I personally think it would be so fun if we Goncharov-ified Daisy Jones & The Six.
Like what do you mean you don't know them? Yes of course this was a wildly popular band in the 70s. How have you not heard the banger that was Honeycomb? Regret Me? Aurora? And their breakup DRAMA? How did you miss that?
Idol!MANKAI AU: Spring troupe
Hi everyone! @ary-se and I came up with an Idol!Mankai au, so here’s spring troupe! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did writing it!
PLACED UNDER THE CUT FOR LENGTH:
He was the one who started it all!
He was trying to get into the idol business for a while, but never really saw the opportunity until he found Mankai Agency
At first, he was really new to everything and wasn’t very confident, but over time, the fans really appreciate his development and growth as an idol!
He loves seeing his fans happy, so he posts a lot about how he stays happy with such a hectic job
He’s really scared during fan meet and greets and doesn’t like when the fans get super rabid,,,,
He ALWAYS takes the time to thank fans who show up to live events and meet and greets
He’s someone who usually helps out in daycares or pet shops
and sometimes people come up to him and go like "hey aren't you the one from..."
and he is like “Yes! Would you like an autograph??”
also he is an only child so taking care and having fun with children and animals makes him so happy
HE HOLDS TROUPE BONDING SESSIONS!!
even though he is the least experienced among them in terms of the industry, he is also a vital asset because without him putting in the effort to do movie nights and all that, the tension will still be high among the spring troupe members
MCs on the side for a bunch of variety shows because of his enthusiasm
Aloof but still very popular due to his bad boy image
He will 100% fall asleep in the middle of an interview
Unlike hisoka, masumi actually wakes up whenever his name is mentioned
One time, he just falls flat on his face during an interview and he realizes that Izumi is watching so he tries to act all smooth
“Masumi we all saw that”
After that, lots of rumors spread around his relationship with Izumi
His dancing is very low effort but still very good!
He only puts in effort when they actually record and live shows
There are 2 fan compilations that get a lot of attention: one of him sleeping during interviews, and one of him about to fall asleep during interviews
and the compilation of him almost falling asleep has MORE CONTENT
Fan: "Masumi isn't getting enough sleep!!" Entirety of mankai: "um no it's actually Tsuzuru but okay"
Official Mankai songwriter!!
he composes b/c he’s a music student
He gets a little sleep in this au
Izumi always helps him out ever since she realized Tsuzuru had a tendency to keep going with the lyrics until he is done
She and Sakyo are like: TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF DUMBASS, YOU’RE AN IDOL!!
Special orders the strongest coffee he can find
Tsuzuru is always the one who breaks the coffee machine
One day, Tsuzuru got a really bad writer’s block and he got so desperate that he resorted to Homare's poems
IMAGINE HOMARE SPOUTING NONSENSE IN THE LOUNGE and tsuzuru goes like WAIT HOLY SHIT THAT'S IT!!!!!
and when the songs are done tsuzuru just sings them and everybody goes like "....holy crap that sounds phenomenal but what in the world does that MEAN"
THE FANS GIVE THEIR OWN INTERPRETATIONS
their interpretations are so deep (ex: "letting go of your pain and everything that you're holding back to taste the feeling of freedom" and it actually only means homare taking a shit and it feels good)
After that, Homare’s poems are only used in the rap parts of their songs (b/c they’re bullcrap)
Tzusuru learns this the hard way
He was stumped on a song for an entire week b/c he needed a melody for Homare’s poem
So out of pure frustration he says it in an angry tone and it?? Sounds good?? :0
He doesn’t try to hide the fact that he games
He’s one of Mankai’s most popular idols because of his relatability
Banri and Itaru stream some of their gaming sessions
They manage to rack up over 100,000 views in the first 5 minutes of their streams
He streams solo as well, and he has a day where he just goes through games that fans have requested
Itaru can't swear during gaming sessions (it’s in his contract) so he uses very "creative" insults
One time Itaru slipped and swore accidentally
Unfortunately SAKYO SAW IT
AND HE BARGED INTO ITARU'S ROOM AND SLAPPED HIM
EVERYONE WAS LITERALLY WATCHING SAKYO WHACK THE HELL OUT OF ITARU
and after the whacking session itaru goes back to his livestream as if nothing happened
“sorry for that guys! we're back on track, as of this livestream, my videos will be child friendly"
LIKE FOR A WEEK OR TWO ITARU DEADASS RELEASED VIDEOS FOR BABIES TO SPITE SAKYO
SAKYO GETS MAD BUT ITARU TECHNICALLY HASN’T DONE ANYTHING WRONG
after some time itaru just went back to his normal live streams LOL
Because he stays up late to game, Azami HATES how he doesn’t take care of his skin and hair
There’s a week where Itaru actually has a bedtime because he refuses to take care of himself
He's a zahran idol, and through a merge between companies he's shifted into mankai
Because he isn’t the best at Japanese, he keeps adding really unexpected twists to songs
If he trips on a word he stops to laugh a little, even during a live performance
there is a fan compilation of his little laughs whenever he trips over his words
the OP of the video compilation: "total count as of now is.... 420"
CITRON 100% WATCHES HIS LAUGH CAMS
Citron loves researching places that the boys tour!
what if there'll be a time when spring troupe (except citron) is on a vid and around the end of the vid they'll be like "if y'all are wondering why Citron isn't here, he’s on a vacation in Hawaii!"
then they switch the camera to Citron on itaru's pc, going through a road in Hawaii LMAO
Citron makes mini Mankai members for everyone’s birthdays! Every year you notice that he’s improved significantly
A lot of the members hold on to them
Sakyo has his in a display case
He does the spicy foods challenge!!
It’s funny when he eats something that looks like the most red food on earth and he just stares at the fucking camera with no emotion as he eats
He just goes like "so this is it??? Why the hype over this?? Are y’all weak???"
He would 100% stare at the camera during dance videos and vlogs
Extremely unsettling, but the fans go crazy over it
He’s a very talented dancer, but Chikage is slimy so he doesn't help with the choreography unless they are actually in trouble
He has a modeling job on the side, has worn Yuki’s designs to shoots
Gets a lot of hype surrounding Yuki’s clothing!!
Fans always try to find him due to meet and greets but he constantly slips away because people aren’t really his thing
Calm Waters (Part 3)
Part 2: x
Summary: Now that Grayson knows the truth, all he wants is to set you free. When you resist, he settles for giving you the teenage life you deserve to experience. However, Ethan is not sure if that works for him.
Warning: Mentions of abuse, and captivity, but balanced with a lot of fluff
Grayson’s eyes widened. There were so many things to process. The night before he arrived to confront you about the whole...”mermaid” thing, he wondered what would happen if he was completely wrong. Your humor was pretty close to his, but even you would find this a little wacko. He imagined back-tracking his statements and coming up with some lie about it being a prank or a challenge that everyone was doing. You didn’t have social media, so you couldn’t reasonably doubt him.
Despite it being the outcome where he was actually right Grayson wasn’t mentally prepared for this result. He supposed in his fantasy, he thought you react throwing your arms around him like he was your knight in shining armor, begging him to save you. Instead, there you sat, calmly as though he was telling you about his morning coffee before politely telling him to mind his own business.
“What? No!” Grayson argued, his voice getting loud and angry.
“Shh, the dolphins.” You shushed him and Grayson through his hands up in frustration.
“Forget the dolphins, Rory!” Grayson yelled. “This is about YOU! You can’t really want me to just sit by and let this happen to you.”
Grayson pointed at your tank, his face hard and angry as he stared at you. “This is inhumane, for you and THEM.” He pointed at the dolphins tank when he said, ‘them’. “I’m can’t work here knowing they are keeping a teenage girl locked a freaking tank.”
“Then quit.” You said, your voice coming out stronger than you expected. “You can do that, Grayson. You can walk away from all of this.”
“It’s not that simple...” Grayson said, shaking his head. “I...”
“You what?” You challenged him. “You love me? Don’t make me laugh. You don’t even know me.”
You rubbed your temple and sighed. “Like I get it. I saved you from a near death experience and I have pretty skin and look like a mythical creature..., so it seems like the stars aligned or whatever, but you still don’t know me! You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into...”
You were surprised at the bitterness of your own voice. It didn’t reflect how you really felt. You were happy that Grayson saw the truth and that he wanted to save you. You imagined for years that someone would see your broken heart and get you out of this hell. You realized you were pushing him away because you were scared of what could happen to him. While his nativity was adorable and charming, it was going to lead him into harm’s way when combined with your situation. This was probably the exact fear your mother had when she met your father and, not to be a Negative Nancy, but look where that ended up.
You slowly stood up and looked down at him. This is what you needed to do, push him away. If he hated you all the better. At least he would be safe.
“Don’t you get it?” You asked him, shaking your head. “Pete is not just one person. There are thousands and millions of Petes around the world who would not hesitate to put me in a lab, chop me up into pieces, or strap my dead body to their boat. This is a battle, not the war, Grayson. At least here, I know my enemies... So, thank you, but no thank you.”
If you were honest, Grayson looked very scary when he was angry. With his jaw set and his eyes wide, it made you want to take back everything you said. At the same time, you could tell he was controlling himself. He wasn’t going to yell and sure as hell wasn’t going to strike you. Years of being tossed around and beaten has taught you how to spy an evil person from a mile away, and Grayson Dolan was not that person.
“Aurora...” He said, softly. He rested his hands on his knees as he steadied his breathing. “You’re right, I didn’t get it. Sure, I maybe the type of guy who falls for the first pretty girl he sees, but I’m also the kind of person who can judge someone’s character. I really do like you. I want to get to know and I want you to be apart of my life. To be honest, even if I didn’t like you, I would still want you out of here. No one deserves this.”
Grayson stared at the tank. From the roof, you could only see the top, and it looked like the two on either side of it. It made his blood boil. He could see Pete’s face, with his thick mustache and large, almost a little too straight teeth. Grayson thought he was a nice guy, but now he sees that he’s a monster.
Grayson looked up at you. You will still standing in front of him, your hands balled into fists.
“If busting you out isn’t an option...what else can I do?” Grayson asked. “Anything that I can do to make a little less hell for you, I want to do it.”
Your eyes softened and slowly crouched back down to meet Grayson’s eyes level. You glanced down as you thought about a compromise. You smiled softly and said,
“Well, now that you know my secret...I wouldn’t mind getting vegan food.”
Grayson’s eyes widened. “Wait....are you saying you want to sneak out?”
“Just for the night!” You said, quickly, not wanting him to misunderstand. “Someone checks the tank right at closing to make sure I’m in, but no one comes until morning at the earliest. I would have to come in my uniform soaking wet, but it could work.”
Grayson knew that this compromise wasn’t easy for you. Although you were smiling at him as you spoke, he saw your hand trembling on top of your knee. He placed his hand on top of yours.
“Then I’ll make sure you get a vegan burger so good that it makes it all worth it.” Grayson smiled.
You grinned as you stood up, giving him a hand to help him stand as well. “Come on, my shift is about to start.”
“Alright, let me wake Ethan.” Grayson said, walking over to his twin. “Hey E! Come meet, Aurora!”
Ethan pretended to be asleep as Grayson shook him awake violently. In reality, Ethan had heard everything. Grayson may be okay with you just escaping for a night, but Ethan knew you needed more. He wasn’t going to stop at getting you out, he was going to close Pete’s Ocean Land for good.
