men spoke a word. The stared off into the distance, looking at the playground. In Mika's mind, he had a theory about why his uncle asked him here. There would be only one reason why he'd go out of his way to ask him here and deep in his gut, in the part that filled him with a dormant apprehension, Mika knew but he wouldn't have peace of mind if he didn't ask. “So you texted me. Told me it was important.” Mika and Sergei exchanged a glance. “What does Ivan want? To tell me I shouldn’t be here?”

Sergei shook his head and kept his eyes on Mika. He observed him, scanning his face, making a low thoughtful sound when he saw what he wanted to find out. “You still angry. About him. About your upbringing.” Sergei looked forward again, but continued speaking, stern Russian eyes on his nephew. “Your father--”

Mika's face twitched, visibly furious at the mention of Ivan and the word father being used as a descriptor for the man. “Please, Uncle, don’t call him that. No father sends away his kids because of a scare. I know he still blames me for what happened--”

“He doesn’t.” Sergei looked at Mika as he spoke and the younger man laughed, shaking his head. “Dismiss it as much as you want, it the truth.”

Sergei, out of anyone, understood just how deep the hatred between father and son ran. Being around the Zima-Capek family for so many years, in service of both Ivan and Gustav, he understood how deep the hatred ran. Vladimir Capek, the father of both Gustav and Ivan, was a cruel, cruel man. An iron fist in both his rule of the Bratva and his family. Gustav was lucky and got out, but the firstborn son always had a choice to be in or out. The second-born didn't and he made Ivan into what he was from an early age and Ivan did the same to Viktor and Mikhail. Viktor was more equipped to take it and make the most of it.

Mikhail was different. Sensitive. Emotional. He didn’t have the darkness in his eyes. He had more in common with Gustav than he did his own father. He didn’t yearn for killing and violence. He was an angry boy, that much Sergei observed over the years, but he did not have the killer instinct most within the organization did. He's a good cub on the edge of becoming a strong bear.

“Mikhail, Ivan wants to see you. I know it brings you anger. Your fire grows wild and the winter in your heart for him is like an unpredictable blizzard on the coldest month in Siberia. It’s almost manic, but it has been three years. Your father does miss you. Mary left him three months ago. It’s been…a trying time for him.” Sergei knew he had to choose his words carefully. As he stood up, he kept his eyes on Mika. “Go or don’t go, it’s your choice. But…” He looked forward and a small frown crept its way onto the older man’s face. “Family is complicated. Father and son is especially complex. You still have a chance. Ivan is unforgiving like Moscow winter. And you are persistent like Russian warrior. You survived that harsh winter without proper protection. Do the same now and you might come to know something deeper about yourself.”

Was that true? Or was Sergei just trying to sell him to the idea that Ivan has changed? What a bunch of bull! He hasn’t changed. Ivan Zima was incapable of changing. No amount of time alone from his children, his wife, any of his closest loved ones that he sent away, would ever make what he did to him and his mother go away in the snap of a finger. Nothing Ivan could do or say would make Mika forgive, much less forget all the pain he was forced to endure because Ivan Zima couldn’t process that Mika wasn’t like him in the slightest. The abuse he suffered through, the lessons that resulted in him punching a kid’s light’s out - that was all Ivan’s doing.

But at the same time, Mika was here. His father wanted to see him and he wasn’t a scared fourteen-year-old anymore. He could stand up to the Big Bad Boogyman if he tried to come for his soul.


Sergei looked back at Mika, his brow raising at the young man with an intense curiosity.

“Tell him I’ll be there tomorrow. Perhaps for lunch, assuming he still knows how to make Perogies like before.”

Sergei laughed. “It’s the only thing he can cook without burning down the kitchen.”

The two men laughed. For as loyal and faithful to Ivan as Sergei was, the one thing Mika probably missed the most was seeing his Uncle Sergei. Laughing with him. Trading stories. When he was crying and his mother was in a screaming match with Ivan, or she was tending to the twins, Sergei was always the one person who managed to turn his frown upside down. So few people could do that nowadays. Even Cece, for as much as she has tried to get him to open up to her more, couldn’t do that. Not since the shooting. In a way, maybe this was what Mika needed.

There were moments during her explanation that Miki phased out into static. Not that she didn't hear everything that Missy was saying. She heard enough. Some local takes her on consistently and constantly gets squashed by her mighty Froslass. It was after that point she stopped caring about it. She'd never let the ice queen know it, of course, but the jealousy that oozed from her accomplishments was a sensitive issue for Miki. Cynthia was as tough as they came. Every time that Miki had left her post of the Elite Four, temporarily forsaking her spot to challenge, she'd easily get through her replacements and former co-workers, but Cynthia always topped her. It had been an infuriating experience every time.

Cynthia had done this for 7 years straight, though the last half of those years had been when Miki had made it into the Elite 4, climbing up the ranks. To the Sinnoh League record books, Miki Park, the Lava Queen, was Sinnoh's #2 trainer. Number two only.

Miki swallowed down her scathing rage at every comment that her rival made and chose to smugly grin it all away. "Of course I still have Blitz! It's true, he does not fit within my fire and dark-type specialization but he's been with me from the start. Ever since he hopped through my window as a Shinx." Miki had issues hiding her reminiscing emotions when she thought about that day way back when. Back then, she hadn't even started her journey, yet found her best friend. "And now he's arguably my strongest. Certainly has given you issues in the past, or do you not remember when your dearest Grant fell to his volt tackle during our last encounter?" Miki said with a proud and smug expression on her face.
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