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Birthstone Spirits: The Great Escape

Aires

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a part of Birthstone Spirits: The Great Escape, by birthstone_spirits.

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birthstone_spirits holds sovereignty over Aires, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

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Aires

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Aires is a part of Birthstone Spirits: The Great Escape.

38 Characters Here

Harper Calloway Fields [342] I heard this great joke from my sister. Ready? What did one ocean say to the other ocean? ..... Give up? Nothing. They just...WAVED! AHAHAHAHA*snorts*HAHAHAHA!
Tallyho Abel [316] Humans aren't that grand.
Haru Karokav [308] Listen and learn, you won't regret it.
Autumn Jones [245] "I wonder, what does fate have in store for me today?"
Kyle Keaton [243] "I got your back, dude."
Skylar Grayson [223] Just a little rough around the edges.
Falke der Herrscher [181] fei, Adventure?
Dorian Roberts [177] "No. No, I do not want to go on an adventure."
Xabier Sanchez [159] "There can always be warmth hidden in the shadows."

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Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher
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Tallyho wasn’t so upset with Dorian after he brought up that hilarious memory. Tallyho was always very nonchalant after drinking, a quiet, somber, rather calm drunk. But Dorian…. Well it was a wonder he could hold his alcohol long enough for it to slither down his throat.
She smirked slightly, her eyes squeezing in the shape of sliced melons, squinted and joyful.
This expression fell however when Kyle joined the conversation. She didn’t particularly mind his entrance but she tended to be a lot happier when exclusively dealing those who she considered to be her good friends. Besides he could have very well spoken to Skylar who he had been obsessively attached to as of late. And perhaps that might have been the best thing to do as Harper began to butt in.
She rolled her eyes. Since the academy it had been increasingly obvious to Tallyho that Skylar liked Harper and that Harper only dealt with Skylar when he had nothing better to do, i.e. mess around with Xabier. And perhaps the reason Tallyho didn’t think much of Skylar was because all this time it seemed like she continually opened herself up to Harper and let him back into her life only to be tossed aside again and again like a piece of trash. At least that’s how Tallyho saw it, especially as someone who considered herself to be in the same (though not nearly as detrimental) situation with Xabier.
In the beginning she was under the impression that they were friends. But of course as time went on he would decline her invitations to dance with her and Falke, or refuse to eat with them. Not to mention his inexplicable distaste for Dorian. But whenever something major happened he wanted to insert himself into her life full-force only to drift away without a warning. It was artificial and Tallyho wouldn’t let herself play that game as long as Skylar had with Harper. She mentally separated herself from that relationship long ago.
And as Harper went on she couldn’t hide the way her brows furrowed, the way she cocked her head to the side and pursed her lips in disbelief.
“Harper,” she began, “what’s wrong with you? You and Xabier?”
That was the most she’d probably ever said to him in one sitting. And though it wasn’t a conversation she was a part of, as a woman she was getting pretty fed up watching this cycle.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Gwenneth Yuan
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If only she had just stopped after the first question.

But she hadn't, and whatever smart-ass response he would have pulled out died in his throat when he heard Xabi's name.

"Wr-wrong? With us?" he repeated, stammering, and laughed. Fake. Defensive. Walls up. Did she know? "There's nothing wrong with us." If anything, it was only the best with them, but he didn't say that.

He leaned as casually as he could against the table of food. "We're just bros...best...best bros."

Of course, with the lack of context that was Tallyho's mind, Harper had no real way of knowing what exactly she was referring to. Even thinking over the question again only brought up their supposedly secret relationship.

"I mean, there's tons of stuff wrong with me," he continued, plucking out some grapes with his tanned fingers, "I think we can all attest to that. He could probably write a book on it," he pointed a finger at Kyle. "But me and Xabi? Nah." He popped a handful of the small fruit into his mouth, shaking his head vigorously, curls dangerously close to coming loose again.

"Nothing wrong there."

He swallowed, and asked, voice still a bit high, but eyebrows furrowed in suspicion. "Why? Do you think something's wrong?"

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Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields
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"Bug off, scumbag," he growled and shoved the jerk away from Skylar. Fancy clothes wouldn't get in the way if he actually decided to fight him. At worst, he'd have a few wrinkles. That bastard was too much of a coward to do anything to mess up Kyle's clothes more than that. He proved his cowardice time and time again, in relationships and battles. Instead of respectfully pulling out of a relationship, he simply ignored the other person unless it suited him. Playing with hearts and emotions like puppets on strings. Kyle snarled and balled his hands in fists.

His head snapped up at a squeaky high-pitched word from Harper. "Xabi? Who's Xabi?" Eyes narrowed, he turned toward the increasingly anxious scumbag. Did that mean what he thought it meant? Xabier was Kyle's friend in their academy years. After the fire, Xabier started avoiding him with no explanation, and he still wouldn't explain himself. Kyle never called him Xabi. Could he be avoiding him because he was with Harper? Everyone knew Kyle hated Harper, and no one knew better than the people he spent most of his time with. "Damn Bastard!" He stalked over to the table where Harper tried to hide himself. "It's your fault!"

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Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel
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Tallyho hissed softly, a heavy breath escaping her, mouth pressed tightly and eyes glaring at the ceiling. Was he really doing that? It should hardly be a secret that the two men had at some point rolled in bed with one another. After so much time it was too obvious and honestly it would be trivial for Tallyho to address him about that of all things. In fact she felt her intelligence insulted that he thought she hadn’t a clue.
“I’m not asking what’s wrong with your… personal tastes.” she paused, making eye contact and saying the phrase loudly and clearly to let him know that she obviously picked up on the relationship too. “I’m asking what’s wrong with the both of you as people. Socially. As people who—“
And there went Kyle. Tallyho was interrupted by his outburst. And as the stalky blonde moved with every intention of attacking Harper Tallyho moved too. But between them. Jutting her shoulder backwards at Kyle as to push him back.
“Sit down Kyle,” she said, voice flat and steely. She glared at the couch. She didn’t care what kind of beef they had at that point. Tallyho was just about to say something that she’d harbored within her ever since they walked through the core. Kyle always had his chance to talk. It was her turn. It was her turn.
She refocused on Harper. Dipping her face towards him—the shadows swallowed her cheeks—an ethereal rigidity about it.
“I’m asking what’s so wrong that the both of you can disregard other lives so easily. I’m asking why you’re so bull headed. I’m asking why you treat her (she gestured towards Skylar) like a side dish you only want to acknowledge when you’re deprived of your main course. Why you live your life so blindly to the troubles of others. Why you’re so ready to call Dorian a friend but you hardly care to take the time to learn about what’s going on in his life. Why you always have to absorb situations and twist them to be about its effect on you and you alone. You don’t have the capacity for empathy and I sensed this about you from the first day I met you. From every instance where you’ve stepped on my toe, or trudged into me without acknowledging it, like I’m a piece of dirt! In my culture we believe that evil is in the ordinary. It is not a grand creature with claws and fiery breath, it is prosaic. It is man. It is forgetfulness. Neglect. A lack of empathy. A lack of consideration. Evil is accidental but it is still evil. Evil is you.”
Tallyho silenced. Smoothing the festering blaze within her.
“I would say that you act so soulless sometimes… But it seems you do that <i>all</i> of the time. And from what I can tell you wouldn’t care if every last one of us were murdered right before you. Because everything is perfect for Harper if he has his current preoccupation. And that preoccupation is safe in Harper’s world… at least until Harper gets bored with it and throws it away with the rest of the trash.”
Tallyho did not storm off or stand there festering. Instead she turned, making a slow, dignified walk to the food table. Almost as if her outburst had never occurred silencing herself with a grape to the lips.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel
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Skylar couldn’t remember the last time she had actually been this happy. Between the months spent at sea followed by their prison stay before the flock, she’d felt trapped. Even in the aftermath of their victory, she couldn’t bring herself to feel anything but empty.

But as the days passed, she found herself starting to act like her old self again. Her laughter became more genuine, smiles less fake. And while it would take a while before things were back to normal, she felt like she could finally live again.

Skylar watched with a bemused expression as Autumn happily pranced out onto the dance floor with Morgan. She could tell that the November warrior seemed a lot happier too, the thought bringing a smile to her face. Autumn’s positivity was one of the things she loved the most about her friend, and to see her back to her cheerful self only made Skylar happier.