Grayson was itching to get home all day. He needed to plan for his date. If he and Ethan’s research was correct, it had been a long time since you had been outside, let alone, on a proper date. Unlike most dates where he had to focus on what he was going to wear and what you were going to do, he had to also consider where you could go that wouldn’t make you run into Pete or anyone from work. Additionally, he couldn’t expect you to go on a date in your soaking wet uniform. As far as he was concerned, you were human and he knew you had pride in yourself. Sure, it had been smothered into almost nothing by your sadistic uncle, but Grayson knew it was still there.
He ran into the house and straight up the stairs to his older sister’s room. They were only two years apart in age, and Grayson was almost as close to her as he was Ethan. Cameron was home from college for a couple weeks and was connecting with a few friends from high school. She was always the friend that people came to for advice and so, he knew she was the right person for this job. He knock-opened her door to see his sister Cameron on the phone with one of her friends as she sat on her bed.
Without even as much as a hello, Grayson immediately went into his request. “Cam, I have a date in like two hours and I need to get her an outfit!”
Cameron’s soft, light brown eyes narrowed. She swiped a dirty blonde strand of hair from her eyes as she muttered into her phone, “Let me call you back.”
She turned to her brother. “What on Earth? When did you become a sugar daddy?”
Grayson let out a half-chuckle. “I’m not!” He insisted. “She’s just going through a rough time and I know she’s just going to come straight from work. She doesn’t have a lot of stuff...but I want her to feel special today.”
“Well, if she doesn’t have a lot, then let me at least give her a makeover.” Cameron bit her lip. Like her brothers, she also had a soft spot for people in need. “No sense getting her dolled up if she’s all sweaty from work.”
“Cam, you’re the best!!” Grayson insisted. “Uh do I need to get anything...”
“We’ll get to all of that later,” Cameron patted the spot next to her on the bed. “First, tell me about her.”
Grayson smile as he sat down next to his sister and gushed about the girl who was stealing his heart.
Your head slowly emerged from the water through the little crack. You hadn’t attempted this since you and Grayson “met.” Your hands dragged itself across the concrete, the bumpiness scratching your palms. You pulled yourself until you were out of the water, the task much more difficult when you had a smaller space to maneuver.
You paused as you looked at the view. You never realized how clearly you could see the stars from where you stood. Your heart swelled from being overwhelmed. It was strange how something you took for granted when you were young could be so moving to you now. You stood there for a moment, watching the tail lights of the cars as the drove along the highway. You gazed at the houses, zoning in on the ones with their lights on. You wondered if anyone else was also preparing for their first date.
Without the sun, you didn’t know the time. All you knew was that you had to move quickly. Grayson was going to meet you at the back door of the performance arena. Apparently, this was how most people snuck in and out during the night. It didn’t work so well in the morning because of a nosy neighbor who would snitch to Pete about trespassers, so you would need the cover of night to return back to your cell.
You did your best to move quickly, but you also couldn’t really see. You fumbled, trying to dry yourself as best as you could while slipping on your uniform. You decided to skip the cap, and just shake your hair out. You wish you could see yourself, but you reminded yourself that you didn’t look much different than you usually did. Part of you was disappointed that you couldn’t get dolled up. At the same time, this was your first time out of the park in five years. You couldn’t get yourself down on the little things.
As you walked past the dolphin tank to sneak down the steps, your chest tightened. While the other aquatic creatures lulled themselves to sleep, you had the chance to roam freely. You realized you could never leave Pete’s if it meant also leaving them behind. You shook the thought from your mind. You were coming back. You were allowed to have a little fun.
You ran to the gate and gripped the black bars tightly. Your squinted to see, realizing that it was easier “to see” in the dark when you were surrounded by water. Large warm hands wrapping on yours almost made you yelp, until you saw Grayson’s kind, hazel eyes.
“Hey you...” Grayson whispered, making your heart pound.
His voice was so deep and inviting. You had to run through the list of reasons in your mind why you weren’t running away with him at this very moment.
“Hey...” You whispered back.
“Come...” Grayson gestured for you to follow him to a gap in the fence.
You scoffed internally. The gap in your tank, the gap in the fence, the lax security guards...for someone keeping an illegal creature in his park, Pete sure was poor with his security. As you were crawling through the space, that’s when it hit you. Of course. No one would suspect that dumb Pete that gets the wool pulled over his eyes by a bunch of neighborhood kids could be hiding something. If anything the only person who could expose Pete was you, but he had beaten the fear into you so deeply that despite having this knowledge, you would never exercise it. It was the ultimate and one of the oldest forms of control.
Feeling Grayson’s arms wrap around you tightly pulled you from your thoughts and to the present. You took in his scent, which was slightly different today. He smelled like a dessert baked with brown sugar and vanilla. You could tell he was wearing a button down shirt and dress slacks from the buttons pressing into your chest and the smoothness of the material brushing against your bare legs.
“Sorry,” You pulled away. “I don’t want to get you all wet.”
“It’s alright,” Grayson beamed, taking your hand and pulling back toward him. “I have a surprise for that. Come on.”
You and Grayson held hands, ducking low to stay in the shadows of buildings and trees until you got to Grayson’s car two blocks away. Everything looked so new to you, yet familiar at the same time. Cars had changed since you last roamed around and there were a lot less satellites on roofs from when you were a kid. However, most things like manicured lawns, the bluish white light from tv screens flashing from windows, and the sounds of dogs barking at pedestrians walking by transported you back to a “before time” that almost felt like a dream.
As you squeezed Grayson’s hand, you realized this was the dream. Your fingers interlaced with a handsome boy as you ran down the street. The wind was rustling through your now only semi wet hair, and you felt so free.
“You look beautiful when you smile...” Grayson said, looking back at you.
Your eyebrows went up in surprise as you let out a little giggle. You didn’t even realize you were smiling.
Grayson led you to his car which was a black sedan, that to Grayson clearly looked secondhand, but to you looked like a pretty nice car. He opened the door of the passenger side to escort you in before jogging over to the driver’s door. He leaned over to put on your seat belt, but you shook your head.
“I remember this much.” You grinned as you pulled the seat belt and buckled yourself in.
“Sorry,” Grayson murmured embarrassed, as he put on his own seat belt and started the car. “I guess I’m a little protective of you.”
“You don’t have to...” You reminded him.
“I want to.” He retorted with a smile. “First stop, my place so you can meet my sister.”
At those words, Grayson pulled off. Your eyes widened and you turned to him in shock.
“How many people did you tell about me, Grayson?” You asked.
“Relax...” Grayson comforted, glancing at you before turning back to the road. “I didn’t tell her anything. She may think you’re homeless though. So, sorry about that.”
“Surprisingly, that’s actually better than the truth.” You said, slumping your shoulders. “What sister would want her brother to date someone that doesn’t even have clothes?”
“A sister that judges someone on their character and not their possessions.” Grayson suggested.
Grayson could see your sad expression from the corner of his eye. He reached out to tap your hand gently. Grayson hummed for a moment before explaining.
“Our parents have done a lot to make me, Cam and E happy. But, there were times we knew it was a lot of smoke and mirrors to make us look like the perfect family. My sister worked hard to get a full ride to college in order to pursue her dreams. Currently E and I working to get enough money to move to LA.”
Grayson smiled and squeezed your hand. “We’re not the kind of people to judge someone based on their circumstances, only what they have chosen to do with the resources provided to them.”
“You’re going to LA?” You asked, your mind shifting focus.
“That’s the plan.” Grayson said, with a shrug. “I’d change it for you, but I’d much rather you came with us.”
You frowned. “You can’t change your plans for me. You don’t even---”
“I know, I know. I don’t even know you” Grayson laughed, lacing his fingers between yours. He imitated you with a high pitch voice before switching to his normal voice to continue. “I don’t know you, but that’s going to change tonight. I want to learn every little thing about you.”
You smiled softly and squeezed his hand. Running away with Grayson to LA sounded magical. You wanted to pretend to entertain the idea, even if it was just for tonight.
The car stopped in front of a quaint, white house with two floors and maybe an attic. There was a two car garage, with a car parked outside. The porch had a few chairs and you could tell behind the house was a sizable back yard. It reminded you a bit of your childhood home.
“Welcome!” Grayson said, turning off the engine.
Grayson got out the car and once again came to the passenger side to help you out. You had already opened the door, but he insisted on taking your hand to help you stand. He held your hand to the door where he rang the bell.
You could hear footsteps thundering toward the door before it swung open. A young woman around your height with long dirty blonde hair, tanned skin and Grayson’s hazel eyes opened the door. She was wearing a tank top and pajama shorts, and somehow she made it look chic. You suddenly felt silly in your wrinkled, ill-fitting uniform.
“You must be Aurora.” She said, with a smile. “I’m Cameron.”
“Hi--” Before you could get a word in, she grabbed you by the wrist and pulled you from Grayson.
“Don’t come upstairs!” Cameron warned Grayson, before dragging you to her bedroom on the second floor.
Grayson chuckled softly and sat on the couch. He pulled out his phone and texted Ethan.
Where are you?
While Grayson spent the afternoon planning for his date with you, Ethan had other plans. After his shift at the bike shop, Ethan made a detour before going home. About three miles south of the bike shop was a tiny office for a local television network.. Ethan was going to see a friend of his, one of the network’s producer named Ryan Abe. Despite being closer to Travis’ age than Ethan’s, Ethan and Ryan had developed a friendship over the years. They often biked together and Ethan would pitch ideas to Ryan. Today, Ethan had an idea different from any other idea he had in the past.
“Ryan!” Ethan said, hopping off his bike and walking to the door. Ryan opened the door with a bright smile. While Ethan was used to see Ryan in tank tops, today he was wearing a white polo since he was the office. He put on loose fitting khaki pants to complete the look combining his casual style with his business persona. His blonde hair was styled and sleeked to the side, a sure sign that today was a rare day where Ryan was on camera.
“Hey, Ethan, come on in!” Ryan waved him in. Ethan lifted his bike and pulled it into the office. While it was setup for all five of the reporters and the two producers of the local television show, Ryan was the only one actually in there the whole time. Ethan left his bike up front and walked past the empty cubicles to Ryan’s corner office. He sat down on the chair in front of Ryan’s desk and let the cool air conditioned air chill the sweat on his face.
“What brings you here, man?” Ryan asked, sitting in his office chair, typing away on his computer. Ryan was a pretty good multitasker and it made Ethan feel better but coming over during Ryan’s working hours.
“I have an idea....but it’s a little crazy.” Ethan said, leaning forward slightly.
Ryan sighed. “For the last time, I am not going to produce a show on you and Grayson talking about being vegan.” Ryan rolled his eyes. “No one is going to watch you guys pull pranks on each other, talk about not eating dairy, and brag about working out for hours a day. It’s not quality content.”
“I disagree,” Ethan said, mildly annoyed that Ryan decided to take the opportunity to roast his last four television show ideas. “But, that’s not what I’m here for. I want to do an expose piece on Pete’s Ocean Land.”
“Wait, what?” Ryan asked, stuttering out a laugh. “Pete’s Ocean Land is like the Teletubbies...a little weird and creepy when you get older, but still the core of your childhood. Anyone trying to take down Pete would have to come with some hard evidence.”
“I don’t have anything yet.” Ethan bit his lip softly.
