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A Kind of Demotic

USA, IL, Chicago


a part of A Kind of Demotic, by SuckOnMyJuiceBox.


SuckOnMyJuiceBox holds sovereignty over USA, IL, Chicago, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

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USA, IL, Chicago is a part of A Kind of Demotic.

8 Characters Here

Nevada Angelus Hayes [0] :Let Me Out Of This Dream:
Julius Monnefay Felize [0] "You Can Run From Your Past But It Will Always Dictate Your Future."
Peony Anne Quinn [0] "You gave me such a delicate name. Did you know then how easy it would be to break me?"
Lottie Kim-Ly Oh [0] "...I want to hold your hand."
Camilo Felipe Reyes [0] :|:I Hate This World... This Reality:|:
Marley Jonah Kincaid [0] The kind of human wreckage that you love.
Acelyn Jaegar Winefield [0] "I'll wait a thousand years just to see you smile again."
Astrid Catharine Leona Molyneux [0] If I could end the quest for fire... For truth, for love, and my desire...

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Nothing has ever been light, and only Milo’s fingers intertwined with mine made me realize it, because when he did; I felt better. Everything was heavy. Even the good stuff was a burden of sorts. Waking up to a test I know I didn’t study enough for--the feeling--weighed down on me more than I think it should’ve. Part of that was my fault, I’m overly critical. Mostly with myself, but I can be a prick at times too. I know that, and I guess everyone I sat with at lunch knew that too. I’m thinking I should be feeling some sort of appreciation right now, but it isn’t coming.

What I do is assume. And when I assume, there’s a reason for it. Because with guesses, and assumptions, you can’t really go wrong. Sure, you can wander away from home a bit, but your still in the same neighborhood. I have to assume, because if I don’t; I get lost. I don’t know who likes who, and I don’t understand subtle actions that I normally would. If I don’t assume, the blow would be much harder. If I don’t assume, something sooner or later is going to hit me in the face, and I won’t even be expecting it. So I expect, and I set my expectations for the worst high. Because I know that if I’m expecting the worst, things will be better. Sometimes.

So I’ve been assuming that Milo--yes, likes me--but there’s someone else, and that someone else has something to do with that ring. But ignorance can be my best friend when needed, and right now I was really needing one.

Because who’s to say that the ring isn’t from his grandfather who died? Or that it isn’t his father’s from when he was younger? Who’s to say that ring isn’t anybody’s, and Milo just likes it? What if the ring means so much to Milo, and nothing to me? Has absolutely nothing to do with me? Isn’t that--in a way--mean that it’s more important than me? Doesn’t it? Right?

I squeezed his hand, hoping he’d squeeze back. Do I think into things too much?

I responded to Milo, “What do you mean?” Nothing was wrong. Everything was right where it needed to be, and I still wasn’t satisfied.

Is it right to hate myself right now?

“..Marley.” And that was when I knocked down all the neatly stacked flyers.

They spilled onto the floor, scattering everywhere as I attempted to keep the rest from falling. And then--of course--a young lady walks in, gushing wind coming from the opened door. It blew the yellow papers in a frenzy away from me, and I think I would’ve cried if one of the workers wasn’t being so nice about it. I think I still might cry, because some people were still looking at me. Why couldn’t they just mind their own business?
And then the urge to cry was even stronger, because why couldn’t I mind my own business? Why did I have to know about that ring? It wasn’t my story to tell. It had nothing to do with me, and I wasn’t in the right trying to figure out who it was from. If it was even from someone at all.

I grabbed the last paper and handed it to the worker, sadness (empathy?) plaguing the irises of her dark eyes. I didn’t realize it was because I looked like I was on the brink of bawling eyes out until she said it was, ‘quite alright.’ and that it was an accident. And of course I didn’t know that I practically spewed fifty ‘I’m sorry’s’ the entire time.

I turned back around, wishing for once--that Nevada hadn’t talked to me, (And that I could melt into the floorboards.) when any other time it would’ve been the other way around.

So I said the only thing that came to mind.

“Hi Nevada.”

And then immediately regretted it. Nevada doesn't like stupid people.

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Peony watched the interaction between Julius and his brother with a hint of amusement. Recently, she’d come to the discovery that sibling relationships seemed to be the only ones with any real substance; the only ones that would last through thick and thin. Parents gave up on their children, friends only put up with you when they got something out of it, lovers got bored and left. Well, she wasn’t a hundred percent sure about that last bit, never having had anything really resembling a lover, herself, but she assumed. Of course, it was likely that she was just projecting her own experience on the world at large, her little sister being the only person she could rely on anymore, but wasn’t that how it always went? Man was an inherently self-absorbed species.