It was Kyle who drew her attention away from the others, the younger blonde taking her hand and kissing it. She felt her cheeks flush at the unexpectedly blunt gesture.

"Are you sure you don't want to dance? Will you dance with me?"

A shrug rolled off of her shoulders as she nodded. “Sure, why not? I’m not very good to begin with, try not to laugh too hard!”

She considered the evening a victory, having danced with both Kyle and Harper without tripping over the skirt of her gown.
Things really were starting to look up.

-

If Skylar had thought that the previous night’s ball was extravagant, nothing could have ever prepared her for the next day.
Mildred seemed to have taken her already neurotic tendencies to a whole new level, doing everything in her power to make sure than things were perfected to her liking before the festivities were to begin.

Skylar shifted in her gown as she listened to the older woman’s instructions. She had never been one to play pretend growing up, yet all the fuss seemed to make up for the lack of sparkly princess costumes and tacky plastic crowns in her childhood.
The dress was beautiful, and she had to hand it to Mildred- she didn’t know how the woman came up with such gorgeous creations in such a seemingly short amount of time. The dress was an emerald green with a sweetheart neckline and a beaded empire waist, the skirt loose and flowing. The sleeves were capped and covered in the same silver beading, leaving her shoulders bare. It seemed to hit her in all the right places, accentuating her slight curves and fitting her perfectly (which she was incredibly grateful for- her hours spent as a human pin cushion didn’t seem to have been in vain). Her hair was fairly simple in contrast to the elaborate dress. Her hair had been braided to create a crown around the top of her head, a sparkly silver and emerald clip holding it together while the rest of her dark hair fell in loose waves down her back, smaller sparkly clips scattered throughout.

Skylar followed the others off to the waiting room, wishing that Autumn was with them as well. At least the separating of the warriors would finally give her some alone time with Harper. She barely saw him anymore, the older warrior always with Xabier.

In the midst of everything that had happened the night before, Skylar hadn’t even noticed that Dorian had left the ball. Catching the tail-end of his conversation with Tallyho (was it really eavesdropping if they were all stuck in the same small room together?), she gathered that he had managed to escape the festivities.

Kyle had been hovering around near her since they had arrived, offering to get her anything she wanted from the table of food. It was very sweet, and his behavior paired with his blonde hair reminded her a lot of a Golden Retriever puppy.

Skylar turned at the sound of Harper’s voice, lips turning up into a smirk. She did have to admit, he looked incredible- they all did, actually. Before she could open her mouth, Tallyho spoke up.

“Harper, what’s wrong with you? You and Xabier?”

It was surprising to hear the February warrior speak up, especially to Harper. In fact, it was probably the most she had ever heard her say to him.

Harper’s voice lacked the usual confidence as he stuttered out a reply, and Skylar tilted her head slightly. Before she could add anything to the conversation, Kyle was shoving Harper and Skylar was suddenly caught in the middle of the two water warriors.

She couldn’t say that she didn’t agree with Tallyho to an extent, especially when the slender blonde nodded in her own direction as she was addressing Harper. Skylar had never really considered the two of them friends, they had different social circles and remained civil towards each other, but it seemed almost as if she was standing up for her, saying the things that Skylar couldn’t bring herself to say out loud. Unlike Kyle, who was quick to show emotion in his voice, Tallyho’s voice remained flat and steely as she confronted the older male. She finished, simply walking off as if nothing had happened.

Skylar wasn't quite sure what to do or say next, biting down on her lip.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher
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The party wasn't what he wanted it to be. Xabier was trying his best to hold out an olive branch to the others. If they wanted to accept then it was completely up to them. However, some people didn't seem willing to meet him halfway. Such as Autumn, the person who he hadn't realised he pissed off.

Sure, she danced with him and acted civil towards him but no matter how much it seemed,he wasn't an idiot. He could sense her disdain behind the friendly mask throughout his dance with her.
He was only being friendly but whatever.
Xabier inwardly shrugged at the discovery, it wasn't as if he was Mr Popular nowadays anyway.


Especially since he had no clue what he had done to deserve it.
Well aside from getting with a guy.... (And he thought no one knew about that, but he couldn't come up any other possible explanation)
But the majority of the Month Warriors were Earth born and/or Americans. He had assumed no one would make a big deal on that front. Though in the back of his mind Xabier was still afraid of Kyle's reaction. Even as he slowly made steps towards rebuilding the friendship the fear continued to cripple him. Anything could happen. He knew Kyle enough to know that gay or not, dating Harper was a no go.

Still he smiled and made polite conversation, occasionally dropping an anecdote about some funny family tradition back home. Even after the dance was over he made general conversation with the group. Smiling confidently, eye contact with everyone. It was only awkward if he let it be.
He made small conversation with Falke and quietly muttered a quick apology to Kyle for interrupting him and Skylar, following it up with a wink. At the end of the evening he smiled at everyone in turn and went back to his chamber.
Closing the door to his bedchamber his smile dropped instantly. He turned the mirror away from him again, undressed and placed a pillow on each side of the bed. Eyes closing, he could still see himself standing at the end of the bed watching as sleep carried him away.

The next day was more splendid than the last. Mildred had designed and had someone create a high collared shirt and matching dark navy suit. The colour of the suit was so dark that it almost looked like a shade of black. The Palace hairdressers had cut his hair and gelled it impeccably in place. He looked like a less eccentric Mr Gatsby.
Occasionally he would flirt subtly with Harper whenever he came over to show off his own outfit. It was a shame because no matter how hard he tried, Harper didn't seem to get the word "subtle". Xabier annoyingly liked him a little more for it.

Due to the warriors being split up into two groups with the only people he could talk to in another room, Xabier was stuck with people who obviously didn't want his presence.
He spent most of the time inspecting his nails and walking near the tables with the food, looking like the unwanted family member who just keeps turning up uninvited.

In the end he decided to just get it over and done with and approach Falke and Autumn.
His thoughts, if Falke was looking into his head, were loud and clear.
< I am coming over to talk and I don't care if you dislike me. We are in public so at least pretend you're happy to see me, I'll leave you alone again in a few minutes.>

"Ah hey guys, last night was quite fun, huh?" He smiled a smile faker than Pamela Anderson's breasts.
It wasn't the way he wanted things to be but it was clear that his genuine attempts would be immediately shot down.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Gwenneth Yuan Character Portrait: Trent Cress
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His change of topics had apparently worked, Dorian thought victoriously as Tallyho awarded him with a slight smile, her eyes crinkling with contained mirth (he really would have to ask her what in the Hell he'd done that night, even if he was relatively sure it was a secret she'd take to the grave). And in that moment, everything was alright. Not perfect, of course not perfect, with his too-tight pants, the upcoming ceremony, and the fact that there was a palpable tension settling over the room, but sitting here with Tallyho and reminiscing, he felt content. This content feeling lasted all of ten seconds as Kyle's voice interrupted their temporary lull in conversation.

It occurred to Dorian then and only a handful of people wouldn't be particularly surprised that he'd left with Trent last night. Tallyho wouldn't, even if she disapproved, and Haru and Ryou were well aware of the fact that the General preferred Dorian to the rest of the group. There was something sad about the fact that his teammates had no idea what he was up to on a regular basis, and he wasn't sure if that was his fault for not advertising it or theirs for not noticing. Tallyho knew at least, even if he hadn't told her about the first hunting expedition with General Cress. She'd caught his eye at the shocking "hello" he'd given him at breakfast with the royal family, had attempted to do the same again when Trent had chatted him up at the ball for some time before whisking him away to a land of bar fights and booze. He stuffed the thought away, as he did with most of the many unpleasant thoughts involving the group these days, and turned to Kyle to reply.

Or, rather, to try to reply because before he could do much more than open his mouth to speak, Kyle had quite suddenly pushed Harper bodily away from Skylar and Tallyho was grasped onto the moment to say what he knew she'd wanted to say for a long, long time. It was like an intervention had begun in the time it was going to take for the ceremony to start.