Ethan was lying for your sake. He couldn’t just offer you up as evidence that Pete was doing something wrong. Firstly, using you, even in the plot to save you, was no better than what Pete probably did to you on a daily basis. Secondly, based on your conversation with Grayson, you would not be willing to talk to a television station about your treatment as that would just broadcast your story to the entire world. Thirdly, if this resulted in you getting hurt, Ethan was sure Grayson would never truly forgive him.
“However, Gray has been working there and said he noticed something strange.” Ethan narrowed his eyes a bit for emphasis. “There’s this tank where they closed off the exhibit so you can’t get in it from down below, but you often see Pete himself staring at it from the roof. Only a handful of employees are allowed on the roof and only at certain times. The idea is that the tank is empty, but why on Earth would he just stare at it.”
Ryan tapped his chin. “I mean, Pete was a beach bum when he was younger. Wouldn’t be surprised if he’s taken in too much sun, crashed into too many waves or got hit with one too many coconuts and now just gazes at an empty tank.”
Ethan panicked inwardly. What details could he provide that would make this all seem interesting enough that Ryan would want to pursue it?
“Sure, okay.” Ethan agreed. “But let’s say my hunch is correct and it’s not an empty tank, but something that Pete shouldn’t have in captivity. Wouldn’t he show it off at some point?”
Ryan’s eyebrows went up in surprise. “Like to scientists or other enthusiasts?”
“Yeah...exactly!” Ethan said,a little too thrilled. He dialed back his enthusiasm. “Chances are there has to be someone or some people who know what’s in that tank, and he’s probably always looking for more.”
Ryan spun in his chair as he massaged his chin. “Hm, like some kind of underground show and tell.”
“Exactly!” Ethan agreed. “I’m getting pretty good at this research thing, and I’m pretty sure I can connect with people who would know if something fishy is going on.”
“I’m interested.” Ryan admitted. “Despite that very corny joke. Pull up a chair and sit down. I’ll give you three hours to make sell me on this.”
Ethan smiled brightly. This was a long shot, but he was hopeful.
Hanging with Ryan. Have fun on your date! ;)
Grayson smiled reading the text before continuing to fiddle with his phone. He was kind of hoping Ethan would get to see Aurora all dolled up. Hopefully, there were going to be plenty other opportunities to do that.
“You alright up there?” Grayson yelled from the couch.
He heard shuffling, and a murmur of a response, making him laugh. He was going to take that as a yes.
Meanwhile, upstairs, Cameron was tossing clothes on the bed and talking a mile a minute.
“I wasn’t sure what your size was so I didn’t want Grayson to go out and buy something.” Cameron explained. “I figure we look to be about the same size in most pieces and half of them are supposed to fit either extra fitted or oversized, so we can make something work.”
“You really don’t have to do this.” You argued for the fifth time.
You looked at yourself in her dresser mirror and you knew that was a lie. While water was good for your skin, chlorine wasn’t. Your skin looked dull, your red hair looked a bit more orange, and your uniform looked dingy. You couldn’t believe Grayson actually liked you.
“I want to.” Cameron said, making you look at her with surprise. She sounded just like Grayson. It seemed the Dolan siblings wanted to do a lot of things, especially things that put them out of their way.
Cameron handed you a pink sleeveless crop top and a pair of dark skinny jeans. On the bed, she laid out an off-white lace cardigan that would flow down to your ankles. For shoes, she gave you a choice of brown sandals that would go with your brown belt, or white sandals and the option to ditch the belt.
You turned around to change, and Cameron did the same so you were both back to back.
“You know,” Cameron said, her voice jumping a bit from nervousness. “I still don’t know much about you. Grayson, he was saying a whole bunch of stuff about you and I couldn’t catch a single word. But, he looked so happy. His eyes were sparkling. I never seen him like that before.”
You didn’t know what to say. Instead, you hopped up and down to pull on the jeans. They were obvious filled in to Cameron’s shape which was different to yours, but you were determined to make it work.
“You know...he’s kind of girl crazy.” Cameron laughed. “He had a crush on all of my friends at one point. However, he’s never talked about them the way he talks about you. I know he can be a bit clingy and overbearing, but give him a chance. He’s my baby brother and I just want him to be with someone that makes him happy.”
“Grayson is the nicest person I’ve ever met.” You blurted out turning around.
Cameron spun around as well. It was the loudest she heard you speak all night.
“He’s not only kind, but he’s funny and caring and understanding and the least judgmental person. He’s loyal and charming and smart in the most obscure and strangely specific things.”
You kept going and Cameron just stared at you with her eyebrows raised high. Without that baggy uniform, it was clear you had a gorgeous shape. Even with your hair frazzled beyond belief, it was clear that you were a beautiful girl that just needed some conditioner and a good skin care routine. But, what stunned Cameron the most was how you blossomed talking about Grayson. You were practically glowing as you spoke about him, and that made her adore you more. Now she got why Grayson was so determined to make this date special for you, because you were so different to every other girl he dated. You actually liked him for him. And as you continued to rattle of your favorite things about Grayson, she realized you were the first girl to not mention he was hot in her list of reasons for liking.
“...He is just the epitome of warmth. His personality, his hugs, his smile...it’s just so warm...” You continued.
Cameron put her hands on your shoulders. “Okay, that’s enough. Anymore compliments about my brother and I may just vom.” She laughed. “You’re perfect for each other.”
You blushed. “Sorry.” You bit your lip. “He’s the first person to see the real me.”
Cameron turned you toward her mirror and sat you down on the bed. Using on hand she started to gather your hair to make an updo. She smiled softly,
“Let’s help him see the real you on the outside too.” Cameron said.
You stood at the top of the stairs, your heart pounding. You pushed back on the makeup because you worried you wouldn’t be able to get it off when you went back in your cell. Now, you were reapplying the lipgloss that Cameron gifted you as a compromise.
“You look great.” Cameron whispered to you. Then in a loud voice she announced, “DUN DUN DUN...all rise for the beautiful, Aurora.”
She ran down the stairs to see Grayson standing up from the couch. She pushed him towards the stairs as you slowly walked down. You decided on the white sandals without a belt, once again thinking of how you would remove this outfit when you got back to the park. With your left hand on the banister and your right hand holding your uniform, you actually felt a bit like a princess.
Grayson’s jaw dropped as you walked down. It was amazing how much an outfit and a scrunchie could bring out the beauty in someone. When you finally reached the bottom of the stairs, Grayson stammered out his response.
“Pr-Be-St...” He couldn’t decide what he wanted to say. So, he said it all. “Pretty. Beautiful. Stunning. Wow, you look amazing, Rory.”
“You wear them better than I do.” Cameron smiled, folding her arms. “Keep ‘em.”
“No, Cameron...” You shook your head. “I could never.”
She put up a hand to stop me. “Call me Cam, and I insist!” She gave you a hug and you returned it tightly.
“And...” Cameron added. “I leave all the clothes I don’t wear much here in college. Feel free and ask this dork to bring you over some time to get some stuff. The style suits you.”
You were starting to tear up. How could one family be so nice to you? You looked at Grayson who was still staring at you in awe.
“Thank you, Cam.” You hugged her again and she laughed.
“Now, go! Go enjoy your date!” Cameron said, shooing you.
Grayson took your hand and led you outside, waving to Cameron. He glanced back to see both you and Cameron swiping tears from your eyes, both of you politely waiting until the other couldn’t see before showing your emotions.
Once again, Grayson open the door for you and waited until you were comfortable before going to his side. He started the car and took another look at you. There was nothing inherently different about how you looked. It was the fact that you looked like a regular girl that could have attended his high school that really wowed him. It made him angry that you were robbed of the normal life you deserved, but he was happy that he could give this to you, even for one night.
“So, first stop is Bart’s where they have the best...BEST vegan mexican food.” Grayson grinned, “Then, we are going to a special location.”
“Mysterious, huh?” You teased with a soft smile. “You better not be driving me across the border. I believe that would be kidnapping.”
“Can you kidnap someone who’s already kidnapped?” Grayson teased back.
“I’m pretty sure you can.” You laughed softly. You never thought you would be able to laugh at the fact that you were being held captive, but here you were chuckling about it. Grayson sure had a way of making any situation bearable.
At Bart’s, Grayson was greeted as a regular and he introduced you as his date. After a bit of banter with Bart himself, Grayson ordered a feast of fajita, enchiladas, burritos, nachos, and cake for dessert. With two large brown bags filled with food, you and Grayson packed the car and drove to your secret location.
You rolled down the window to feel the warm breeze on your face, closing your eyes. You could hear the soft music of Kid Cudi, an artist Grayson was introducing you to, playing the background. Your hand rested on top of Grayson’s and every now and then he would give your hand a little squeeze.
Your eyes shot open with the familiar smell of salt hit your nose. You could feel the hairs on your skin standing up and you looked at Grayson. He was smiling big and couldn’t stop glancing between you and the road ahead of him.
“No...” You whispered.
“Oh yeah, baby.” Grayson grinned even wider. “We’re having a picnic on the ocean.”
Grayson turned his car into the beach parking lot and parked near the entrance. You helped him gather your feast, resisting the desire to bounce on your toes with excitement. Your eyes were watering with happiness at the salt of the salt in the air and the sound of the waves crashing on the shore.
Grayson didn’t care to contain his enthusiasm. He started sprinting toward the ocean and you followed suit. You were both panting as you stopped on the sand to stare out at the water. The onyx-colored ocean was calm and seemed to endless when he met the deep plum colored sky. You could see the moon, bright and full, with the stars dusted it around it.
“Shall we eat?’ Grayson asked, already sitting down.
He had laid out a blanket and was using his backside to keep it from fluttering in the wind. He had also removed his shoes and was wiggling his toes in the sand. You smiled and removed your sandals, sighing at the cool sand sliding between your toes.
You sat down and Grayson scooted closer to you so your legs were touching. You two started to divide your feast, the sound of sustainable wrapping harmonizing with the ocean waves created a feeling of nostalgia for a new experience. The food in front of you was all food you remembered from your childhood, but it tasted like a dream. Grayson laughed as he handed you napkin to wipe your hands, even helping you to wipe sauce from your lips. He led the conversation as you murmured your responses with a full mouth.
“I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t still insane for me.” Grayson admitted, before crunching a nacho dipped in vegan cheese. “I mean, you’re like a mermaid right?”
“Not really....” You said, covering your mouth slightly. “I’m more like a frog than anything else.”
“A mermaid is definitely sexier.” Grayson said with a laugh.
“A frog is more accurate.” You argued with a grin. You reached for a chip and glanced at him. You dipped it in the cheese and then pointed the chip toward him.
“Am I dreaming?” Grayson asked, leaning in. “Getting fed by a real life mermaid...”
“Frog girl...” You corrected, putting in his between his lips.
“Don’t ruin it,” He said quickly before eating the chip.
You fed each other a few more chips, enjoying the comfortable silence developing between you. With full stomachs, you both laid back on the blanket and stared at the sky.
“I wish I could stay with you forever.” Grayson said, turning to look at you.
You didn’t say anything. Instead you just turned toward him and rubbed his cheek with your hand. You both stared at each other without saying a word. In one quick motion, Grayson leaned in and pressed his lips to yours.
Your heart was slamming against your chest as you leaned into the kiss. His lips were a little dry, but soft and strong as he massaged them into yours. You weren’t sure if you were kissing back, but you enjoyed the feeling of the kiss and did everything you could to intensify it. His hand rested at the small of your back, sending a little shock of pleasure up your spine. You sighed softly and Grayson seized the opportunity to nibble on your lower lip. You did the same with his upper lip and that began your game of follow the leader.