Peony was inclined to smile at their antics, but she had been told that it never looked sincere when she did, and since then she always opted not to. It made her come off as rather severe, but it was better than the alternative. She’d rather look severe than completely fake.

“That was my brother the dumbass,” Julius said as his brother said his goodbyes and disappeared into the storm. Peony did chuckle a little at that, but the sound was tinged with bitterness. She couldn’t help it, and she didn’t mean it in a negative way, it was just that bitterness had become such a ubiquitous facet of her being since she was so sorely disillusioned. Her steps were laden with it as she walked, and no matter how she tried to run from it, bitterness gripped her ankles and wouldn’t let her go, causing her to fall flat on her face. She was use to it now, and didn’t much dwell on it… except at times like these when she wondered how it looked to others. Mostly, it seemed to drive them away, at least the few who’d tried to get close to her. It wasn’t what she wanted, but it was usually what happened all the same.

“So, we should get going,” he suggested, and he demonstrated by walking a few feet away, then turning to see if she was following. Peony fell into step with him. She wasn’t really sure where the River Brew was, since she’d never been there, so she stayed close to him, letting him lead.

“So,” she said, her voice still tinge with the ever-present monotone she’d adopted, “does your brother always leave you alone at night with strange girls you find on the street? He should be more careful. I could be a psychopath, you know,” she said. She meant it as a joke, but the tone of voice she used when saying it was completely serious.

They didn’t have long to walk, it seemed, because they reached an establishment with the words “River Brew” painted in large letters along the window. Peony stopped and looked in. Hmm… those boys at the register seemed familiar somehow. She squinted her eyes more carefully and took a closer look. Ah, one of them was the boy from the library. What was it? No, she had never gotten his name. Which must mean that the other was his friend, whom she had only seen briefly, but could still recognize nonetheless for his sheer attractiveness, not to mention the intimate scene she’d been party to in the parking lot was enough to establish them both in her mind for a while to come.

“Well, I’m assuming we’re here,” she said to the new acquaintance by her side, waving her hand in the direction of the painted letters.

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I wanted to respond to her words. Questions? But I was sure the answer would be one that would worry both myself and maybe her if she wasn’t a psycho. I actually didn’t mind the prospect that she could possibly be some insane girl with the tendency to kill people and dumb their guts in the gutter. Maybe it would be a relief for me almost because it would prove that not only am I incapable of making friends but I’m incapable of making normal friends. I mean, my last friend Robby Murrano had been complete incomprehensible and wanted me to get him a date with my older sister the whole time I’d bothered to deal with him. And he always carried abound this weird looking backpack that he would never let me look in and I wondered constantly if it was full of drugs or something because I wouldn’t doubt it. I never doubt that option even when I see him from time to time walking down the street casually. He’d be the best drug dealer ever – no one would ever suspect him of selling drugs because not only is he one of the most inconspicuous people ever but he backlashes drugs like a sport’s mom gone nuts. But he’s crazy so maybe one day he’d blow his cover. So if she is a psychopath? Whatever. I’ve met others.

River Brew, I have a lot of memories swirling around this place starting from my first date to the day I’d met Marceline for the first time. Each one had been interesting to say the least because not only was I sixteen on my first date and dating someone of an age I shouldn’t have been but that was a few days before I met Marceline at the very same table with the very same person. It was an awkward meeting to say the least but we’d all had a good time and made it regular to meet up at least once a week to keep life from being boring. “I’d say your assumption is correct,” I answered as I moved to the door and pushed it open and held it open because I’m a gentleman at heart even if I don’t act like it. She seemed like she needed a friend anyway – I’d be willing to offer if she’d deal with all my bullshit of sorts. I didn’t have many friends anyway. Was Robby still my friend? It’s stupid to ask a friend if they’re a friend so I’ll let him ask me because I know he will.

Suddenly a single sheet of paper slid towards me until one corner slipped under my shoe. It was interesting that one of their neatly stacked flyers would be on the floor but I picked it up and turned to head in to hand it back to whoever was stacked them. What I saw was interesting enough, a young man struggling to pick them up and apologizing enough times to make me want to laugh and a worker who looked only slightly frustrated. It was who I saw after that shredded that tiny hope of not embarrassing myself. Why did Camilo Reyes have to be here today of all days? I’m used to seeing him when I’m working and those days I pass by the dance studio to see how he’s doing but never has it been unplanned like this. Luckily, well I hope it’s luckily, he hasn’t seen me and I can build up whatever confidence I need so I can face him with whatever dignity I’ve managed to keep since that day six years ago. God, how long after that had I gone to Mercutio, destroyed and hoping for whatever kind of comfort he could offer? Maybe a year or two.... That doesn’t justify my actions now four years later but it’s become habitual. Everything is habitual.