Harper's response had Dorian staring at him in disbelief. There was something inherently insulting about Harper's quick and fumbled excuses. This was partially because Dorian considered himself a rather modern thinker who couldn't care less about preferences- and that was even before he'd spent such a long time with Ryou who didn't care to keep his fondness of the male sex any big secret- and also because he wasn't stupid. Did he really think that he and Xabier were that good at keeping it secret? That no one had noticed their little flirtations or that fact that they almost always ran off together? It was about as secret as the fact that Dae and Liam were probably already married or that Haru was constantly on the verge of actually exploding from a combination of anger and stress. Or, you know, maybe it wasn't that obvious if the way Kyle whirled on Harper meant anything. Dorian pulled himself to his feet, not moving towards anyone, but instead poised to react. Also, he realized as he tugged idly at one pant leg, standing was a whole Hell of a lot more comfortable at the moment.

Were they really going to start a fight right before the big ceremony? Really? Couldn't they at least wait until afterwards? No one would give two shits if they did it afterwards- or, you know, Dorian wouldn't give two shits at least-, but someone was sure to start asking questions if two of the month warriors came in with bloody noses or black eyes, and worse if Mildred caught wind of it.

But Tallyho was not to be deterred from her mission to finally tell Harper like-it-was, silencing Kyle with a steely voice and a sharp glare before advancing on Harper herself, her weapons words not fists. She wielded them with all the elegance and practice of one who's been keeping it all in for far too long. Two stabs were for the two people in the room frozen where they stood, Dorian watching in a stunned silence and Skylar biting her lip uncertainly. The rest were for Tallyho and others who had dealt with his antics in the past, a flurry of painful truths and burning hate tumbling from her lips. At last there was silence as Tallyho moved to the snack table, popping a grape absently into her mouth.

Dorian, who'd dealt with all of them long enough to realize that there were approximately three ways Harper could react to Tallyho's accusations if his past records meant anything, smoothly moved to stand in front of the door, leaning against the heavy wood with an elegance that came more from the way his outfit forced his body to move as opposed to any natural grace. The door was their only exit and as much as he'd like the situation to diffuse itself, he couldn't really have anyone storming off in a huff.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel
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Harper was wrong.

Clearly it was Tallyho who could write a book on shit that was wrong with him.

His face was a mask as the blonde hurled flaw after flaw at him. Why this? Why that? Why why why why why.

For a change, he listened. Really listened to each word. Each black mark against him. He wanted to know what exactly he had done to the February warrior that had her so pissed off at him. Because as far as he knew, there really shouldn't be any bad blood between them at all.

And there it was. He'd stepped on her toe apparently. Or bumped into her. Apparently it was evil to be a basic human being. Or, in this case, to be him. Clearly the cyclopeans were nothing compared to him. He was the true evil here.

He'd been called worse things.

But it was the last few sentences that really pissed him off. How sure she sounded. If it was Dorian or Skylar, maybe he'd take them seriously. But this was from a girl he was hardly friends with, talking like she knew him.

Well, what the hell did she know?

His first instinct was to drop a one-liner and then make a break for it. But he heard footsteps, and his eyes slid over to Dorian, blocking their only exit. Eliminating that plan.

Harper hated confrontation. But he hated strangers who acted like they knew him even more. And while Tallyho wasn't exactly a stranger, she was certainly no friend of his. And in no position to act like she knew the first thing about him.

He swallowed hard, jaw clenching. He glanced at Skylar first. "Is that how you feel?" he asked, "Like a side dish?"

"And you?" he turned to face Dorian, "I can't call you friend because I don't push my nose into your business?"

He whipped back to Tallyho. Standing by the food. Eating. Like she hadn't said anything. God, what a bitch.

"That's a pretty in-depth analysis for someone who's said a maximum of twenty words to me over the past three years," he snarled, "I'm evil, huh? Is that it? I'm evil because I accidentally don't pay attention to you or where I'm walking? I'm evil for making mistakes? How about the time I taught you to swim, huh? Was that a 'lack of consideration'?"

He spat those words out, voice high in mockery. "You know," he continued, shaking a finger as he stepped towards her, "You talk about a 'lack of empathy', but who was it that called a fucking ambulance for your sorry ass after you fell out of that tree in the first place? Me, princess. And in case you still don't know, an ambulance is a vehicle with medics. And who was it that was telling everyone else to not crowd you? To give you space? Yeah, that was also me. But you probably forgot. How convenient. Wasn't that one of your evils? Forgetfulness? Oh, I guess that means you're evil too, now."

He rolled his eyes, voice dripping with sarcasm. He took a breath. He was a fast-talker to begin with, and anger added a heavier dimension to his words. Like he was stomping through the earth with his voice.

"And on that note, I didn't exactly see any empathy being thrown my way when I was having a panic attack up the mountain. You think I was freaking out because I wanted to? I have acrophobia! You know what that means? You know how he is in closed places?" he jabbed a finger at Kyle, "That's me with heights. I still have fucking nightmares about that, and it was three years ago. But I guess it's okay to not care about the guy who doesn't care about anyone else, right?"

"You want to call me evil?" he asked, throwing out his arms, voice back to a reasonable volume, "Fine. Soulless? I'll add that to the ever-growing list of shit I've been called in the past. Which, oh by the way, has a lot worse stuff. But don't you ever..."

And here his voice took a turn for the dark. The serious. No high tones. No laughter. No mirth. A finger pointed at her, the muscles arcing from his wrist to his cheek tight as a guitar string.

"Don't you ever fucking say I wouldn't care if you guys were killed in front of me! Because if that had even an ounce of truth to it, I would not be here. In this room. With you!"

He swallowed, throat raw from shouting. He felt like his skin was on fire. Red with heat. Red with anger. For a few seconds he let those words echo out, chest heaving up and down as he breathed.

"So here's a piece of friendly advice," he finally concluded, "Next time you want to read a bitch, do your fucking research and tell me something I don't already know!"

Like flicking a switch, he moved from Tallyho to Kyle. "As for you," he said, and he took a defiant step next to Skylar, "Don't forget that we were bff's before you even considered entering the picture. I've taken a lot of shit from you, but if you think I'm going to just let you boss me around where my bestie's concerned, you're clearly delusional. If I'm going to be a bad friend, I do it on my own terms. Not because some short blond with a hard-on for punching me in the face told me to."

He considered putting an arm around Skylar's shoulder, but refrained. Sheepishly. He knew those words from Tallyho had some truth in them.

"Oh, and for the record," he continued, winding down from the summit of furiousness to the valley of sarcasm, "Xabi is a nickname for Xabier. It's not that hard to figure out."

At this point, he didn't even care if he got punched. This time, he was going to return it. He'd already clenched his fist.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel
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Well that had escalated quickly.

All Skylar had wanted to do was fake her way through the ceremony and then enjoy herself at the dance afterwards. She didn’t want to get stuck in the middle of some confrontation that could have waited until another time (preferably never- or at least until after their reputations were at stake).

Skylar had spent her entire life being pushed to the side, good only as a last resort. It had simply come with the territory of being born into a big family, the trait carrying over into her social life as well. And one would have thought that having dealt with that would have made her less likely to put up with anyone’s bullshit, but in reality, it just made it easier to cope with.

Some habits were harder to break than others, and sometimes history was just destined to repeat itself.

"Is that how you feel? Like a side dish?"

If this had been three years ago, Skylar would have said something back right at that moment. Stood up for herself and replied with a witty retort and a string of curse words. But a lot had changed in the years since they had left New York City, and she bit her tongue.

Sometimes you had to pick and choose your battles, and now wasn’t the time or the place for this battle. Not now, not right before they were all supposed to smile and show the entire kingdom how fucking perfect they were as the chosen Month Warriors (and especially not right before she was supposed to be the unfortunate middleman between Kyle and Harper).

“This really isn't the best time to have this conversation," Skylar said at last, her voice coming out harsher than she'd intended.
She shifted uncomfortably in her dress, suddenly finding it impossible to breathe beneath the stiff fabric.

She could see Dorian blocking her exit behind them, strategically placed right next to the door and preventing any of them for making a run for it. Dammit.

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Juice rolled down Tallyho’s chin, the clear liquid curving against her neck before the velocity died. She had bitten the hyper-baroque, ginormous grape with such force and precision that it spat juice on the mirror hung on the wall the food table touched. A soft snort erupting from her nostrils, peachy lips curling into the bow of a grin, white canines gleaming as her lungs filled with laughter that rang over Skylar’s plea for peace. She rubbed her temple as she shook her head.