You could have been kissing for seconds or days, it was hard to tell. At some point, you broke apart at the sound of your empty containers getting crushed under your shared weight.
Grayson laughed and gave you a final peck before cleaning up. You helped, your face still red and hot from your makeout.
“That was nice...” Grayson said, not looking up from the trash.
“Very nice...” You said, also not looking at him.
“Yeah?” Grayson asked, and you didn’t need to look at him to know there was a smile on his face.
“Yeah.” You confirmed, smiling at the ground.
Grayson stood up and took he bags of garbage to the nearest trash can. You stood up as well and started to walk to the ocean. You craved to feel the water sliding between your toes, so you indulged yourself.
Tears stung your eyes the moment you felt wet sand. Found childhood memories of night swims with your mother flooded your mind. You continued walking until your ankles were immersed. You leaned down to roll up your pants legs, not wanting to get the precious clothes that Cameron gave you wet.
When you stood back up, strong arms wrapped around your waist. Grayson pressed soft kisses on your shoulder and your neck. You put more of your weight on him as your hands rested on top of his. You looked down to see his feet on either side of yours, the turquoise colored patches on your feet brightening and fading as your skin got wet and then dried over and over again.
“Thank you...” You whispered.
“Anything for you.” Grayson said, in a soft, deep voice.
In his arms, you felt the most safe you had felt in your entire life. As much as you wanted this to last forever, you knew it was coming to an end very soon. You just didn’t realize that what was waiting for you tomorrow was another visit from the “scientists” and a round of experiments.
A/N: This part was getting too long, but I think there is a nice balance of drama and fluff.
14. Exposing the Void Pt. 2
So, okay... This chapter kinda fucked me up and I rush edited because like... I just want to get past this whole thing. I think it’s important to note that outside of 10 episodes, the concepts we were given in I.T. would be drawn out a little longer and take more time to impact the characters and also for them to deal with and go through. So, as I warned previously, rough content ahead.
Word count 5331 Trigger warnings: Gas lighting,revenge porn, slut shaming, mental abuse,ableist terminology,violence
It couldn't really just be in her head, right? Had the opinions of strangers made her THAT far away from reality? Simon definitely “liked” every single comment where someone was being mean to her this morning… but by the time she asked him about it, none of the comments were liked. She knew she didn't imagine it. It happened for a few days before she flat out asked, "Are you fuckin' with me, Dude?"
"What do you mean?"
"With this liking the comments thing you've been doing, then undoing?" He stared at her like he was worried about her. "It's not funny. If you keep doing that, I'm gonna block you."
He furrowed his eyebrows and rolled his eyes, turning away from her. "Maybe you need to take a break from social media. It's getting to you."
It wasn't "getting to" her! HE was getting to her. Playing these games that she was unsure of why he wanted to mess with her like that. He knew she was sensitive about criticisms. To like the comments? Then unlike them later, so she felt crazy?? Wait… Grace… this is Simon. Why would he do that to you? Maybe you DO need to take a break from social media.
Her parents seemed as happy as she would expect about her wanting to go to college to get more pulp for her performance arts. They weren't easily excited, so their small approval was enough for her.
But… for whatever reason… Simon had talked to them about her issues with the Internet and after a long lecture about how they didn’t raise her to be weak and insecure, she was really at her wits end with Simon. She didn’t say it, but she was pretty irritated about it, to the point that she found herself snapping at him over things, then regretting it when he looked taken aback and hurt. Sometimes, she would see a flicker of anger and expect him to explode, so that they could finally just have their fight and be done with it… but he would always just turn off his reaction, which was probably something that he learned from her, but boy was it infuriating for her to go through.
If SHE fussed after he had diffused things, then she knew that she would be being a bitch. So, she simply choked down the anger and got over it after a little while. It’s just that those moments were frequent enough that it soon felt better to not even speak to Simon at all.
She signed up for talent shows and amateur night spots. She went on auditions for local productions. She threw herself into recitals and built her resume. She shut Simon out and focused on her skills for the future. Despite the fact that Simon was equally busy, she found that he managed to always be at her house whenever he wasn’t busy. They weren’t even kicking it as much. Usually, he was with her parents.
She would come home and chime, “I’m home!” And Simon would say, “Welcome home!” from another room. At first, she would go to greet him, give him a kiss, and speak to her parents, but closer to spring, she didn’t even announce whenever she got in. She came in, listened to see if she heard his voice in the house (usually did), and she would go to her room and start working on whatever music project she was into.
Followers were asking her for new content, but she’d always just say, “I’m working on something.” She would see the chats though - the sorrow and fear of fans that the haters had scared her away from the industry. She would turn on Summer Walker, Ari Lennox, Cleo Sol, Quin, Sza… She would let them sing comfort and confidence into her while she got washed up and set up to work. She would know that she was influenced by their work, but try not to just copy any of them. Plus, she added much more bass to anything that she made. She practiced rapping sometimes, but she often felt silly and knew that she would sound like a Kids Bop album if she actually tried to record her rapping. But, in certain songs, she was able to get away with distorting her voice a little and making portions of the rap match with the songs.
She liked to experiment with various styles, make beats, have a vibey sound that you could also shake to. “Black hippy girl with funk and soul, that’s mellow, but you can groove to it,” was how she tried to describe her work. There wasn’t a genre that really captured it well.
She worked on covers of songs, and made videos like Todrick Hall did, where she put together a cover singing multiple parts… but she didn’t want to share them and be accused of copying. She was copying, but only to see how her own would be. She rented studio time to do demos.
She came out of the studio one night, mentally preparing to go home and see Simon there with her parents, but he was outside when she came out. It startled her, but she smiled and said, “Hey… didn’t expect to see you here!”
“Doesn’t seem like you ever expect to see me,” he said, emotionless.
“Yeah. You’re usually SUPER BUSY with my parents,” she said bitterly, but cheerfully.
“Are you still mad that I told them about your Internet problems?”
“No. I just think it's weird how much time you spend around them. They’re my parents and I don’t even spend that much time around them.” He sighed, annoyed. “What are you doing here?” she asked.
“This is the third night that you’ve been here and left roughly at the same time. If anybody is watching you, they might know your pattern. You should be more careful. You’ll make it easy for enemies to hurt you.” It was a weird thing to say, she had to admit. It creeped her out. His tone and the suggestion, BUT, it also was Simon, who was naturally paranoid, protective, and proactive. So, she figured that he was in worried boyfriend mode and got into the car with him.
Simon wasn’t around her parents as much for a few days. She had some peace, but also had time to think about how much she missed him. She even beat herself up a little and reminded herself that she KNEW this would happen. This was why she didn’t want them to date in the first place. It had ruined their friendship!
She texted him: Hey. I miss you.
Simon: Just a few days ago you didn’t even want to say hi when you came home.
Grace: I mean… I miss you being my friend. We’re where I was afraid we’d be if we dated.
Simon:... Do you want to break up with me???
Simon: Because a text isn’t a nice way to do that.
Simon: And this is a really bad time.
Simon: DO YOU WANT TO BREAK UP WITH ME?
Grace: No. I just want my friend back.
Simon: I want my friend back too. But, you’re the one who changed, Grace. Not me.
Grace: I thought all of my changes were positive, though. So… why didn’t they bring us closer together?
She didn’t hear back from him until the middle of the night, when her phone rang, but she missed his calls. She usually was a pretty heavy sleeper, and she took melatonin, because she could never seem to go to bed at night. 17 missed calls by morning and she called him back first thing. “Simon? Is everything okay?”
Simon looked at his bloodied knuckles and lied, “Yeah. Sorry I called so much last night. I figured you’d be asleep, but I just… needed my friend.”
“I got into a fight with my dad.”
“He’s home? What was the fight about?”
“I accidentally knocked something down in his workroom and I never picked it up. Listen, I know that you hate me spending time around your parents, but could I crash there a few nights?”
“Yes! Of course!”
“Thanks.” he hung up and looked at his father, who was drunk and passed out, his face pounded in from Simon’s fists. He might be stuck on that couch for a while. He might not even remember the fight that they had the previous night. But, Simon made sure to let out every portion of rage that he ever had towards the man. Surprisingly, it gave him clarity on some things. He had been struggling with whether or not he intended to destroy Grace. She seemed to be coming around in her texts last night. Maybe… he could forgive her. Maybe they could make things work. Even if he couldn’t have her, maybe he could have his friend back. He was going to spend a few night there and try to assess everything.
Thursday through Sunday bliss for Grace. By Monday, as she sat in class, sniffling, her tissues now wet beyond repair, she still couldn’t wrap her head around what had happened. Simon said that he must’ve left his web cam going from when he was practicing his arguments for an upcoming debate. It was important, because they were nearing the end of the school year and this one one of the final debates.
She hadn’t even planned on anything happening between them, but they had been doing so horribly lately and she wanted, more than anything to just feel like she was on his good side again. Hell, sex wasn’t the worst thing a person could do and she had done far more for Simon in her life. So, though it took her a moment to settle herself into being comfortable with it, it wasn’t like she was morally opposed or even repulsed by it. She didn’t have urges, but her parts worked. With enough focus, she knew she could enjoy it and perhaps it was stupid of her to think that it would or could fix anything, but she at least hoped it might help.
Monday morning, everyone was looking at her strangely. Some laughed when she passed. Some whispered. NOBODY seemed threatened. Shana finally broke the silence with a very loud announcement of, “Good Morning, Internet’s Honeypot!” Everyone laughed. That wasn’t funny.
She rolled her eyes, but approached Shana. “What are you so cheery about?”
Shana feigned shock and asked, “Oh, you don’t know, Give It Up Grace? It seems that somebody was naughty over the weekend. I’d even say, downright NASTY!” The girls with Shana started laughing and didn’t stop whenever Grace threw them a warning glare.
Something was wrong with this picture. “What are you talking about, Shana?”
“Your boyfriend says that somebody stole his laptop this morning from the journalism room. A likely story. He’s the only thief in this school. But, whatever the truth is about that, this certainly is authentic,” Shana turned her phone to show Grace what was very clearly her, in a very personal situation with Simon. You couldn’t really see him, but she was certain that anybody who saw this could make him out. She slapped the phone out of Shana’s hand and rushed away. Every pair of eyes that fell upon her seemed to know… they all must’ve seen it. Where was Simon? Had he DONE this to her? She checked the journalism room, where he was talking to a group of boys who she knew weren’t even in journalism… “Simon!” She called.
The boys all began hushed laughter and Simon smiled at her, kicked one’s chair and warned him, “Knock it off.” He met her at the door and she was breathing hard. “You… okay?”
“No! Have you not seen that recording? A recording, mind you, that I didn’t know about nor consent to! Simon, PLEASE tell me that you didn’t record us without checking with me… Tell me that somebody who has it out for me hid a camera or something and…”
“What are you talking about Grace?” He asked. She studied his face. If there was anything that he should be worried about, there was no sign of it on his face.
“Shana said that your laptop got stolen,” she said. “Was there anything on it that you need to tell me about?”
He blushed, “I mean… I do have quite a porn collection,” he said, laughing. “And I found it! I’d apparently just left it in the library. Why?”
“Did you record us this weekend? Yes, or no?”
He furrowed his eyebrows and scoffed, “Is that something that you think I’m capable of?”
The conversation went in circles of her insisting that SOMEONE recorded them and him finally going through his laptop to see the video in question, then denying realizing that he had done this. But, since he left his laptop in the library, anybody could have sent it out. “Why would I do this, Grace? You worshiped me in the moments following this, why would I use it against you?”