When everything isn’t habitual it isn’t controlled and I don’t like not having control of situations because they can go anyway they want and I don’t like that. It means I don’t expect what’s coming and that worries me just because when you don’t know what’s coming you don’t know if it’s good or bad. “Peony, what would you like? I’ll treat you to whatever seeing as I invited you and everything.” I don’t enjoy the way my heart hits my ribcage. I don’t enjoy how Milo looks at that boy right before he goes to order the same coffee I know he always orders. I want to distract him and demand to know who exactly that boy is. Not that I have any right because he’s allowed to move on and I already have albeit horribly. But I’ve tried which is the point. I somehow feel betrayed in a way but I spot the ring sitting on his finger when he hands over the money to the cashier and that elates my mood drastically. But at the same time it makes the ring I’m wearing feel five thousand times heavier because I know it weighs on his mind enough. He told me once. “I know I should take it off but.... I feel like if I do I’ll be breaking a promise and I don’t break promises. You know that Ben. That’s why I came today; I promised.” It made me feel guilty but at the same time I didn’t worry about it. I had never worn my own around him in a visible way but it was always there sitting on that chain on my neck hidden under my shirt.

I’d realised a bit too late that today I was wearing it on my right middle finger like I always did when I knew I wasn’t going to see him. I hadn’t bothered to think when I lifted my hand in greeting when he turned with two cups in his hands and when his eyes landed on me. It was automatic – I always used my right hand to say hello to people whether I knew them or not. So I knew that he would see it because he’s a stickler for the details and a ring like ours isn’t found just anywhere on anyone. It was my grandfather’s, given to him by his mother way before the world lost its colour. To see a replica would be rare and exciting and I’d ask them all about it and invite them out all the time so we could connect through that one similarity. But I wouldn’t see another person with it. He would see it, he would know and he would kill me. It was that simple. I wasn’t Benvolio Omihara anymore (he didn’t know that was my original last name) but I was Julius Felize. And I had ruined everything.

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It wasn’t the voice that had shocked me because I’m used to voices being said out of the blue from places I can’t see and it isn’t a rare occurrence for me – not in that sense anyway. What had shocked me was the flyers that suddenly lifted into the air and fluttered back to the ground and the instant and gratuitous amounts of sorry that Marley spit out. I had wanted to help but I saw that it was my turn to order and I didn’t want to let people behind me go ahead because that meant I’d have to wait longer and I hate waiting longer than I actually have to. Plus I bet Marley would appreciate if I had a hot coffee waiting for him so he could douse his embarrassment in it. Not that he had any reason to be embarrassed because he looked completely adorable. Wrong word. Oh well, roll with it because I have nothing else to offer you people. I just have me and these thoughts running in my mind that I wish would stay in the light instead of straying off into that dark place I keep barricaded and locked for this exact reason. The words I say always come out wrong when this happens because I’m trying to sugar coat words that would otherwise be shunned.

The woman standing behind the counter looks at me as if I’ve really inconvenienced her day by telling her the specifics of my coffee but from my side she’s inconveniencing me. I have money – I don’t need to work and if my helping her get paid is bothering her I can just leave. “Please,” I add and I smile a little. I do kind of feel bad because I’ve never had to do a single thing for myself until I moved out two years ago and even then my mother insisted on sending people to my home to do things for me. It’s severely tampering with my independence but these days I’m managed to turn them away without them having done a single thing but I keep them around long enough to make my mother think they have done something. Obviously if they ratted me out I wouldn’t be affected in any way but they would in the sense that they would most likely be fired for failing to do the job that they were hired to do in the first place. She’d probably tell them that I’m just stupid and young and don’t know what I want so they have to show me what I want. Little does she know I know very well what I want and I would just about give her a heart attack if I ever said it in the language she holds so close.

She blushes light pink when I hand her more than our drinks are even worth and tell her to keep the change as her own personal tip – I do feel like an ass at the moment. Less gentlemanly than I normally am because she isn’t someone I really have to impress in order to gain life points. Not that I’ve ever really been after life points to begin with for it’s more likely that I’ve been after ‘MOM’ points. Mom would hate the drinks I have in my hands because common store coffee isn’t worthy of the rich but it smells more than amazing right now and I turn to hand one to Marley. But that was paused because not only had he turned to talk to whoever had called him but I’d seen someone I talk to. The man I’d come to know as Benvolio stood there holding the door open for a girl who looked younger than even me but I knew him and I knew that it was nothing more than that refreshing kindness he offered to everyone. When he lifted a hand I wanted to reciprocate but the coffees clasped in my hands made it difficult but it didn’t matter – I’d seen what I needed to.