“If not now Skylar then when? You’re so predictable, Harper. So, so predictable! A part of being human is being somewhat spontaneous and you? You’re just an old trick! I know enough about you Harper. I’d say that we <i>all</i> know enough about you because we have all been observing. And how can we not when you make it your personal goal to be observed? And trust me! Sometimes the people who watch you know you better than you know yourself because you’re so stuck in your head that you can’t be self-aware. There’s a reason I, and a few others on the team, don’t talk to you. And there’s a reason why the few that you managed to convince to join the Harper show are beginning to drift away. You can tell me all you want about how you called a medic because as far as I’m concerned that’s what any old person would do, or even how you taught me how to swim. If you ask me it was simply because you wanted to be revered by someone for one of your… what? <i>Three</i> talents? Swimming, whittling, <i>and bitching</i>. But at the end of the day, when you try to shove this on my plate because you feel cornered, all I see is a blubbering fool martyring himself! Which proves my point. You are here in this room simply because you are doing the world a favor with your very presence. Oh praaiiiise Harper! Praise empty, empty Harper and his lover Xabier!” she swooned before nodding at his fist, “And…If you want to hit me now then do it, get your lick in, get it over with.”

Green eyes locked on his. Her eyes had never looked so empty, so dark. A rigid swamp pool. “Because when you do I will kill you. And I won’t bat an eye. Besides, perhaps I’m a little evil too. Takes it to know it.”

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Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher
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#, as written by Linnea
Oh no. Her little tactic hadn't worked, as Xabier walked up anyways,

Wow I am so sorry Falke. I hoped I could avoid stuff. I didn't mean to get you caught in it.

“Delightful.” She smiled back, not wanting to start a fight right before the big event. Besides, it wasn't as she had any real reason to be upset at him. It was jealousy that fueled her rage and she was self aware enough to realize that acting out of it was a petty move. Ok, maybe she felt a little bit entitled to her anger. Still, the least she could do was act friendly.

Apparently, this wasn't the case in the other room. Autumn was always informed. Spirits always communicated with her. She was well aware of the situation going on. If she could, she would get a battering ram and carry everyone out of there and into separate corners. To think that there was nothing she could do was infuriating.

“Son of a bitch...” She whispered under her breath.

“Sorry, got some bad news.” Her gaze was much less harsh this time. She wasn't angry at Xabier anymore. She was angry at Harper, and that would have to be solved later. In the shadow of what had happened in the other room, Xabier didn't seem too bad. Hell, everyone in this room was lucky that they only got stuck with a mildly awkward situation. Hopefully the other shoe wouldn't drop.

“Anyways, yeah. I didn't expect it to be that fun. Some of the nobles were a little stiff, and by that I mean I might have accidentally talked to a dead guy, but hey that's just part of life!” Autumn laughed, hoping she could turn the situation in this room positive. Having the entire group pissed off at each other would have been going too far.

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Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel
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All the words hit hard. But one in particular he reacted to first.

"You leave Xabi out of this!" he shouted angrily, "You leave Xabi the fuck out of this!"

The fist had been meant for Kyle, should the blond decide to attack him. But Harper was seriously considering Tallyho's proposition. Even if it would get him killed.

No. Especially if it would get him killed.

"You think I'm empty?" Harper demanded, "Predictable? Attention-whoring? That I coerced Dorian and Skylar to be my friends, because god knows I don't actually have anything substantial to offer? Well guess what? You're right! I'm a piece of shit! It doesn't take a genius to figure that one out. Even the things you aren't right about must be, since the great Tallyho said so. And she is soooo right, honey. You say I love to be observed? Sure. But maybe you guys just love to observe me, just so you have that one guy to judge, that person to point fingers at. At least I'm not like him. At least I'm not that bad. I'm the trainwreck that you guys just love to look at. Because at least it's not happening to you."

"Well let me tell you something, sugar. As much as you might hate me, as much as you might wish I was never here, at least you get to leave. You don't have to live 24/7 with me, with this asshole, with this shitty mind." He jabbed at his head viciously, "You get a break. I don't. You think I'm not self-aware? That I'm that clueless? I might miss the minutae of all my flaws, but I can see the big picture, at least where I'm concerned. If there was ever a "Who hates Harper most" contest, I would win. I will always win. Every. Single. Time."

"So go ahead," He stepped towards Tallyho, right up until he was inches from her, eyes locked, ocean against green. The maelstrom would feast on itself tonight. "Kill me. You don't need an excuse, but I can give you one anyways. I'd do it myself, but suicide is not one of the three things I excel at, as you so nicely pointed out. Besides, you'd be doing everyone a huge favor. Even Xabi would be better off without me, since according to Kyle I'm what ruined him."

Empty forest against empty seas. Draining and draining. He wanted it. Wanted it more than ever. That sweet release. Maybe in an hour he'd regret. Maybe in five minutes. All the more reason to do it now while he still had the chance.

Locked and loaded. "Has your father ever called you a waste of space?" he asked simply, voice hollow. Emptying himself. Preparing. "Ever said you were a piece of shit worse than shit itself? Has he ever said he wished you weren't born? That they should have aborted you after all? That he wished you would get killed on the streets, or raped in prison, or thrown in the electric chair? Probably not." He pulled the trigger. "You'd need to have a father that cared in the first place."

Mentally he started a countdown. If that wasn't enough to kill him by the time he reached five, he was throwing a punch.

One.

Two.

Three...

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Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel
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Kyle did back down when Tallyho pushed him back, surprisingly more gently than he did with Harper earlier. There was something in the way she held herself or the steely tone of her voice that scared him a little. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. His mind provided. There had never been any evidence that Tallyho ever liked Harper, but she obviously didn't have to like him to feel that scorn. She hated him from the beginning, just like Kyle.

"I have a billion things to do that you dumb kids can never understand" was Harper's first complaint, and he never stopped complaining about them. Harper was always a million times better than anyone else ever born, in his own mind. Tallyho hit him dead on. The only thing the selfish bastard could say was it's not my fault I'm such a lousy person. My daddy never loved me... blah blah blah. Guess what, Harper, I never even knew my real daddy, but I don't cry about it. He thought about saying that, but seriously his family history wasn't any of that bastard's business. Kyle didn't want any pity for it either, so why did anyone else in that room need to know?

The jabs that bastard kept throwing his way pissed him off more. Jabs about his fears, his friends, and shoving his previous relationship with Skylar out there like a weapon against him. Every single person Harper ever met was just a tool for his own purposes, a toy to play with until he got bored. Skylar didn't deserve that. Skylar never deserved it! Xabier was an idiot to be with this arrogant bastard, but Kyle didn't think he deserved being used and thrown away either. Obviously, Tallyho would disagree with him, but he still didn't want to give up yet.

"Who cares what your stupid daddy did? You, yourself are the only person responsible for your own actions. My daddy taught me that. If I do something stupid, I have to pay the consequences whatever they are. You too have to pay the consequences for your actions and choices in the last three years and beyond. Guess what? That's what your looking at right now. Me, Tallyho and everyone else hate your guts because of your own actions. We don't care about your daddy issues."

The shorter blond turned his back completely to the selfish bastard without throwing the punch that bastard was asking for. He refused to be played like the others. Instead he paced over to Skylar again who was obviously uncomfortable. "I'm sorry for putting you in an uncomfortable position. Can you forgive me?"

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“Oh boo-hoo! It’s all your fault but you’re not to blame? And I see what you did there, bringing my family into it—trying to make me feel like nothing because I come from nothing? Or at the very least trying to make yourself seem better because you don’t have a shelter to lick your wound in?”

She supposed she could have broken out into her own life story—whined about the condition of her parents, her own upbringing, poverty, whatever she could dig up and primp to make as theatric as Harper’s apparent tragedy—but that would only make her just like Harper. And by that point Kyle had already interjected with his own monologue.

As he spoke Tallyho veered away, disassociating herself from any rage he had to bring to the table. And she was a little annoyed that he would compare his distaste to Harper to her own. She wanted to tell him to keep her name out of his mouth. That anything and everything she had to say about Harper would come from her mouth and her mouth alone. She didn’t need a bandwagon—she and Kyle weren’t suing on the same claim. She snorted lightly in the middle of Kyle’s last monologue before he went to Skylar’s side.
Back at the snack table she severed meat with her teeth, watching Kyle’s rampage. She’d said all she really felt like for now and wanted nothing more to do with Harper, his contradictions, or insulting presence. At least for today.