“I don’t know!” She squealed, crying and embarrassed and now guilty because she had accused him. He gave her a hug and she cried on him. He walked her to class, but he didn’t seem to mind the whispers that were echoing in her head as they passed people. But, he was a boy.
Nobody was judging him the way that they were judging her. She would hear details like, “You can see that he’s not even wearing protection! She has no self respect.” or “I don’t think he pulled out. Good thing her family can afford abortions.” Then there was Shana. Shana had been waiting YEARS to knock Grace off of her pedestal, and she took every chance she got to do just that.
“Ooop. Backshots Ballerina in the building, Girls!” or “Mommy in the Making Monroe has arrived!” The worst part was that Simon wasn’t defending her. He wasn’t telling Shana to shut her fucking mouth. He wasn’t glaring at people laughing at her. He… seemed to be enjoying the attention. Then again, the attention he got was positive. She saw guys fist bump him and clap him on the back. She saw him laughing with people and them all quiet down when she approached. Simon always had an excuse as for why - none of which were related to “this obsession of yours.”
This obsession? The entire student body had seen her entire body. It was circulating and they were shaming her for a private moment she shared with someone she loved… and he wasn’t even phased by it. Did he even fucking love her??? Was this typical boy bullshit?
“You know Grace, your insecurity was cute at first, but now it’s starting to become pathetic,” Simon said. “You’re a public figure. People will always have something to say about you. Suck it up.” She slapped him in the face and stormed off, equal parts satisfied and mortified that she had reacted that way. She didn’t see the smile on his face as he rubbed his cheek. He was breaking the void down. She was losing respect and she was losing her cool. It had been so long since she reacted in violence. It kinda turned him on. It was like seeing old her for a moment. Even if it was directed at him.
Maybe she could get on a train and just leave town. Cash in her trust fund, buy a bungalow. Never look back… “Grace?” a boy’s voice said. She turned to see one of the Apex dudes. He bowed his head and she tapped her right cheek with two fingers. He came forward and held a sunflower in his hand. “I’m sorry that you’re having such a bad day,” he said and extended it to her.
“What is this?”
He looked confused. “Tribute.”
“We’re still doing that? Nobody has said a word to me all day…”
“Is the Apex over?” he asked.
She sighed and took the flower, shrugged her shoulders and said, “I guess it can live on with Simon. I’m… done with everything in this place.” Tears welled in her eyes and he reached out to offer her a hug. She accepted. Graham? Grant? Was the first person, Simon included, to be nice to her about this thing that she was going through. It was short lived. Simon appeared out of nowhere and before she could think or speak, had the kid by the collar and slammed into the lockers.
“Who do you think you are?” Simon asked him, baring his teeth.
“Simon! That’s Graham! He’s Apex. He was just checking on me!” She said and pulled on Simon’s shoulder.
Simon pressed his forehead to Graham’s and he said, “If I ever see you touch her again, you’ll give your right hand as tribute to me. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Simon. Understood Simon!”
“I know, Simon. I’m sorry, Simon.” Simon shoved him and he rushed away. Simon raised an eyebrow and looked at Grace, expecting her to scold him for it. That’s what she was good for these days.
She looked relieved, though. She rushed into his arms and collapsed onto his chest. “I thought you didn’t care about me anymore.” She looked up into his eyes. They still weren’t soft like they used to be, but he had a bit of a smile on his face as he collected her.
“You never have to worry about that.” She squeezed him tightly and cried on his chest. He wanted to tell her to stop it. That people could see her and that she looked weak to them. But… that was the whole point of doing this to her in the first place.
Grace took a few days off of school. Simon brought her homework assignments. She was in bed most of the time. She wasn’t creating. She wasn’t living. She was sort of wasting away. Fortunately, so far the video scandal was being kept among the students, but she lay in waiting for when it went beyond them and she would have to try to explain herself to her parents. This was something that might never go away.
Thursday evening, Simon asked, “Are you ever coming back?” She shrugged her shoulders and climbed into his lap for cuddles. This was her comfort. A bubble with her favorite person, away from social media, away from relentless peers, away from her parents. Simon kissed her on the nose. “Has this… made you never want to try again?”
“No. I almost want to make a purposeful video and send it out myself, just to show these bitches that I’m Grace Monroe, and I can do anything.” Simon’s eyes lit up. That was his Grace! She laughed and rested her head on him again. “How’s it been for you?”
“I don’t like that you’ve let it keep you out of school. You HAD perfect attendance. Now, you don’t.”
“I don’t care about perfect attendance, Simon. I care about… being the perfect girlfriend. That’s my new goal.”
“What brought this on?”
"Just… I think I get why you haven't really been bothered about things. I've been shutting you out, shoving you away. I haven't been as open or supportive as I used to, so why should you be?" He looked different suddenly. He looked like old Simon. She knew those eyes. She knew that smile.
But, within moments, it went from warm, to guilty, to confused, to cold. He shrugged his shoulders and said, "There's a tough transition from childhood best friends to this. As long as you've got it now?"
"I think I've got it now." She said and kissed him again. She melted against his body and he strummed his fingers up and down the back of her neck. This is fucked up, Simon. You did something horrible to her, and now she's apologizing… But, she's still leaving you. It doesn't matter if she feels bad for being a bad girlfriend. It doesn't matter if she wants to undo that. She. Still. Wants. To. Leave. You. Proceed with her destruction… Its destruction. He cradled her, resigned that what he had already done and what he intended to do was completely fair and right.
Grace spent HOURS getting her hair unloc'd. She had to lose a lot of it, but it was still pretty long and made a large puffy halo that she could hardly wait to show off when she got back to school the next week. She felt brand new, though she wasn't excited to see the faces of her tormentors again. She and Simon got out of the car and she wrapped an arm around him and held her hand forward. Simon smiled and they moved forward. The kids made way, she smiled and greeted. Simon was quiet, but confident.
Shana said something and Grace exchanged knowing facial expressions with Simon. He smirked and gave her a little nod. Grace handed her backpack to Simon. She flapped her fingers, said, "Wah wah wah," then uppercut Shana. Uppercut. Shana bit her tongue and stumbled back, her mouth bleeding and her hand on her chin. Simon smirked. Grace accepted her backpack back.
The last time something like this happened (and it had been a while since Grace threw a punch on her own behalf, or on Simon's for that matter, nobody saw anything. They didn't know anything. They didn't say anything. But when the dean came rushing over, asking what happened, someone said, "Grace just assaulted Shana!"
Grace was startled by that. She saw other kids nodding and agreeing that was what they saw. She looked at Simon, who, instead of swaying them back to obedience said, "Shana asked for it." Grace's eyes went wide. The dean grabbed her by the elbow and dragged her to his office. She turned to look at Simon. He was just staring at them. He wasn't riled up or upset or even following. The kids gathered behind him, also just staring… What. The. Fuck…
Her parents were not happy. "Expelled? Expelled?? At the end of the school year?" Her father complained. "Over violence? We didn't raise you like this!"
"You've barely raised me at all!" She snapped. She winced and said, "I'm sorry… I didn't mean to. Shana was bullying me.."
"That's not what all of the other kids are saying."
"It's not even what Simon says," her mother added.
Now, Grace's nostrils flared. "What does Simon say?"
"It's no secret to anyone that Grace and Shana don't get along, but none of us expected it to become physical. Shana was definitely giving her a hard time, but Grace let her temper get the best of her and I hate to say it, but it was pretty uncalled for, to lay her out like that." Her mother read from Simon's text.
"I handed him my backpack. He knew that I was about to lay hands on that bitch. Please! He's just saying that to impress you. Simon's seen…" she shut up. She was about to get herself into more trouble. "He definitely knew what was gonna happen when I handed him my bag."
"Why would he lie, Grace?" Her father asked.
"He's… obviously still mad at me for wanting to go to school. Simon can get really sensitive and a little bit clingy. He's punishing me."
"That sounds like a terrible relationship," her mother said.
"It sounds like Grace making excuses for her disgusting behavior," her father said. The doorbell rang and the butler let Simon in.
He shook Mr. Monroe's hand, bowed to Mrs. Monroe and began speaking to Grace like she was some type of volatile animal. "Heyyy, Grace. Are you okay?" She clenched her fists and narrowed her eyes. "I talked to the Dean to try to get this handled. The best that I could do was to get him to let you finish the school year from home and still have your grades as a student of the Academy. But he does not want you to come into the building again."
"Why didn't you have my back?" She asked.
"Sounds like he did have your back!" Her father fussed.
"I am not talking to you right now, Dad!" She shrieked. Everyone froze and stared for a moment. Her father looked ready to angrily lash back, but her mother wrapped an arm around him and told Simon, "You'd better get her together, or else we'll have to."
"I'll take care of it," Simon said.
"I'll take care of it? You'll take CARE of it???" Grace repeated, then laughed and shook her head.
Simon watched her parents leave the terrace and he sat next to her. "You seem like you have some things on your mind."
Grace was wondering if she was the crazy one? He completely threw her under the bus at school and in front of her parents and they just… ate it up. "Do they know that I'M THE ONE that always has to keep you chill?"
"You're not that one right now."
"That's because you're being different. You're up to something and I can't figure out what?"
"I'm playing the game that we play with parents. You WANTED them to like me, did you not?"
"Not like this! They're not supposed to think you're better than me!"
"I see. I get it now. All those times when you insisted that we should be treated equally, you were just lying to me like you lie to everybody. And now that people are treating me good, you can't stand it."
"This isn't about PEOPLE, Simon, it's about MY PARENTS and how you're... you're... STEALING them!"
Simon tells her, "It's not my fault they like me more than you." Grace started crying. He sighed and rolled his eyes. "God, AGAIN with the crying. You're really a child."
"What is your problem? How can you say something like that to me when you know how I feel about my parents?"
He scoffed, "Yeah. And now we get to the truth about how you feel about me too. This is bigger than your stupid fucking parents." She looked at his face. He looked… like he was having a completely different conversation. His face would never let on that he had just said the mean things to her that he had just said.
"Is… this about me leaving for school? You turned on me because I was gonna leave for school, Simon?"
"You lied to me. You betrayed the Apex."
"The Ape… Simon WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? The Apex doesn't have anything to do with this!"
"The Apex has everything to do with this!" He finally actually looked as mad at his words. "We were the Apex. Just you and me! We had everything we needed in each other. We belonged together. We built it together. It was our mark on the world. Our show of power and greatness… and you just threw it away! You threw ME away." He out his face into his hands and tried to catch his breath. She still didn't know what this even meant.
"I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry that it felt that way. I just wanted to do something for myself… if it makes you feel like this, I won't leave, Simon. We'll work it out…"
He uncovered his face and it was surprisingly clear. She couldn't figure out what to think of him, but her heart was all over the place. Simon told Grace to calm down, but she was already sitting quietly, thinking, and she was getting mad that he was behaving like not only a stranger but a… horrible person! "I am calm," she said, though her teeth. "Just still very confused. Why are you being this way, Simon? I just gave you my virginity like a week ago.." her voice cracked.
He smirked, looked her right in the face and said, "That meant nothing to me."
She gasped and clutched her heart. This was… too much. Was she having a nightmare? Simon would never say these things to her. He would never hurt her. "Simon… are you saying that you don't even love me anymore?"