Just the smallest glint, a fracture of a figment of light, reflected off of something wrapped around his middle finger and the colour was one I’d memorized. No one else had that colour and nothing else could be that colour because only one other person I knew had it and only one other person would ever wear it. It hit me like a brick through a window and the world as it was shattered and in a haste put itself back together. Everything looked exactly the same and I was exactly the same but everything was different and I was different and I couldn’t accept that. “Mars, I’m putting our stuff down on that table,” I muttered as I pointed to a table nearby. “I’m just going to go say hello to my friend.” I didn’t bother to explain who or why because I know I’m not the kind of person to bother with saying hello to anybody. But Julius was different. I love him. I can’t let this slip by without repercussions on his behalf so that he can repent for what he’s done to my psyche. Had I know Ben was Julius this whole time I doubt I would have Marley, I would have become this alcoholic whore and I doubt I would have become a pessimistic human being.

I didn’t say anything, didn’t give any kind of warning and I sure didn’t think about giving any kind of warning. I just picked up the hand he had held up in greeting like I had always used to and lifted it to examine it for that flash I’d seen. And I was right, there it sit, looking oh so innocent and oh so natural like it had belonged there. It did belong there and it belonged on me which was why I was so hurt and confused as to why he would even lie to me when all this time all I’ve been hoping for is to meet him again. Just meet him. I didn’t want anything from him and I know I don’t want to go back to how we’d used to be when just being around each other was enough. I wanted to cry. I wanted to hit him. I wanted to never see him again. I wanted to be impulsive and act out all the built up feelings that have been sitting in my mind for the past six years. There was nothing I could do.

“We’ll know each other forever right? Forever and ever and we’ll never ever not know each other even if Mama were to find out?”
“Of course Milo. I’ll never be separated from you even if your mother tells us we can’t be side by side. Always. I’ll be your own personal angel who makes sure you grow up to be a brilliant young man.”
“Te quiero.”

And suddenly the fit of anger I’d been in was gone – he hadn’t lied to me at all. He had said all those years ago that he would never be separated from me, that we’d always be side by side. Julius has been here, with me, hurting himself in ways I could never just to see me. “Why?” It wasn’t fair that he was left to suffer alone while I blindly and happily went on living in the ignorance that I would never see him again. “Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you fucking tell me?” I don’t want to be with Julius the way I had wanted to the first three years after my mother had made sure he and I never close again. I’m happy. Truly happy, with Marley. But if I can have Julius back, just as a friend – even just as that guy who I have coffee with sometimes – I’d be happier. I wonder if he knows. I hope he does. I believe I may have let it slip once and maybe that little burst of joy I got whenever Marley texted while I was around him was hint enough. He pieces things together. Julius is smart.

Smarter than me anyway. I don't use rational thinking because my brain automatically starts to warp everything to make him look like the bad guy for if he isn't then I am. It shows me nothing than that he lied and that he left me in the dark for the past year or so that I've known him. He's the one to blame for his own suffering and for my ignorance. I can pin all of this on him because I'm the good guy here and I would have told him everything I knew if I knew what he did and he knew what I did. Julius has known for the longest time and has known who I am but he let me go on thinking he was some other person he wasn't. It wasn't fair. It's not fair. "Fuck you."

And I punched him.

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Marley Kincaid.

Watching him flail in a flurry of yellow flyers at the same instant that someone walks in the door is probably the most entertaining thing I've seen in the last few years. That's right, years. Dare I say that I might actually be happy that he just happened to walk into the River Brew while I was there? Well I did, so even if I didn't want to, it's too late. Still, I didn't smile like I was happy to see him or laugh at him wickedly like the evil entity that everyone seemed to think I was. I just stared, watching until the mess had been cleared and the inital shock had died down. "Hi Nevada." My name sounds beautiful on his lips. Conceit can be a wonderful thing — my name sounds beautiful on everyone's lips, with the exception of the obvious because everything sounds like rot on his lips. I have no idea what rot would sound like, but I imagine it would be something like Acelyn Winefield's voice. Yes, I really do have something against him; a nasty sort of... Russian grudge. I'd just love for all sorts of bad things to happen to him, even though I don't know him that well and it is therefore not my place to judge him for faults at all. Anyway, this isn't about Winefield, and he doesn't deserve it even if I am insulting him. He's not worth my insults.