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Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel
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(OOC: i'm putting a TRIGGER WARNING right here, just because I don't want anyone to read something they don't want to. There will be an attempted suicide in the following post involving a knife. For the record, I do not condone this behavior at all. If anyone at any point is ever contemplating suicide, please call a hotline or talk to someone to get help. While Harper's reasonings are his own and unique to him and may make sense in his mind, I personally do not feel that suicide is ever the solution to anything, and that it will always get better. I apologize in advance if Harper's actions upset anyone.)






Tallyho spoke. More salt in the wound. More misunderstandings. He was trying to provoke her. Trying to get her to hit him. To kill him. But it looked like he'd have to take matters into his own hands.

And then Kyle's words. Kyle's goddamn words. Taunting. Jeering. Condescending. Any other day, he'd probably fling himself onto the boy. Fists flying. But today was not any other day. This moment was not any other day.

This moment was the last.

"You see?" He asked Tallyho as she walked off, voice sounding more and more distant to his ears, "You want to talk about a lack of empathy? All of you are stunning, shining examples of it. At least I know I don't understand. All of you think you understand, when you know nothing at all. And when I try to shine some light on my situation, not for pity, not for forgiveness, just so you know an inch of what I'm going through, you just continue to kick shit in my face and refuse to think past your own stupid, hurt feelings. But who am I to have harsh feelings, when clearly all of you are so much more in the right? In fact, you know what?"

He grinned. "You're right." He spun around to face everyone, and roared, "You're all right!"

One laugh. One single, breathless laugh. "And I'm done."

He stormed off, walking the length of the table. He paused at the fruit, grabbing a pear and a small knife, peeling away at the skin as he stalked into the corner of the room farthest away from the others. He sat on the ground, cross-legged, facing the corner, back to the rest of the world.

Empty? They wanted empty? They wanted him to pay the consequences?

Three years. Talk about twenty five.

But no more. As he rolled up his sleeve to his elbow, he had made it up in his mind. He was going to pay all his debts right now.

He would have preferred drowning. But with the exit blocked, he'd need to make his own.

He looked at the knife. Metal shining. He was skilled in wood-craft. Surely human flesh wouldn't be that much different to work with?

He glanced at his arm. Took a breath. Briefly Sadie and Xabi popped in his mind, but he snuffed them out before Dorian and Skylar and more could appear. Now. He needed to do this now. Before he regretted it. Before he thought about it. Before he realized...

Two cuts, he interrupted. Two cuts. Just two....two cuts.

He rested the blade on his arm, near the inside of his elbow. Cold. It was cold.

The faces were coming back. Now. He needed to do it now.

Wordlessly, he stabbed it in. He did his best to keep still, hide the flinch, hide the wince. Bit his tongue. Clenched his jaw. He worked the knife deeper and forward, a cold pain train chugging towards his wrist, screaming silently at its arrival. Red spilled out, dripping down his arms, spilling onto the floor. Even if he was prepared to die, he'd be damned if he got blood on this suit while he was still alive.

First his arm. Then his throat, to make sure.

Then finally, finally...he'd be done.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Gwenneth Yuan
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(Same warnings as Cirrus vaguely apply. All Harper actions and dialogue dictated by Cirrus because for some reason she trusted me to write this. )

At the moment, Dorian, and he assumed Skylar as well, felt something like a child caught in the midst of a nasty divorce hearing (something he'd never experienced, of course. His own parents' divorce had been done with a clinical detachment and neatness that had probably left more mental scars than a heated custody battle ever could). It was like a disturbingly violent tennis match (or like those poo-flinging monkeys at the zoo) of Harper throwing past situations at Tallyho that Dorian didn't quite imagine as relevant and turning on everyone in the room individually. Well, he was more arguing with Kyle and Tallyho and using Skylar and Dorian as props in his rant.

"I can't call you friend because I don't push my nose into your business?"

Dorian stared at Harper's back as he turned, not giving the March Warrior a chance to answer what he was beginning to suspect was a rhetorical question. It wasn't that he so much objected to Harper not "nosing into his business". That was all well and good, it was the whole having no idea what he was up to that was a bit concerning. He couldn't even remember the last time they'd talked, not even just one-on-one but in a group. Dorian wasn't an expert on friendship or anything, but Harper's Dorian-retort fell flat for him, much like it did for Skylar whose reaction to the "side dish" comment went unnoticed by Harper as well. And then it continued on, a barrage of words and sneered insults. Dorian was beginning to eye the door himself, wondering how far he could make it before Mildred caught him. He paused before deciding that he'd rather face whatever was happening in here.

Skylar, at least, seemed to be on the same wave-length as him, and he really did feel bad for her. Here she was, thrust in the middle of everything without anyone really listening to her leaving her between a rock and a hard place.

Tallyho barely acknowledged her as she rallied again, hurling more barbed insults and bitter truths at the June Month Warrior as the month warrior tradition of never letting anyone else get the last word in continued along. Something electric was in the air, something dangerous that had nothing to do with Tallyho's own powers. He knew what was coming as Tallyho's words continued to slam into their mark, brutalizing the other month warrior. He braced for it like a sailor in an unavoidable storm. Then it struck.

Dorian had always wished that Harper applied trigger warning to the start of his speeches, the ones where he tended to reveal something awful about himself. It didn't have to be much- just a little "Those of you with issues with X, please cover your ears" or more specifically "I'm about to mention awful things that make Dorian uncomfortable like excessively bad parenting and self-hatred- please, leave the room if you are Dorian". But he didn't, which left Dorian feeling a bit sick to his stomach and more than a little upset.

Dorian would be the first to admit that he had issues of his own, even if they weren't as glaringly obvious as, say, Kyle's or Harper's. His abandonment issues would be(and were) a psychiatrist's wet dream(Stephen, as he insisted Dorian call him, often objected to that phrasing but his father thought it was funny so he kept it), he still had vivid nightmares after the two or so months he'd spent wandering Aires when the magic portal had messed up that no one had bothered talking to him about, and his dependency on his phone was becoming incredibly concerning. He just hid it a bit better, but the way Harper was going on made his own level of discomfort rise to the point that it actually became visible. It wasn't pity on his face or sympathy, just pure, distilled discomfort for your viewing pleasure. Dorian's left hand began trailing up the doorknob, groping for it blindly in case he needed to make a quick exit.

The other man, Dorian was well aware, was a complex combination of self-awareness, self-loathing, and overconfidence blended and contained within a confrontational shell with a dash of motor-mouth. This assault was his coup-de-gras so to speak, intended to make anyone who summoned up a reply look like they were kicking a puppy and, if things turned violent, he'd solve his own need for self-punishment without having to actually inflict it himself. This could only end badly.

And it did because Kyle opened his mouth again, and, okay, yeah, Dorian agreed with him to an extent in that you really can't blame others for everything that you did and you had to take responsibility for your actions. But, honestly, disregarding "daddy issues" as Kyle had so eloquently put it wasn't on. Maybe that was Dorian "mommy issues" talking or maybe it was a bit of human decency, but it struck a raw nerve in him. Also, he wasn't quite fond of Kyle talking for him. Yeah, Harper wasn't his favorite person right now, not by a long shot, but he didn't hate anyone on the team, really, although that was clearly subject to change.

And then things got better as Harper shuffled away with a fruit in his hand and a parring knife in the other, apparent content to lick his own wounds instead of retorting or acknowledging Tallyho's final barb. It was surprisingly mature and calm. That should have been Dorian's first clue that something was terribly wrong.

It was hard to see what was happening from his angle, but the startling red that popped into existence was as telling as if he'd seen the knife perform itself.

"Harper!" He barked out, apparently not stunned into silence as he bolted for the sitting man. By the time Harper, all panicked and wide-eyed with fear not of Dorian but that he would stop him, had stopped the cut on his arm prematurely and instead brought the knife to his throat, Dorian was on him, wrestling the knife from his hands amidst Harper's protests of "I know what I'm doing. I know what I'm fucking doing! It's my life, I can do what I want with it! Just let me have this one fucking thing!" along with Dorian's own flurry of "let go, you absolute bastard"s. He put up a powerful fight, wild and frantic like a cornered animal, but Dorian didn't relent. Dorian's palm got sliced open in the melee, tossing the knife across the room until it slid harmlessly against the other wall, ruby red still decorating the blade.