"I'm saying I don't even know who you are. The girl that I loved was strong, powerful and she cared about me. She wasn't a liar, pretending to love me until she could get away from me. Pretending to see me as an equal, but squirms anytime someone sides with me. She was worthy of respect. Whatever you are, you're not even worthy of her name. You're not worthy of respect. And you aren't worthy of love. You're nothing to me."
She shook her head and looked out at the estate. Tears were pouring down her face. He put his hand on her back and rubbed it and for a moment, despite everything he had just said to her, she was relieved that he seemed gentle with her. But the he said, "Before I go, I want you to know that I actually did record us on purpose…" her head turned sharply to him and she stared at his thin lips as he said, "And I'm the one who leaked it." …Then...he smiled.
Grace punched him in the teeth. He threw his hands up to cover his head. He knew her fighting style. She hit you in the face and head and neck. That's where she was swinging, but he was blocking well enough. So well, she was enraged and pulled his hair, twisting it in her fist to try to lift his head. Before she could strike him in the face again,she felt her mother's hands rip her away from him.
"Grace! You've caused us enough trouble with your violent outbursts! And now you’ve set your fists upon Simon?" All Grace could do was roar in anger, startling her mother.
Simon almost couldn’t hide his smirk. Luckily Mrs. Monroe was staring at her daughter (in horror), "I'm sorry, Mrs. M This was my fault. I didn't mean to make her so mad. I know how she gets when she gets mad…" Grace charged at him, but Mrs. Monroe stood between them and grabbed her wrists.
"WE will talk about this later!" She placed a hand on Simon's back and led him back into the house to assess the damage and be sure that he wasn't ready to sue like Shana's parents were.
Grace asked herself, "Am I fucking crazy?" Simon smirked at her as he walked away with her mom. "No. He's. Crazy. HE'S fucking crazy!" She grabbed a handful of her fro and leaned on the rail with the other hand, sobbing.
Simon turned to Mrs. Monroe and said, "You realize that I love her right?"
Mrs. Monroe became visibly tense as she replied, "I realize that there's some feelings between you that you believe are very strong, but I also know that my daughter is hard to love."
"That's not true! I loved Grace almost the moment I met her. She's very generous. She's helpful. She's protective, oh and she's genuine... being genuine is the most important trait of a friend."
While Mrs. Monroe wasn't paying attention to him, he and Grace looked at each other through the window, and he glared at her hatefully. She stormed through the living room and up the stairs, slamming the door behind her.
Then, she just… cried again, and sat down on the floor. She's unsure to this day how long she sat there, but she knows that both of her parents came together, each separately, the housekeeper, the butler and some doctor tried to talk to her before she finally got up, went into her bathroom and resumed sitting in the bathtub. She was there for 13 hours. She remembers that much. Not much else. The entire time period was just… day after day of hurt. And he still wasn't done with her.
Kiss cam; Bechloe
or that one time Beca pretends to love football just because Chloe does
Beca didn’t hate football.
She had no reason to, really. There wasn’t another sport she was obsessed with, having been more into books and art from a very young age on. She wasn’t familiar with the players and therefore wouldn’t even know if some of them were assholes, though she knew it was likely that some of them were. She had never even watched a football match and really, nothing had ever happened to cause her to dislike the sport.
So no, Beca didn’t hate football, although some of her sarcastic comments about it sometimes made it seem like she might.
She didn’t hate it, but she simply couldn’t care less about it.
That was until Chloe suddenly developed a genuine obsession and all the redhead could talk about was football and the ‘amazing players’. Beca didn’t know what had sparked the sudden interest, but she didn’t dare ask, too afraid Chloe might break out into another hour long monologue about said sport. Those happened a lot, because not only was Chloe obsessed with watching the sport, she also suddenly knew everything about it.
And so Beca had started to act like she cared. Because the others, mostly Stacie and Amy, had become victims of Chloe’s rants as well, with the exception that the two of them could simply roll their eyes and walk away, just like Beca wanted to do every so often. But she couldn’t, because unlike Stacie and Amy, she had a major crush on the redhead and she simply wasn’t able to turn her down. Not when she looked impossibly more gorgeous while talking about something she was so passionate about. So all Beca did when Chloe once again spent the whole evening trying to convince her that football was indeed the best sport was look at her and act like she was listening, while in fact she was simply studying her beautiful face and those cute freckles that she’d never get tired of. And when she could spend her evenings like that without getting teased about it, because hey, she was just listening to Chloe and being polite by looking at her at the same time, she really didn’t mind the redhead’s obsession all that much.
Except for one part of said obsession.
Because while Beca hated movies, she absolutely despised watching sports. The monotone running around and chasing after some kind of ball without a real goal except for winning drove her mad and it was even more boring and infuriating than any bad romance with predictable endings and cheesy love scenes.
Not that she had ever told Chloe that. Because she was, apparently, a weak, lovesick puppy and instead just spent all of her evenings watching football with Chloe and, again, pretending like she cared.
She didn’t dare tell Chloe that she was constantly on the brink of falling asleep whenever they spent their evenings like that and that she sometimes secretly rooted for the team that the redhead despised simply because she knew that she’d for sure get to cuddle her afterwards, make her feel better. And it was true, because every time Chloe’s favorite team lost, or any team she was rooting for that day, she’d crawl into Beca’s arm like a little puppy and basically beg for cuddles and kisses. And Beca would, obviously, roll her eyes and act like she was annoyed, but give in nevertheless because hell, getting to cuddle Chloe, to spend time with her, was the only reason she hadn’t told her how much she actually hated football.
And now it was too late. She had acted like she loved the sport for way too long and she really couldn’t break it to Chloe after all that time. She’d probably be mad. Very mad. And the last thing Beca wanted was to upset Chloe. And again, she was a lovesick puppy.
Former Beca didn’t give a single damn about what other people thought about her, not even the people she secretly cared about. She would have never acted like that, always adamant about what things she liked and disliked.
And now here she was, pretending to like the most boring sport on the planet just so she’d get to count her best friend’s freckles for the hundredth time. She was a goner, really.
“When are you gonna tell her?” Stacie’s voice pulled Beca out of her cloud of thoughts and made her remember where she was, at the breakfast table of the Bella house, almost falling asleep over her bowl of cereal because she had once again stayed up pretty much all night to watch football with Chloe. And while the redhead had woken up extremely chipper, even though she had only gotten about two hours of sleep, and was already attending classes, Beca wasn’t doing all that well. She was a tired and yawning mess and she didn’t even blame Chloe, because she knew damn well that it was her own fault for falling for those big, blue eyes every single time.
“Tell who what?” Beca mumbled sleepily, a confused expression on her face. She was too tired to eat her breakfast, let alone talk to someone this early in the morning.
“Chloe.” Stacie rolled her eyes, as if the answer had been the most obvious thing ever. “When are you gonna tell her that you hate football?”
“I don’t hate-” Beca began to protest, but Stacie interrupted her with both words and a raise of her eyebrows.
“Seriously, Beca? You’re as discrete as a-”
“Chloe doesn’t know, does she?”
“Well, obviously not! Or would I be asking you all of this otherwise? God, you really need to get back to bed! Why are you doing this to yourself? It’s ruining you.”
Beca groaned and it was her turn to roll her eyes this time. “First of all, you’re exaggerating. Second of all, it makes her happy.”
Stacie chuckled now before letting the palm of her hand make contact with her forehead. “So this is all because you want to bang her, huh? Seriously? You’re hopeless, Mitchell! You could literally just ask her and she’d-”
“I’m not doing this because of that reason, dude. Jesus. I just, I… I like her, okay?” Beca admitted and sighed in frustration before rubbing her eyes. Stacie was right, she really needed to get back to bed.
“Yeah, thanks Sherlock. We all know that you like her. Again, you’re not really the most discrete person. But you have to admit that this is getting out of hand! You even agreed to go to this stupid game with her tonight!”
“Umm excuse me?” Beca scoffed, shoving some more unhealthy cereal into her mouth, trying to push away the thought of Chloe chastising her for this, always looking out for the brunette’s well being. It was cute, really. Actually, it was the most adorable thing in the whole entire world and Beca loved it. But it was also, just like everything Chloe did, a little bit over the top. “You and Amy are coming as well! She convinced you guys too!”
“Yeah, with the difference that we agreed because we don’t have anything else to do and not because we want to bang her.” Stacie deadpanned, making Beca blush a little. All this talking about banging was starting to get to her. “Plus we don’t hate the sport as much as you do.”
Beca, once again, sighed in frustration and ran her hand through her hand before she looked at Stacie, her eyes basically screaming ‘desperation’. “She looked at me with those damn puppy eyes of hers, dude!! What was I supposed to say? No?”
Stacie was laughing now. Could Beca not hear herself talk? “Yeah, that’s exactly what one says if they don’t actually want to do something.”
“I hate you.”
It was all Beca mumbled, in a rather affectionate way of course, before she slowly made her way back towards her room. She really needed to sleep some more before she had to endure hours of live football that night.
It was worse than she could have imagined.
She was currently surrounded by hundreds, probably thousands, of ecstatic football fans while seemingly being the only person around that did not care one bit. Even Stacie and Amy were somewhat excited, but something told Beca that they were enjoying teasing her and Chloe more than the actual game.
Which is something they had started doing as soon as they had arrived. Teasing them, constantly, especially Beca.
She was a better target, because Chloe barely listened to them. She was too busy shrieking loudly and jumping off of her seat whenever her favorite team was doing anything, really.
And Beca hated this, she did. But then she also couldn’t deny the pure joy she got out of watching Chloe be this damn excited. And in the end she really had to admit that all the boredom was kind of worth it, though she had started to, once again, root for the other team halfway through the game, which she obviously couldn’t tell the redhead. The bright yellow of Chloe’s favorite team was starting to hurt her eyes and she just wanted it to be over.
That was until there was finally a break and she could talk to Chloe instead of being bored and pathetic, which she did. Well, Chloe was the one talking, really. Even more bubbly and talkative than she usually was, to nobody’s surprise. And Beca wanted to shut her up by kissing that damn smile off of her face. She wanted to pull Chloe close and bury herself in those red curls. And she was so mad because she should hate this, and yet she couldn’t stop the goofy face form on her lips as she watched the redhead.
That was when the kiss cam found them.
Unknowingly to them, still, everyone in the stadium was now watching the two of them interact, a little smile on their faces now as well. Because even by just looking at them you could tell how much they meant to each other. That’s how discrete they both were.
“Guys!!!” Amy finally yelled and nudged Beca’s shoulder, after having tried to get her attention from the very moment that the camera had landed on them.
Beca shot her a confused look but then followed Amy’s gaze to the big screen in front of them. It took a few more seconds for her to realize what exactly was going on, but she and Chloe soon knew exactly what both of their faces were doing on the screen for everyone to see, surrounded by a big heart.
“This is not happening.” Beca was shaking her head, shoving her hands into the pockets of her pants, unable to believe that she could have such bad luck. She hadn’t wanted to come here in the first place and now this damn kiss cam had chosen them out of all of the countless of couples that were probably in the arena right that moment? Just great. “It’s not happening, nope. Nope.”
Beca was now trying to gesticulate that she and Chloe weren’t a couple, but whoever was operating the camera wasn’t having any of it and soon the brunette could hear her best friend giggle next to her.
“I guess we’ll just have to do it then.”
“I guess you’re out of your fucking mind.” Beca retorted and then turned around to glare at both Stacie and Amy who were cheering them on loudly. And, of course, every single person in the stadium had to join in, now clapping and grinning and hoping that the two would finally get their act together and kiss.