I watched Marley closely, examined him, examined the guy he was with — presumably his boyfriend from the looks of things — and then wondered what I'd say. Nothing. Absolutely fucking nothing. I turned ready to just walk away nonchalantly without another word, Titania glued to my heels and had to stop when I noticed that the presumable boyfriend of Marley's was standing infront of someone else who had just walked in, scrutinizing every detail of something... coloured on one of his hands. It made my eyes ache and I reached up to rub the heel of my hand in. I realized that I was staring when Titania pulled on my shirt and called my name, but I didn't reply to him. I didn't get a chance. In that split second, before I had a chance to blink, that guy rammed his fist into the other guy's face, and people tell me I have rage issues. I was a little stunned, to say the least, and I was actually a little amused. This is the kind of thing that I'm able to fully enjoy because it means that there's someone out there just as miserable as I am. Sad, isn't it, that I find pleasure in other peoples' pain? That makes me a sadist, and not the creepy sexual torture kind of sadist either, so don't even think about it. Those who automatically made that assumption... you're all perverts. Anyone else is safe. Ha. I sound like an asshole; and please, let it be known that I'm smiling contently to myself as I write this. I actually laugh at the fact that I'm an asshole and that I do nothing to change it.

That's probably exactly why I turned around and walked right up to Marley and smiled at him like I had something nice to say. Instead.... "Is that your dog?" I pointed at the guy with the temper issue. And I just smiled, because I knew that I probably could've fallen for Marley Kincaid too, if it weren't for Vacys. If he had let me go before he left instead of promising me he'd come back, yes I might have moved on. Now? Could I give two shits about what or who Marley is doing? No. Really, no. I like him, I do, and it might be difficult to believe, but it's true. If he'd've just called when I was in the mood to talk to someone (basically just after I've had my afternoon tea), then I might've picked up. Maybe.... Ehh.... Yeah. Yeah, I would've. I think. He'd have to try again for me to test it.

No. No, I wouldn't. Never mind. As likeable as he is.... Or.... No, this is one of those things that make me all indecisive and confused, and I hate indecisive confusion.

I do like him. Really. I do.

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And I knew that somewhere in the deep, dark, recesses of my mind; I wanted to say no. If maybe Milo wasn’t Milo, and perhaps he was someone like the people staring at the scene he was making; I might’ve answered without hesitation. If I didn’t think like such a dick; I could’ve stood up for Milo, just like I’m thinking about right now. It’s an idea, just fumbling its way through my head, wanting to sputter out my lips. But I’m somewhat of a coward, and I just wanted that coffee. I wanted Milo to stop making a scene. I wanted Nevada to stop--for just one moment--playing tricks on me. Don’t go to leave, then come back. Don’t do that.

But that’s just Nevada, just as Milo is just Milo. I can’t do something I know nothing about, so I just shake my head. No. Now I’m nodding. I don’t know how to answer that, because even though--

‘His name is Milo. And yeah, he’s mine.’

--Wanted to cough its way up from out of my throat, it wouldn‘t budge. You’ll probably find more spine in jellyfish, but you won’t find these sort of thoughts anywhere. I’m a one of a kind, and those beautiful people just intensified. I’m pretty sure the world just intensified. Especially that color forcing its way through my peripheral vision. There was just too much of it.

“Milo.” I replied bluntly; avoiding the question, “His name is Milo.”

I didn’t look over. I didn’t turn to watch Milo hit that guy, and I sure as hell didn’t stop him. Should I have? Maybe. Did I? No. I just kept watching Nevada for a little longer. He’d disappear any second, I was sure. I’ll blink, and he’ll vanish. Nothing but his shoes will be left, and I’ll have no distractions left. It’s funny how I find Nevada the most interesting guy in the world one day, and then the next the scariest shit I’ve ever seen. He’s like Milo. Actually, I take that back. They’re nothing alike.

I guess I could talk about Nevada all day. I could watch those beautiful people behind him all day. Or come up with a way on how to get my phone back from home without Dad catching me. Truth is; I could come up with a million excuses as to why I shouldn’t go get Milo, but only one was telling me why I should, and its rattling its way down my throat.

I murmured a, ‘sorry,’ then approached Milo. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what was going on.

“Milo,” I spoke to him carefully, like a wounded animal, “Let’s go, okay?”

I reached for his elbow.


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All Acelyn needed to do was clamp his teeth against his tongue, ground them hard enough so that he didn't feel the need to curse scathingly vulgar words at the nonchalant boy—and yes, to him, he was a boy. Nothing more, nothing less. An irritated chill crept through his body, electrifying through the tips of his fingers, and ending in furious jolts across his spine. His fingers drummed heatedly, eyebrows drawn together in creased vexation. With deliberately slow movements, he brought the steaming mug to his lips and sipped it, relishing the flavour for only a few moments. It wasn't enough to bring his scalding temper down, not nearly enough. He closed his eyes, huffed into his mug, and felt the mocha breath buffet across his sharp features, then placed it down in front of him again, desperately attempting to extinguish the ridiculous hate he felt for Nevada. What had he done exactly? Nothing. It was his personality and complete disregard for people that irked him. It was the fact that he felt like he was better, somehow. He wanted nothing more than to send the table flying across the room, toasty beverages and all, just so he could somehow wrap his fingers around Nevada's slender neck and squeeze; squeeze until he begged for him to stop, and stumbled over himself to apologize. To apologize for being such a horrible human being. To apologize for somehow attracting Astrid's attention.