Formal wear was not meant to wrestle in, but Dorian eventually had him pinned, arms tightly wrapped around the shorter man like a vice-grip, effectively pinning the other man's arms to his sides. It was sad that this wasn't the worst hug he'd ever been a part of in his life.

"Why do you even care? Apparently we're not even friends! Why do you even fucking care? If we didn't have the fucking world on our shoulders, you wouldn't even care! I don't even care! Why the fuck do you care?"

Harper was crying now, ugly sobs that wracked his body.

"I care, goddammit! I'd care even if you weren't a month warrior. t don't have to have a reason!" Dorian snarled, tightening his grip. He, quite unlike almost everyone else in the room, didn't feel the need to monologue about his feelings and/or issues. Some things he just didn't feel the need to explain.

"I don't want this. I don't fucking want this anymore. I hate this. I hate this so fucking much."

And Dorian didn't know what to say to that, so instead he held on tighter, one hand rubbing soothing circles on the bawling man's back in mimicry of what his father had always done for him back on Earth. His hand stung- the hand, incidentally, not rubbing Harper's back-, his pants were still too form-fitting for his comfort, his headache was coming back, and he had a sobbing and possibly still suicidal mess in his arms. Today was not his day.

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Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher
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The atmosphere was a little warmer and slightly more friendly than he had anticipated.
Xabier wasn't going to hold his breath however. As he had promised himself he would excuse himself from the conversation the moment things got awkward.
Believe it or not, he wasn't trying to make enemies.
“Delightful.”
It felt nice that his conversation wasn't immediately rejected.
Until he heard her mutter something about a "son-of-a-bitch."
Okay. Harsh. He was only making casual conversation.
His eyebrows furrowed momentarily in confusion. Women, he had gathered, were confusing creatures.
It was only when she mentioned something about bad news that he shrugged it off.

Xabier wondered what the others were up to in the other room. He wondered if they had Banya flavoured cake in the other room like they did in this one. The dark haired lad had tried a slice as he stood alone. He kinda missed Harper, which was stupid because it wasn't like the older lad was going anywhere.

“Anyways, yeah. I didn't expect it to be that fun. Some of the nobles were a little stiff, and by that I mean I might have accidentally talked to a dead guy, but hey that's just part of life!”
He laughed a little at Autumn's observation of the nobles. It was true. Some of them had given him the creeps at times.
"Oh, really? The ones I spoke to were all charming conversationalists...."
Xabier feigned playful surprise. Eyebrows elevated slightly and the corner of his mouth turned up. He lowered his voice significantly as if he was telling a juicy secret so only Autumn and Falke could hear. "..if you count a sneeze or cough every twenty minutes or so, thought provoking..."

He didn't expect a response but smiled anyway. If he ignored the tension of the past few months he could almost pretend that things were the way they were in the Academy.
Before it burned down and everything shifted in his world.

He brought up something to do with the food being delicious in the palace and something about the royal family being such gracious hosts (he put that part in for the benefit of anyone listening in.)
But something kept bugging him about what Autumn had said. It was probably nothing or something completely unrelated to him. However, it was a niggling little feeling that wouldn't go away.
Xabier lowered his voice again.
"You said something about bad news...I hope you don't mind but is everything alright?"
His face showed some genuine concern as he mulled it over.
Not that he was close to the November warrior but it didn't hurt to check if she was alright.
It was his first instinct to assume that sickness was the bad news.
"You're not feeling unwell are you? I know it's an important day but you can always rest for a bit."

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Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez
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#, as written by Linnea
Autumn chuckled at the conversation, keeping note of whatever news the spirits brought her. The situation was only getting worse. At this point, would keeping the conversation in the room light even help?

“The dancing was a lot more difficult than I expected. It's like, I can fight in a dress but ask me to dance and suddenly i'm like a toddler on rollerskates.” She smiled and silently wished that the situation in the other room would calm down.

Naturally, Xabier just had to ask what was going on. Autumn didn't blame him. If he knew some secret about the other room, she would have wanted to know. Except, would she want to know this?

Blood had been spilled.

Autumn let out a small sigh and smiled.

“Oh, i'm fine. I just heard some bad news from the spirits. They keep me in check a lot about things going on around me. It's nothing to be worried about though.” What else could she say? It wasn't as if she could tell Xabier that his boyfriend was suicidal. What if he tried to break the door down? What if he got in the way of other people trying to help? What if things got even worse? She felt for Xabier, but she couldn't let him know with those possibilities in the air.

Speaking of, she couldn't let things continue the way they were. Though to everyone around her it seemed like she was just turning her head to consider eating a small pear, she was draining the energy of Harper in the other room. It wouldn't hurt him. It would just tire him out so that he couldn't keep fighting.

Autumn wasn't fond of doing this. It was a move reserved for enemies. But, at this point, wasn't Harper an enemy? He was a threat to the group. He was a threat to their namesake. All threats had to be dealt with, right? Xabier was going to hate her for this, she just knew it. Maybe the others would hate her, too. She didn't particularly care. It was for the good of the group. If they couldn't see it, that was just too bad.

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Tallyho didn’t flinch from the table as Harper stormed past her to grab the knife. It was so predictable, all so predictable. And in the corner he hadn’t sat for long before Dorian was upon him, wrestling the knife from his hand. Streaks of blood quite visible to those watching. Tallyho watched with a silent chew, pupils dilated, and face impassive before looking away, back at the food. Only glancing back upon hearing a wince from Dorian when his hand scraped the blade.
Never in her life had she imagined herself being so done with a person that she could care less about what sort of self-mutilated infliction they suffered. She was never the cuddliest of girls but she put a passable amount of care into most things surrounding her. She didn’t care about Skylar the same way she cared about Dorian of Falke but she cared enough to recognize when the girl’s friendship was being taken for granted. She cared enough about Xabier to try to hold onto the friendship as long as she reasonably could even when he stopped putting anything into it a long time ago. She even cared a little bit about Kyle who, while he wasn’t her favorite warrior, she feared would one day get himself into the wrong fight. But Harper—and she felt a little cold formally admitting this—she cared so little about Harper and his cries for attention, so little that the only thing she took away from his episode was:
Dorian should be more careful with knives.
And that a perfectly good piece of cutlery was just ruined.
And this mentality hadn’t been something fresh out of her mind. But a dish baking and festering in her heart for years, finally well-cultured and ready for consumption.
Dorian had him pinned down now. He was screaming. And before he could worm his way out of Dorian’s hug of life the door slammed open.
It would have been alright had it been Haru who walked in on this nonsense. But it was Mildred. Someone who knew little of their relationships and didn’t really care to learn about them. Mildred did not see a turning point in the social chemistry of the team but a wrinkle in her firmly ironed plans for ceremony and tradition and grandeur and that was a problem.
Her voice—usually quite polished and well-pitched grew shrill when she saw blood. “My outfits! My beautiful designs!” And she rushed over to see if they had ruined the suits only to find that the blood had not come from a minor scrape or prick. She eyed the knife now on the floor.
“What’s going on here? What are you doing?” She eyed Dorian.
“He did nothing of bad intent,” Tallyho interjected calmly. “He was simply stopping Harper from bludgeoning himself to death with a fruit knife,” she hummed as she picked through the grapes. Her words muffled by compulsive plucking and chewing. Each grape eaten one by one. The vine was growing naked. She gave Mildred the synopsis so coldly. So matter-of-factly. And it almost sounded like she was simply sharing the weather.
“OH NEVERMIND!” Mildred hissed in dismay. Her face red, hair everywhere. She was probably going to have a heart attack before Haru was. She beckoned the knights in to escort the boys out, both (mostly Harper) to get bandaged and both to be changed. She would rip the clothes off a random nobleman before having them go out all bloody. She still had a few minutes to get this situated.
When all of that was settled Mildred stayed behind in the room.
“You might be Month Warriors but none of you are going to be ruining my parties any time soon. Do you understand?”
The second half of the evening came to an awkward start. It was sort of crazy how the warriors were expected to go out in front of the world after the traumatic experience the first group went through. Mildred had managed to clean the guys up and dig up appropriate (but not quite as extravagant) outfits for the two young men with enough time to spare for an elevator speech to each that essentially said, “You don’t have to like what you’re doing but you’d better do it right.”
And at this level of stress, fucking with Mildred just wasn’t a realistic option.
The warriors were lined up to walk onto the stage. In an order that would allow them the meet in the middle and show the crowd the appropriate line up of warriors. From left to right January to December.
And then the trumpets blared. Tallyho walked with a certain haze. She was present but certainly not there in the head. She was reflecting on the entire situation and she only broke out of her daze long enough to survey the crowd.
When Mildred said that everyone was going to be there, everyone was going to be there. She looked in the center where important politicians rallied around. Kings, Queens, Dukes, and governors from various parts of Aires. Down below Princess Morgan waved excitedly. Next to her stood Karma and Mori. She had taken a liking to them while playing board games (and being beat. A lot.) and she insisted that her new friends accompany her.
Then slightly to the left stood other, though less important, officials. In front of them were the Guardians situated in a row shoulder to shoulder. She hadn’t neglected to dress them up to. But she dressed them in a way that didn’t overshadow their respective warriors. But someone was missing. Haru was not lined up with the other guardians and she briefly wondered where he had gone.
It all went by so quickly and before she knew it the Harbinger came around with the chalice. She sipped from it. The thick wine burned. She swallowed. It went on to the next person. He said some vows.
Saviors of the world. Saviors. Humanity. The one and true. The one and true. Cheering. There was cheering. The golden décor made Tallyho’s eyes hurt. And suddenly they were walking again. Off stage. Into the back. It was over.
Well at least she thought it was. Haru was there waiting for them back stage. Leaning against the wall. A steel eye trained on the first half of the team.
“What the fuck happened?” he asked. Anyone who was in the hell room knew exactly what he was talking about. Knew that he knew. He motioned all twelve to the room where July-December waited originally and closed the door behind him. He wasn’t letting them go out and mingle with what Mildred told him fresh on his mind.
With all of them in a closed space he blocked the door and spoke again.
What the fuck happened, I said?!