That’s when Beca finally looked at Chloe again, smiling softly as their eyes met.
“Aww. Beca ‘badass’ Mitchell is scared of kissing a girl on camera, huh?” Chloe grinned, making a still shocked Beca chuckle as well, mostly because of how surreal this whole situation was. And also because she still wanted to kiss that damn grin off of Chloe’s lips.
And now she could.
“I’m not scared,” Beca mumbled before she suddenly cupped Chloe’s cheeks and pulled her into a gentle and loving kiss.
She managed to completely shut out all of the people around them that were now clapping, cheering and laughing even more so than they had been before.
Because this was it.
This was what it felt like to finally kiss the girl she’d been admiring for months, maybe even years. It was simply perfect and she couldn’t help the bright smile form on her lips once again. And as soon as they had to pull back for air, they both started laughing loudly, wrapping their arms around each other?
“You know what’s the best thing about all of this?” Chloe asked, Beca barely being able to hear her over the crowd.
“I would have kissed you even if you hated football.”
A small ficlet of Allura finding out that Shiro is ticklish.
((Ohhh, I will try to keep it small. I can make no promises.))
“He is? Really?”
“Yeah, very. But you gotta catch him by surprise.”
“Hmm, yes, I see. Thank you, Keith.”
“You’re welcome, Princess.”
She tried to sneak up on Shiro on the navdeck. As far as “sneaking” went, it was perfect; he didn’t appear to suspect a thing. But then she realized that she didn’t have a good angle of attack. He was sitting in his chair, which guarded just about all the ticklish areas. And as she stood there trying to figure out how to do this, he realized she was right behind him.
“Can I help you with something, Allura?”
“I was just wondering about the time to our destination.” It was a stupid question, but it was the only one she could come up with on the fly.
“Uh, ETA’s about a varga.”
“Thank you, Shiro.” She waited until she turned away to frown in annoyance. I’ll have to come up with something else.
She sent the mice in on her next tickle mission. They scampered up to Shiro at the dining table and squeaked for his attention. Allura watched from the next room over, using the Castle’s security cams.
“Hey, little guys. What’s up?”
They attacked, leaping for his ribs, but he just pushed his chair back and caught them in his hands and lap. “Hey, whoa now! You have to be careful. We don’t want you getting hurt.” He set them all back gently onto the table. “Allura’d be beside herself if something happened to you.”
They glanced at each other, looked back to Shiro, nodded, and left. Oh well, I suppose it’s not as much fun if I’M not the one to tickle him myself. She made sure the mice were well-rewarded for their attempt and she thanked them for trying.
This was the plan with the highest likelihood of success. But it was also the most difficult.
Shiro was the best of the paladins at sparring with her, and was quite skilled at protecting himself (an ability likely honed in the Galra arenas). Still, just having the excuse to be physical with him helped. She had to just watch for her opening.
Of course, she had to watch for a very unlikely opening while also not leaving herself open and while making sure it didn’t look like she was trying to go for the tickle.
She just badly wanted to hear Shiro laugh. It’d been ages since she last had, and she thought it’d be good for him. And her. And everyone. She wanted to watch him squirm and giggle and shriek; she wanted to know what that would be like from a man who was every inch a leader.
But she got too distracted by her desire to tickle him, too caught up in trying to find that perfect opening. He struck once to back her up, feinted high, then dropped low to tackle her around the waist and take her to the floor. He moved quickly to pin her.
“Yield?” he asked, grinning in triumph. He rarely won sparring sessions, so it was no wonder he was so happy.
She did her best to look totally innocent as she caught her breath. “What was that?” she asked, stalling for time. If she yielded, he’d get up and leave. This is my chance.
He leaned in a little closer. “I asked if you yield, Princess.”
“It... does seem as if you’ve won,” she allowed carefully. She let all the tension go out of her body deliberately. Licking her lips was less deliberate; now that they’d stopped, she realized how dry her mouth was and how much she needed some proper hydration.
“Have I?” he asked. There was a shift in his expression; less victorious and more questioning.
She just nodded, keeping her eyes locked on his, willing him to keep his attention on her face. She didn’t want him to notice she was trying to loosen his grip on her right wrist. Her left was hopeless - his right hand had that pinned, and breaking the grip of the prosthetic was usually a vain pursuit. But if she could just get her right free... I’ll have to move quickly.
Was it her imagination or had he leaned closer to her? “Then tell me,” he said, voice quiet.
“You’ve won, Shiro,” she said, dropping her voice as well out of consideration for how close they were to each other. “I yield.”
His hands started to loosen on her wrists, and she took her chance. Her right hand broke free and flew to his ribs.
Shiro cried out and actually fell off of her, trying to roll away from the tickle onslaught. She pursued him, trying to keep him in place so he couldn’t escape.
“What happened to yielding?!” he yelled before yelping again as she got another good tickle in.
“I yielded only the sparring!”
He laughed breathlessly and tried to catch her hands before she could tickle him further, but she was too fast for him, darting in and out of range and getting in tickles all up and down his sides. “Allura! All... ha... EEP! STOP!”
“DO YOU YIELD?!” She was enjoying herself. He was just as squirmy and silly as she could have hoped.
“I yield, I yield!” He squeaked again and tried to crawl away on his back. “Just stop!”
She sat back so they could both catch their breath.
“W-was this... the plan the whole time?”
She nodded. “And I succeeded.”
He shook his head, pushing himself up into a sitting position. “You’re dangerous, Princess. I’m going to remember that.”
“As well you should.”
“Of course, you realize now I have to find out if you’re ticklish.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “I welcome you to try, my paladin.”
A System of Sides: Chapter Fifteen
A/N: Here we are, guys! The final chapter! We’re considering putting out little snippets of Virgil’s letters here for anyone who is interested in what they have to say. It wouldn’t be all of them, it wouldn’t be in any particular order, and it wouldn’t happen regularly, but if you want to be tagged in those, let us know you’d like to see them and be tagged!
Warnings: food, knives
Thomas took a breath of fresh air from the Courtyard in front of the Mind Palace and grinned. "Wow," was all he managed to say.
"Hey, Thomas! You gonna come see my rose bush that I've labored for ages on or what?" Virgil called from further into the space.
"Coming, coming!" Thomas laughed. "Sometimes you can be so impatient. It's like we're kids all over again."
"Laugh all you want, Thomas, this is important!" Virgil retaliated. "There's no time for waiting!"
Thomas shook his head and walked further into the courtyard to where Virgil was standing. "It's about time!" Virgil said, though there was nothing but the barest hints of excitement in his voice. "Look at my prized plant!"
Thomas did, and his eyes lit up when he saw all of Virgil's hard work. The bush couldn't be more than three feet tall, but it was already very full and looked like it could grow to be over their heads if Virgil kept tending to it. There were five different kinds of roses on it, which made Thomas take a closer look. "That's impressive, Virge," he said, hand barely ghosting over the roses.
"Thank you," Virgil said, obviously quite pleased with himself. "Logan studied grafting plants at one point, around high school, just to learn how it worked, and I decided to do that with this bush. There's a color for each of us."
"Which one's which?" Thomas asked.
"The really bright red one is Roman's. It's lively and bright and sometimes a little over the top, but overall dependable and a classic. Patton's is the pure white, because there's barely a dark spot in his day that he can't fix. My rose is the dark red that looks almost black. Sure, it's dark and can sometimes be seen as morbid, but it's just as good as the others. Different doesn't mean bad." Thomas could hear the smile in Virgil's voice. "Logan's is deep pink, if for no other reason than I had to work on several generations of roses to get that color, through trial-and-error and I think he would appreciate the experiments. Which leaves you with pastel pink."
"Yeah? Why is pastel pink me?" Thomas asked, trying to contain himself while he waited with baited breath for the answer.
"You're a little bit like all of us, but you're still your own person. You're bright and happy like Patton, but you're also a little more subdued about it. You don't have the overtly bright tones everyone else here has, which isn't a bad thing, and in fact it means you're better with most other people in the world. Your color isn't harsh on the eyes, and it took some working to get just right, but once it's there, it's there for good. There's nothing you can do to hold that positivity of yours back. It's...I feel like I'm not explaining this right, but I hope you get what I mean," Virgil said.
"No, no, you're explaining really well. There's probably deeper reasons that you can't pin down, but I agree with every one of your choices. And...this is really amazing, Virgil. I had no idea you had such a green thumb! You're going to have to help me if I ever decide to bring home succulents like I've always wanted to," Thomas laughed.
The front door to the Mind Palace opened and Patton brought out the card table from before, setting it up by the benches in near the sundial. "I'm getting the food!" he exclaimed, running back inside.
Thomas laughed and stood up, looking around. "This whole place is amazing," he said, looking around. "And you guys made it?"
"You helped some way back when," Virgil pointed out. "But Roman certainly took the idea and ran wild with it. I did help with the hedge maze out back, Logan thought it would be fun to test his wits with a constantly changing maze, so we both worked on it, and Patton hid a bunch of stuff in it when we were done. Logan focused more on the maze design rather than growing the hedges, though."
"I can see that happening," Thomas said, amused. "We should explore it sometime, though."
"We should," Virgil agreed.
Patton came back out, arms full with a bag of chips and two big bottles of soda, as well as plastic cups. "Roman's bringing the last thing, he just needed one more minute," Patton said as he got everything settled on the card table.
"What thing?" Thomas asked. "We already had pizza for lunch, what's the big surprise?"
Patton glanced at Virgil and Thomas turned around to find Virgil subtly shaking his head. "What are you guys keeping from me?" Thomas asked.
"Well, now, that would ruin the surprise!" Virgil said with false innocence. "You don't want to ruin the surprise, do you, Thomas?"
Thomas gave Virgil a half-hearted glare. It didn't last long, though, as Roman and Logan walked out, each holding the side of a very impressive sheet cake. "We would sing Happy Birthday but that seems a little inappropriate," Roman said.
Logan nodded. "We made the occasion clear on the icing, however."
They put the cake down on the table and Thomas walked over, reading the top of the cake. It said, "Happy Un-Frontstuck Day, Thomas!" in loopy blue icing, with blue trim on the edges of the cake and red icing flowers, not unlike the roses. Thomas grinned. "You guys!" he exclaimed. "You didn't have to!"
"No, but we wanted to!" Roman exclaimed. "You're important to us! So we're celebrating your being back. I invited at least two villages over, they should be here any time now!"
Thomas couldn't believe what he was hearing. His best friends from when he was younger, his family was celebrating him walking around the Inner World after twenty long years of being holed up in his room. What he did to ever deserve these guys, he didn't know.
There were people walking into view from the distance and Roman ran over to greet them, letting them into the courtyard. "These guys aren't really part of us, just part of Roman's overactive imagination," Virgil explained. "But they do know how to throw a good party when they need to."
Thomas just shook his head fondly as people started filing in. Logan cleared his throat. "Now, then. Shall we cut the cake before everyone in the Inner World tries to get their hands on a piece?"
Patton jumped up and down eagerly. "Yes! Yes! Yes! I want to try the cake!"
Thomas laughed and Logan cracked a smile. Virgil walked up to the cake, pulling a knife out of thin air as well as a stack of paper plates, and dished a piece of cake for Patton, handing it over. Patton eagerly took it and grabbed a fork from the tower of cups (why he hid them in there, Thomas couldn't begin to guess), running up to the villagers and starting to excitedly chatter at them. This was a strange feeling, but overall not an unwelcome one at all. It felt...normal, more normal that most things had felt in years. In a strange way, it finally felt like...he was home.