He recognized the twinkle in Astrid's eyes better than she understood. He understood the many layers of her smiles, and what they meant. Acelyn also understood the terrible effects she had on men, and women, alike. Hypnotizing, engulfing every brain cell in a man's brain until it made him a stuttering, slobbering idiot. She had all of those abilities, and because Nevada wasn't kissing her ass, he was interesting. Astrid was the type of woman that left you guessing, she made you want to discover new definitions for rain and adventure. Instead of paper, her skin was made out of the strongest leather—weathered from experience, tragedies and misinterpretations. Her weapons was her razor tongue, lashing out whenever you thought you got her character. Acelyn glanced at her, still drumming his fingers next to his frappucino. She preferred small and short-lived as apposed to everlasting; did Nevada know that? Doubtfully. He didn't give a shit about anyone besides his brother. He didn't throw his faith onto tightropes, hoping his friends could catch him—did he even have any friends? Acelyn stopped drumming his fingers and leaned forward, staring bleakly at Nevada. He wouldn't have been surprised if he didn't, not with that attitude.

Titania's remarks remained unheard. Maybe if he'd been bothering to pay attention to anyone besides Nevada, he might've laughed. He might've thought it was clever that even the small, adorable boy thought his older brother was being prick. That he was used to him being a prick. But no, he hadn't heard anything. When Astrid snorted, Acelyn's eyebrows uncreased, just a little bit, just enough so that he didn't look like he was going to throw the steaming mug into Nevada's smug face. The idea was tempting enough. He didn't look at anyone else in the River's Brew, and couldn't really be bothered to notice anyone staring in their direction. Right now, they only existed. His flustered anger only existed. Jealousy burdened his shoulders, causing him to slump forward with unrestrained frustration. He felt like fire was burning his ears, sticking to his skin and reminding him that he wasn't the one Astrid wanted to dissect. Not that it really mattered. Astrid knew him inside and out—mostly, and if she didn't understand something, she dug her nails into it until she understood. Sometimes, Acelyn felt like she pushed his buttons on purpose just do see what he'd do; see how angry he'd get, and how far he'd go. He never would've laid a finger on her, but he'd been close a few times. Yelling mere inches from her face. Not because she'd said anything particular, but because his bitterness often bottled itself in booze. Really, it depended on what he drank.

Whoever said breathing exercised worked were liars. Fuck breathing exercises. Making his heart slow down, and his mind get quiet, and his skin feel like it actually fits and that he doesn't want to disintegrate into the puffy seat. It wasn't manageable. He didn't feel like he owned the world anymore, and he didn't feel like Astrid would take it with him; come hell or high water. There was no one else that had the guts to jump out of planes without a second thought, without thinking about whether or not the parachute would actually open. Nevada was threatening something, and he probably didn't even know it. So, when Astrid sighed loudly, plopping her cup down onto the table so that speckles of hot coffee splashed onto his forearm, Acelyn's dusky eyes regarded her. The comforting, lukewarm atmosphere returned to the River's Brew and his inadvertently clenched fists eased out across the table, fanning limply across Lottie's hand. He caught Astrid's wink and stared hard for a moment, then laughed awkwardly before settling back against his seat. There wasn't any point in getting angry, especially not when she was taking everything in ease. He'd lost.

“Yeah?” Acelyn mused, turning his attention towards Astrid. His fingers remained on Lottie's, gently curling his thumb into her palm. If he felt any fluttering feelings in the pit of his stomach, he wasn't letting anything on. The previous slight still felt heavy in his gut, sickening anything sweet. “Take you home?” He sounded incredulous. Honestly, he couldn't even bare saying Nevada's name. It felt like he was saying something disgusting like: cancer, or herpes. Whichever came first. His eyes darted from Astrid to Lottie. He doubted that Astrid really felt bad, because she wasn't the type of woman to feel bad about anything, especially since he'd invited her to the cafe in the first place. But he wasn't stupid. He knew, or thought, she was trying to create an opportunity between him and Lottie. Whatever there was between them, anyway. It could've been nothing. What would she see in him now? He was as drawn as a bowstring, all tense shoulders and rippling volcanoes. Acelyn couldn't find any words; if there were any, they were lodged deep in his throat. His fingers tightened around Lottie's as Astrid rose from her seat, pulling on her coat and snatching her things from the table.