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Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel
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He must have lost blood faster than he thought he would, because between Dorian not letting go and the door opening he felt hinself growing inexplicably weaker and weaker by the second. Shoulders slumped, muscles relaxed...everything grew heavier.

The emotions were still there. The same, but now slowed, as if corn syrup had been poured on them.

Too tired to fight. He nearly fell over when he was dragged up from the floor and escorted out. They had to wake him up after bandaging his arm.

Numb. And buzzing. Hazy. He yawned during Mildred's snappy reminder to behave. He nearly tripped on stage when they filed out. And it took every ounce of his already handicapped concentration to keep from collapsing during the ceremony.

They should have just let me bleed out, he thought.. They should have just ended his suffering now. He wasnt right for this. He was never right for this. And it was now clear more than ever that everyone hated him. Or they would now, once word got out.

Except for Dorian. But even then, you could care for a complete stranger and still not want to associate with them ever again.

Bitter words. Those hurt more than anything Tallyho or Kyle had said.

Yet it killed him that he was still affected by them.

Finally they were shuffled off stage, but Haru didnt seem to be finished with them. He wanted to know what had happened. Or rather, once in a closed room, what the fuck had happened.

Harpers first thought was that no one would say because they wouldnt want to get in troubles for nearly causing a suicide. But then it hit him. Who was to say Haru didnt hate his guts either? Hell, maybe hed congratulate Tallyho for putting him in his place. Maybe offer a couple words of "save the death threats for after you save the world". And then he would just turn on him. Yell at him for jeopardizing everything. For being so selfish. For being so weak. And stupid. It was his fault, naturally. His fingerprints were on the knife after all.

He'd had enough of being yelled at for today. He just wanted to sleep. Or get drunk. Or maybe sneak out to the ocean, where he could properly do himself in without Dorian interfering.

So in a flat, quiet voice, Harper answered Haru's question. "Nothing," he said, "Nothing happened. I was just being stupid. Like always."

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Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez
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Xabier smiled at her (this time a real one) and told her he was glad to hear that things were fine. The bad feeling didn't leave but he just ignored it.
"Well if you say it isn't important then it isn't."
Instead of pursuing it further, the Spaniard brought up a story of the time his twin brothers swapped names for a day and how it drove all of the adults insane trying to figure out who was who. He laughed a little at the fond memory and proceeded to ask both of them about their families. It was basic small talk.
After about a couple of minutes of conversation he decided to make do with his promise of leaving swiftly.
"Well, it has been charming but I think I should g-"
As he said it, they were called up to start the mass/ceremony/thing.
"Ah, duty awaits."
He was placed between Falke and Autumn again in the line-up on the platform. All the faces in the crowd seemed to be very rich and very important. Royalty and noblemen alike all watched as the warriors took a sip of the wine from the chalice. The Guardians of all of the other warriors also stood in their finery.
Xabier just occasionally smiled shyly as he took it all in.
The crowds and all of the attention were pushing out any warning signs from the forefront of his mind: the bad news that Autumn spoke of, the somber mood coming from the other room, Harper tripping on the stage and acting like he was half dead.
"Is he drunk?" Xabier muttered to himself quietly.
Soon it was finally over but the exuberant mood didn't last. In fact when he saw Haru's face the penny dropped.
Something had happened. Something bad.

"What the fuck happened, I said?!”

Xabier was also wondering the exact same thing.

Harper was in totally different clothes than before and the expression on his face....well it chilled Xabier to the bone.
The jigsaw puzzle was slowly falling into place, piece by piece.

The October Warrior went immediately to his side. Worry clouded his features. It wasn't like Harper to be like this, especially straight after acting so pleased earlier on.
"Qué pasó? Harper, what is it? And don't tell me it's nothing because I'm not stupid." Eyes wide and not a single smile to be found.
His hands reached for his boyfriend to try somehow comfort him. A million questions swirled in his empty head.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel
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“An uncomfortable position? It’s like we’re playing monkey in the fucking middle and I’m the monkey!” Skylar snapped, her calm façade crumbling. She really hadn’t meant for her reply to come off so harshly, but at this point she was so frustrated that she was finding it increasingly difficult to try and play nice.

Nobody had bothered to ask her how she felt about all of this (or even Dorian for that matter). No, she was merely a name to throw into an argument, to justify a point being made. Tallyho suddenly found it her business to indirectly defend Skylar’s honor even though the February warrior had barely spoken a word to her the past three years, Harper had ignored her plea for them to stop bickering, and Kyle thought that he could freely insult her best friend and then give her a half-assed apology to make up for it.

So it was no surprise when Harper stormed off after his latest meltdown, the tension obvious in the now dead air. But Skylar never could have prepared herself for what happened next, the sound of Dorian shouting the older male’s name dragging her attention towards the corner where the two of them sat.

"I know what I'm doing. I know what I'm fucking doing! It's my life, I can do what I want with it! Just let me have this one fucking thing!"

The knife Harper had been holding slid across the floor, and it was the sight of the blood staining the blade that led Skylar to put two and two together.

The feelings of anger and frustration she had been feeling mere moments before were quickly replaced by shock and denial, her heart dropping in her chest as she struggled to make sense of the situation.

“Harper?!” The venom had left her voice, replaced by a tone of desperation. Before she could even say anything else, Mildred had entered the room.

“What’s going on here? What are you doing?”

Tallyho replied to the older woman so simply, acting as if her teammate hadn’t just tried to slice himself up like a Christmas ham. There wasn’t a hint of emotion in the blonde’s voice, and while it was obvious that she hated Harper, Skylar couldn't believe that she could be so casual about what had just happened.

If Skylar had thought that things in the room were awkward, nothing could have prepared her for the actual ceremony. Situated between Kyle and Harper, she kept her eyes down, only looking up when it was her turn to drink from the chalice.

By the time the warriors were escorted backstage and it was clear that Harper was okay (physically at least), Skylar’s shock had turned back to anger.

“I want to know the same fucking thing,” Skylar hissed, her voice laced with anger. She cast a glance towards the others, mouth set in a firm line. “You might want to ask Tallyho and Kyle.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Gwenneth Yuan Character Portrait: Princess Morgan the Graceful Character Portrait: Trent Cress
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Dorian wasn't quite sure what was more horrific- holding onto the still writhing and sobbing Harper for dear life or Mildred's shrieks of dismay from somewhere behind him. It was a chilling noise, and even if he hadn't heard he words, he would have known the meaning. It was the same shrill scream that children everywhere knew in their primal minds from centuries of mothers (and the occasional father and/or other family member because, really, we must be inclusive) bemoaning ruined clothes and promising a vengeance so cruel that only a parent could have thought of it (such as the horrors of no dessert for a month or, in more extreme cases, personally explaining to Aunt Mildred why exactly you're not wearing that nice outfit she personally bought for you).