"Don't get too used to this," Virgil warned, "We need you to front sometimes still, especially with that boot! We don't want Roman running around and making it worse."
"I know, I know," Thomas laughed. "But something just feels right, and it's not a feeling that's going away any time soon."
Virgil shook his head and cut Thomas a piece of cake. "Eat up, I'm sure Roman's going to corral a DJ out of this group of villagers and he'll insist on everyone dancing sooner or later. Probably sooner."
Thomas laughed. "That sounds like it would be funny. Can Roman dance at all? Or no?"
"He can do musical numbers, let's put it that way," Virgil said. "Freestyle? None of us are that great at it."
"The rhythms in certain songs can be quite illogical," Logan stated. "It's hard to follow an abruptly changing pattern."
"I take it you don't like dubstep then," Thomas deadpanned.
"Dubstep? No. I do, however, have an appreciation for all sorts of poetry," Logan said.
"He likes rap," Virgil translated.
"Oh, I was not...was not expecting that," Thomas said.
Logan took a piece of cam for himself and shrugged. "There are a lot of things you do not know about me. Perhaps one day you can learn most of them."
He walked of and Thomas shook his head. "That sounds good to me!" he called.
Virgil took one last slice of cake for himself and sat down on one of the stone benches surrounding the sundial. Thomas sat next to him. "You know, I don't understand why we even bother with a sundial when it's perpetually daylight out here," Virgil said.
Thomas just cracked up. Virgil looked slightly miffed, so Thomas hurried to explain. "It's just...it's just all of this is so much to take in. I barely even got used to the concepts of this world yet and the fact that we have something that's essentially useless just sitting around as a centerpiece of useful things...I dunno, it just struck me as funny."
"I'll allow it," Virgil said, taking a bite of his cake.
Thomas grinned and nudged Virgil with his shoulder. "Hey. Hey Virgil. Hey. Hey. Hey Virge."
Virgil sighed and looked over. "What?"
"You're my best friend," Thomas whispered. "Don't tell the others. I want to get to know them better so hopefully we all can be best friends, but you're my first best friend ever, meaning you're super important to me."
Virgil turned beet red and Thomas grinned, thinking his work for the day over with that statement. "I'm so forcing you to do the Macarena when Roman plays it later."
Thomas just grinned wider in response. "Don't hate, Virge, or I'll just force you to do it too."
Virgil's eyes narrowed. "You wouldn't dare."
"Watch me," Thomas challenged.
"You're on," Virgil said. "You're on."
Thomas sighed as he walked back into the Mind Palace from the party which was wrapping up. It felt like there were a lot of people there, even if he knew it was just Roman's imagination. He was ready to collapse and sleep for a long while.
But when he looked up the stairs at his room he felt more than a bit of trepidation. He didn't want to go up there only to wake up the next morning and be stuck. He wasn't sure if he would be able to take that, not after seeing everyone again.
Virgil walked in from outside around the same time Thomas did, stretching. "Roman's organizing clean-up, which basically means waving a hand over everything and causing it to dematerialize," he said. "You good?"
"Yeah," Thomas said. "Just tired."
"I think it's a little more than being just tired," Virgil said knowingly. "I don't blame you for being worried about going into your room, though. The first time one of the others had a panic attack from coming into my room, I slept on the couch for a week. It's chill, we can hang out here."
Thomas frowned. "We?"
"Well, yeah, we, I'm not going to let you camp out on the couch all by yourself," Virgil said. "We can put on a movie or something if you want, get blankets, build a fort, whatever you want to do in here can be done."
Thomas was a little thrown by the offer, but that didn't mean he was going to turn it down. "That sounds great. I think it would be a good chance for everyone to hang out, too, don't you agree?"
Virgil shrugged. "If you want everyone here I won't object...this time. Just don't be surprised if I leave sometimes to recharge. I can only take so many people at once."
Thomas nodded. Patton and Logan walked into the room, and Virgil said, "You guys up for a blanket fort in the common room tonight?"
"Am I ever!" Patton exclaimed. "I have the perfect blankets for this! Let me go get them!"
As he ran off, Logan rolled his eyes. "That one is going to get us into trouble yet," he said. "I can grab some pillows, we're sure to have some of them laying around somewhere. Maybe a mattress or two as well, and some sleeping bags."
Roman entered the Mind Palace with a sigh and rubbed the back of his neck. "That was fun. What's going on in here?"
"We're thinking of having a movie marathon out here tonight," Virgil said. "If you want, you and Thomas can queue the movies together."
Thomas smiled at the thought. Roman eagerly pulled Thomas over to their DVD collection and started picking out some of his favorites. Thomas was just overwhelmed at the thought that these wonderful people actually cared enough about him to take the time away from their own projects and ideas to keep him company. "Thanks for this, guys," he said.
"Of course!" Roman said. "There is nothing I would rather do than binge-watch movies with you, Thomas!"
"I understand being anxious, I don't want you to feel that way if I can help it," Virgil brushed off.
Patton ran into the room with blankets and said, "This is something I've always dreamed of doing!"
Logan appeared as well armed with pillows and sleeping bags. "Anything I can do to help I am more than happy to achieve."
Thomas recognized all those responses as the subtle little "I love you"s they were, and he took them with great joy. "This is going to be fun!" he exclaimed, looking through the movies himself. "There's a lot of Disney in here, too, which is always a good start to a movie marathon. Does anyone have room for popcorn?"
Virgil laughed. "I'll go make it. Don't you go anywhere, nerds."
Thomas pulled out a few movies of his own and offered his choices up to Logan and Patton's approval. When he got the green light on them, and Roman got approved for (most of) his choices, everyone started building a fort from blankets and pillows. There wasn't much to hold it up, though, so they wound up making mounds of blankets and throwing pillows on top of them, adjusting everything to their liking until they called it a day.
Virgil came back to the common room with popcorn and looked over the movies. "Some Harry Potter? Really?" he asked, amused. "Why not all of it?"
"Because then we couldn't watch any other movies, obviously! It would be morning by the time we were done!" Roman exclaimed.
"Fair enough," Virgil muttered. "Which movie are we watching first?"
"I vote for the first Harry Potter!" Patton exclaimed.
"I would like to see something resembling historical fiction, or, short that, something that at least doesn't lean so heavily on the suspension of disbelief," Logan said.
"Disney," Roman stated.
"I think we should just watch everything so we don't have to worry about order," Thomas volunteered.
Virgil rolled his eyes. "Of course you do." Humming over the DVDs, he snatched The Avengers and walked over to the TV, putting it in himself.
"You can't do that!" Roman exclaimed in surprised anger.
"First person to put the DVD in gets to choose which movie everyone watches, you know this!" Virgil exclaimed. "Besides, The Avengers is an amazing cinematic masterpiece."
"Hard to argue with that logic, Roman," Thomas teased.
"That is neither true nor logical," Logan interjected. "Thomas, don't spread lies, especially to Roman."
"Hey!" Roman objected. "That's rude!"
Logan tilted his head downward. "Apologies. But the point stands. Don't spread misinformation."
"It was an attempt at a joke, which apparently fell flat," Thomas said.
"No, it was fine, you just happened to be nearby the one person who takes almost everything we say literally," Virgil said, getting situated on the blankets and passing around the popcorn. "Now hush, I want to watch the movie."
Thomas inwardly smiled as the movie started up. Was this what everything felt like when he was younger? Surrounded by people who would never want each other to hurt, working together to get where they needed to go? If it was, he was glad to have found it again.
He wouldn't trade this for the world.
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uurgh i feel stupid and like laughing maniacally like an anime antagonist except unlike many antagonists i am not sexy.
what do. i do at this point. it all seems so fake and pointless. god has put me through another character development arch now i only wonder how the future would be. what story am i in? a comedy? a tragedy? i know in the end its really up to me to decide but i cant even be the strong protagonist for my own story. here i go monologuing like an unhinged lunatic again but who cares its not like anyone's gonna read this anyways pfft. imagine im end up being in a apocalypic story scenario and, and just, die immediately as rats swarm my body and eat me alive like a carrot i dunno. i would suggest a romance but aaaah i shouldn't let myself think about that stuff, at least for now, as unstable and useless as i am ahaaahaaaa. this is all very self - indulgent but it doenst matter.
is this,, my entire personality now? i didnt have much to begin with anyways but damn i guess so. just a pot of anxieties, bad jokes and drawing. though i haven't drawn in a while. i dont, really do much anyways. i never really did much or had any big ambitions. but that's.. ok i guess. just to exist is already hard, so i shouldn't beat myself up over this but seeing what happened its hard not to.
i wonder if things would've turned out differently if ive kept my mouth shut.
they say if you worry about being manuplitive or a bad person you probably aren't being so since actual bad people won't be self aware. and while i agree to that to an extent things. things aren't always that simple yknow.. it never is. i really want to be nice to myself but i feel like everything was my fault. its my fault that im alone now but im, just so tired. the concept of talking to people doesn't even feel nice, well, it does but i think im just romantisising it. fuck man i dont know. is it my fault for being anxious over sudden changes? no my feelings are valid, they are but i still think im abusive. people can be emotionally abusive even accidentally. abuse is abuse. but i, i cant tell half of the time. all i do everyday is be confused, i cant even tell what im confused about.
i know im really, fuckin easy to manuplilate. alright? but this sexy case of imposter syndrome just make me feel like im lying to myself, just constantly. no matter how much people around me tell me im doing my best i just, feel like im lying to them. i can do better, i cam become better i h a ve to be better then this. i know it, but i cant right now. while everyone else is moving forward im stuck behind because im not strong enough. its hard enough to stay alive already because if i even let myself stand on the balcony with nothing to distract me for too long ill spiral. i know there's people who are way worse off then me yet are still strong enough to keep going forward with their lives and yet im stuck in the same place. i want, to so desperately be stronger but im not built for that and i fucking resent it. i resent myself for being weak and small and alone and i know i have to take care of myself but seeing everything turn on its head so suddenly just. fuckin' hell dude.
i honestly can't, see myself staying for long after my family finally abandons me for wasting all their money on me. because who else do i stay for then? myself? with no desire or dreams? i cant talk to anyone without getting stressed out a minute in so fuck it let me commit one last act of selfishness and off myself in the future via hurling into the ocean. a pathetic death for someone no one will look for nor remember. fitting.
yikes got suicidal kawaii desu teehee real fast ahaaha
god i, was doing ok hhh. they said the meds would take like two weeks to start working and i may feel worse before i feel better and it's been two weeks and i. i just feel emotionally constipated, like im sad enough to cry but also it's not letting me. sure ive still been constantly sad but at least im not staying in bed until 6 in the evening anymore.. that's good, right?
ive always been oversensitive, but what can ya do yknow. im just your average mentally ill young adult failing in life. possibly soon adding to the death count in the future as a fuckin hermit crouching at his parent's home like a coward. they say you'll hurt people by dying but hey! i hurt no one if no one will care anyways. they'll all leave, you know they will. because when has anyone cared enough stayed for me?
wow that's, hm. ok im gonna go watch tiktoks or videos and distract myself now before i really do something, even though i know i won't because im a coward. wow ok uhh i may come back later if i still need to yell about being lonely due to being a fuckin loser i guess wow brain you just never shut up do you oK BYE