His whole body buzzed with a feeling far too familiar. That feeling that he always got before the world caved in around him. It had happened before, twice. Acelyn knew he was being selfish in ways that didn't make sense. Astrid wasn't his to command, wasn't his to watch, wasn't his to stop her from seeing anyone she wanted to—and he didn't care. Well, he didn't think he did. It was different with Nevada. He was wrong for her. He was wrong for anyone. The sweetly sick tone of Astrid's voice makes him want to vomit. Instead of commenting on it, Acelyn merely waved his fingers towards Titiana and wiggled them. Honestly, he didn't want to look at Astrid and Nevada as they walked away and bristled considerable when he heard Nevada's cool voice slithering from his lips; relaying nothing and giving nothing and emoting nothing. His eyes landed on Lottie and he found himself feeling a little better, just a little. She was a piece of sunshine peeking out from the clouds, offering everything. She was so unlike Nevada.

"Come on then, Astrid. Maybe I should drop Titania off back at my place and we can spend the evening together."

Acelyn's jaw clenched, muscles jumping along his temple. He always walked a fine line between panic and control, and successfully hid it all behind anger and sarcasm; charismatic nonchalance with a twinge of sincere, genuine kindness. His eyes avoided Lottie's for a moment; confusion covering his face like a mask. He blinked once, twice, three times, knowing full well that she was watching him intently, but didn't look up – he couldn't look at her. Nevada's statement hung dry like a corpse, cutting through the tension and adding layers upon layers of contained fury.

“I'm sorry,” the Professor finally mouthed, pulling his hand away from hers so that he could tangle his fingers on top of the table. “He's—...” He laughed softly, running his fingers through his dark hair. “He's a shitty guy, really.”

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I’d been expecting a lot of things. I always expect a lot of things because I read too much into the situation and overanalyze every little detail that presents itself. I’d been expecting a warm reunion with smiles. I’d been expecting a whole ton of yelling and screaming. I don’t know exactly what I’d been expecting now that I think about it because when he’d taken hold of my hand so carefully my thoughts had been blown aside and everything I had concentrated on the heat of his hand against my own. After that my expectations dwindled down a little and coherent thought meant less to me than it always had and I knew soon after it would mean just as much as always. But for those few moment all that existed was the fact that he was holding my hand and he wasn’t doing anything to hurt me. I was waiting for it – the snap in his mind when all the connections finally fell into place – but for now that didn’t matter. I had been preparing myself for it for the past year and anything he did would be fine.

When he spoke I didn’t know what to say for everything I had to say was some mixture of unknown words and past desires. The sentences and phrases and paragraphs that were forming were nothing but nonsense and garbled shit that would make me sound fragmented in my speech. None of it would make any sense to someone as sophisticated as him. It would all be incomprehensible in the worst of ways and any effort I could ever make to make it comprehensible would be immediate failures. I was pained in that way because I had never once had any trouble speaking to him like he was best friend, my other half. In ways he still was. When I lost him I lost all that spontaneous energy and all the will to bother changing myself from this over thinking blob of wasted space on the planet. My spot here is useless but I still use it up and breathe my share of oxygen like my parents told me to do from the day I was born.

“Keep on living Jules. Even if people tell you not to, even if you don’t see a reason and the light at the end of the tunnel blinks out. Keep living because I worry that you’ll quit. You’ve never been a fighter Jules. Fight for life.”

My mother had been a fine woman full of Japanese pride and deeply rooted in the culture of her people. She was sturdy and stable and wonderfully kind though strict with discipline. She always made us concentrate of homework and education but made sure that we had a good family dynamic with each other. She smelled like wild flowers and apple slices and always had the softest smile of her face like everything made her happy – even her eyes smiled. When she came down with that heart condition that same woman prevailed even when her body slowly started to fail her. She fought to the bitter end and right before she shut her eyes she told me those words; the last ones she would ever say. Everyone had received their own but mine were more of a request then parting words from a mother to her son. She had said them as if she were going to get out of the bed and take us to the amusement park – yet her hand had been so frail in mine. I almost quit then. It’s just the repetition of her words in the carven of my thoughts that keeps me from falling.

That and the hope that maybe he’ll forgive me.

My chances are very low.

And that’s obvious the instant his fist connects with my face. I can’t say I’m surprised because really I’m not but anyone would have that initial shock when knuckles connect with your cheek bone. My feet stumble just slightly until my back braces against the wall. Instantly my hand comes up to rub the spot and I can feel that my face isn’t registering pain or anger or shock but that pure, untainted amusement he always makes me feel. I almost want to laugh because it’s been so long since I’ve managed to be around someone as impulsive as Milo. Someone who feels emotions in such a raw state that the only way to express them is through action. I love that about him. I love a lot of things about him. It wasn’t until I saw someone come up behind and call him name that I did the one thing I shouldn’t have. I laughed.

“I missed you Milo,” I forced out in a pocket of air.

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I had not wanted him to start laughing.

Not that I’m very surprised because he always did the oddest things that people normally would never do normally and I knew this about him. He would always laugh when people wouldn’t laugh and get upset when people wouldn’t get upset. I don’t know what it is but it’s charming about him in a not so charming way but then again I’m always swept away by the ones people see as oddities. Except Marley. But he’s special in a way that words can’t begin to describe. Words can’t describe Julian either but words aren’t needed because he describes himself just by walking down the street with that confidence of his. That cool analytical confidence that shames my pride into the nether regions of my mind that I can’t reach it to drag it back up. Always, always. No matter if it’s been six years or if it had been twenty years he’ll always have that effect on me – and it makes me want to hit him again. I’ve been living in my own pride for six years, built up this perfectly executed persona over those same years and have moved on. I’ve become someone independent of him and here he comes knocking down every peg I’ve ever built up against him. It isn’t fair.

I’ve wanted it for so long.

Then he had to go and say he missed me and I knew that my breath was falling short of my lungs needs. I would have responded had I not heard a voice I’d come to want to hear. It was more important to me that Marley sounded hurt than that Julian had missed me. I dropped my guard and let go of the tension I had built up in my arms in preparation to hit him again. There was no need for the violence. No need for the amount of anger that I had felt coursing through my veins. It was gone anyway. All of it expelled in the single punch I’d delivered to the face I had so badly wanted to remember. I wouldn’t forget this time. I refused to forget. I would memorize everything I could and burn it into the tissue of my brain. “Yea,” I bluntly said back. I was feeling little of anything. His appearance had caused my immediate anger and the immediate numb that came after. “You too.” I couldn’t think of anything to say to make this have that ‘warm reunion’ kind of feeling that I had always imagined our meeting being at first.

It occurred to me that he would wonder who Marley was and I wanted to tell him, to shove it into his face and force him to accept it. Make so it painfully obvious that he could never have me again. “Julian.” I said it in such a professional tone you wouldn’t think just moments before I had punched him with all the hatred I could have possibly had. I turned to Marley, smiled and unconsciously ran my hand through his hair. I moved closer to him and leaned to whisper in his ear. “Sorry. I’ll explain all this later.” I stood up and grasped onto the bottom of my shirt and tugged to straighten it out; following by adjusting my glasses. A deep breath in and I turned after taking hold of Marley’s hand because he was more comforting than anything else could ever be. I was happy just to know that he was there and that he would continue to be there. (Not exactly in that spot but I hope you know what I mean.) And maybe this whole time I’ve been craving comfort. In the endless amounts of liquor filled bottles, in the meaningless sex with people I didn’t care about and in the stone set metal of a ring set on my finger. But I’ve finally found a permanent one.

“Julian this is Marley Kincaid.” I didn’t know why it was so hard. In front of him I was able to say anything. “My boyfriend,” I finished just as steadily as I’d started. Out of needed reflex I squeezed Marley’s hand. I was nervous, disrupted and I felt like I was betraying someone I’d vowed everything to. Everything was flitting through my head all at one time. Every word, every promise, every lie, every truth, every laugh, every tear, every kiss, every touch… everything. It was flooding into the forefront of my mind at such a quick speed in such a large quantity that I wanted to cry out in pain and down as many Advil as my body can handle. Or I wanted to pass out. Or maybe I wanted to cry and then pass out. Either way I was doing one or the other or both. Didn’t matter which one it happened to be. I would prefer if I just passed out thought because feeling pain isn’t quite my forte though I feel like I’m in excruciating pain right now. Mental pain. Maybe physical pain. Physical pain because I wasn’t quite prepared for how much I’d want him after six years. But I don’t. I do but I don’t. I do want him but I don’t want him in the least.

I want everything to do with him but I don’t want to have a single thought about him. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. But I love him. I love him. I love him. No, I don’t feel anything for him. He’s just Julian now. Never was but now will always be. I have Marley and Marley is all I need. And then my heart seemed to stammer in my chest and my vision suddenly went blurry. “Marley Kincaid.” …. “My boyfriend.” It felt a whole lot more real suddenly since I’d managed to say it out-loud and too my freaking ex for that matter. The first person I’d ever told and it had to be the person who had been my first everything. Not that anyone but me would know just how fucked up that was but to me it felt like a huge step forward apart from the shadow I’d been living in. Like stepping outside to see snow for the first time. Really. Living in Spain you don’t get to see much snow except for on TV and that just doesn’t do the crisp, clean purity of snow justice. Ten years old and seeing snow for the first time? It’s like taking a cold shower. Shocking, petrifying and amazing all at the same time. I sometimes wonder if I still have a part of that accent that used to saturate my voice so heavily back then.

Have I screwed up?