Her next words, a sharp demand as to what exactly was happening, had Dorian realize two things at the same time. One, he was liberally smeared with blood that was generally not his own, and, two, he knew exactly what they must look like from Mildred's perspective, Dorian wrestling Harper on the ground while the other man sobbed and bled willy-nilly all over the nice rug that coated the floor. Well, he thought grimly as he opened his mouth to explain, at least his friends back home had just been proven wrong. He could, in fact, look scarier if he tried, if by trying they meant rolling around in a puddle of fresh blood while wrapped around a suicidal and royally-freaking-out person. Which they probably didn't.

He was beaten to the punch when Tallyho stepped in, voice as calm and nonchalant as could be. Dorian found himself staring at her blasé explanation, watching each grape pop into her mouth like she was at a particularly dull dinner party and wasn't currently a few feet away from what had just happened. He pursed his lips and turned his head back towards Mildred. Just because he was fond of Tallyho didn't mean he had to blindly approve of everything she did or how she felt. The fact that Tallyho had never asked him to was probably why they got along so well.

As soon as Mildred swooped in, her task-force of knights following her commands like she was a great general and not just the world's best Mildred, Dorian released Harper, saw him get carted away for medical attention (and he apparently needed it because all of the fight seemed to have drained out of him) before he himself was swept away. He was in a slight daze as they moved, his head throbbing incessantly with his quickly resurfacing headache. His hand was bandaged once, then twice after the blood had soaked through the first white cloth, and the rest of the bloody event was scrubbed from his body quickly and efficiently. Still, he could smell the iron tang lingering in his nose as new clothes were thrust into his arms. They were fine, not nearly as extravagant and lovely as the now sad looking outfit that had been thrown into a corner in their haste to clean him up and make him look presentable. Hair was combed, clothing was replaced, and then he was thrust back in line, standing behind Tallyho and in front of Kyle. Mildred threw one last biting order at them that, really, Dorian didn't find all that necessary at this point (or maybe that was just the twin aches of his head and his hand talking) before they were once more moving into the limelight.

Trumpets were blaring, the room was filled to capacity with very important people all crowded together to see them. Princess Morgan was waving, and he even caught a glimpse of Trent in the crowd (he was decidedly not waving excitedly like his cousin (although, if he had been, Dorian would have been incredibly concerned). There were the Guardians as well and he knew Ryou was trying to catch his eye, but he instead stared resolutely ahead. It was enough to have glimpsed a friendly face, albeit the face of someone who had no idea what had just happened.

Wine was sipped, vows were intoned, and then suddenly there was cheering like they'd actually done something to deserve it. Well, alright, they kind of had what with the whole Flock thing, but that wasn't the point. The point was that Dorian was in a bad mood, all of this noise felt like it was physically hitting him in the head, and he was starting to bleed through his bandage again. Things couldn't get much worse.

That was a lie. That was an absolute lie, Dorian thought miserably as Haru appeared to corral them. Haru was blocking the door, a demand to know what had happened flying sharply from his tongue, paired with a glare so intense that it could set a man on fire at fifty paces. Yes, none of this had technically been Dorian's fault and all he'd done was save Harper's life and keep people from bolting out the door every ten seconds, but under that fury-filled gaze he felt like he'd committed high treason and also maybe kicked a puppy (or a cat, given, well, Haru).

Haru was waiting for an explanation, and Harper's piss-poor shrug of an answer, drowning in enough self-pity and misery that Dorian started glancing around to see if there was another make-shift weapon nearby he had to be concerned about. He held no illusions that Harper was "better", just more exhausted. Xabier was experiencing some kind of tunnel vision, hurrying to Harper's side like they were the only two in the room. Dorian wasn't sure how he was ignoring Haru's gaze or the absolute tension in the room, but the Spaniard apparently could handle it.

Dorian stood there like a statue. It was his only defense. That is, of course, until no one readily answered. He glanced around before Skylar spoke up, voice stained with all the anger and disdain that he was relatively sure she felt at this point. In the insanity that had followed the room incident, he was sure she'd had no comfort after not only being tossed in the middle of things, but also since her best friend was, well... He glanced at Harper and mentally resolved that when they got back- and it was always when now, not if- he'd be sending out some good psychiatric recommendations.

Still, Skylar didn't answer either and there was silence, awkward and painful in that way that tense situations always are. God, his head ached, the blood flow on his hand was only just now slowing into a trickle, and there was enough tension in the room to cut it with a knife- it was thicker than pea soup. Yes. That was a better analogy today.

"There was an argument. I don't know why it started, but Kyle pushed Harper-" Dorian's head shot up at the sudden voice before realizing it was his own. His mouth, however, didn't stop as he continued on, voice pained but persistent, speeding up in an attempt to just get it out there because he didn't want another argument to erupt with Haru this close to physically exploding.

"Then Tallyho suddenly told Harper exactly what she thought of him and then the three of them started arguing with Kyle threatening Harper and Harper and Tallyho monologuing at each other until because all of them wanted to have the last word. Then, I don't know, I guess what they were saying hit too hard, Harper reacted badly, and he tried to..." He trailed off, unwilling to use those words when the suicidal man himself was standing not four feet away, "And I stopped him. Three years worth of animosity finally boiled over and this cluster fuck of an evening happened."

There were parts left out- of course there were. No love triangles were mentioned, no accusatory fingers were pointed at Xabier who'd popped up in conversation more than once, no content of accusations or defenses made themselves known, no mentions were made of what or how Harper cracked. It was boiled down to its essence of harsh words and bad reactions because in Dorian's heart of hearts he thought that everything that had happened after his little conversation with Tallyho was really fucking stupid. Not "idiotic", not "senseless arguing and violence". No. Dorian's head hurt and he'd just barely kept someone from committing suicide. Really fucking stupid was the only way to describe the situation.

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Haru listened to the explanations set before him with narrowed eyes. His head cocked forward. Hands on his hips. His first reaction was to shake his head and abruptly blurt, “Wait what?”
It all sounded like so much. Too much to fit into one evening. One forty-five minute wait.
“You have got to be kidding me. Okay you people, everyone but those three: Harper, Tallyho, Kyle. Get out. Go on the dance floor. Don’t get into any trouble. Don’t ask questions. You’re not in trouble. Just go. Bye.”
He opened the door, a rough gesture for the others to go on about their business. Now that he got the issue down to the…basic instruments… it was time for him to fix the problem. He shooed away anyone who dared to linger and when he got everyone out he shut the door once more. But this time with a sigh. His shoulders slumped as he meandered toward the silk lined chair.
“Sit down somewhere,” he hummed, more than willing to yell it at them if they didn’t comply fast enough.
Tallyho took a handful of grapes before sitting on one of the loveseats indifferently.
“Guys… Everything would be so much easier if you didn’t do this,” the redhead began as he leaned forward.
“And I’m not just talking about saving the world or doing the month warrior thing—this is about living your life in a healthy way. And it would be so much easier to live it if you just respected each other. How does infighting solve anything? And don’t interrupt me claiming ‘oh well I respect soinso but they’re the one who is attacking me’ because that’s not true. You might not think I’m watching or that I know a lot about you but I know. I know a lot. I did my research on you for a while before I actually pulled you into Aires. I’ve known about you all for longer than you think and theoretically I could have pulled you into Aires as twelve year olds. But I wanted to wait until you were older because this is a scary…scary place. And you have every right to be frightened and I’m actually scared for you.”
Haru wrinkled his forehead.
“I know a lot about you kids and I’ve seen enough to know that you don’t respect each other. Kyle. You go around picking fights that just aren’t necessary. You had no right to hit Harper and I guarantee you know. I don’t know what kind of mudslinging you did verbally but you have a tendency to be physically overbearing sometimes and you’ve really got to stop that, boy.”

Yes. Haru said boy. Because he was talking to two little boys and a little girl and he was going to address them as such.

“But,” he glanced at Tallyho and Harper, “One thing your peers also need to understand about you is that you only act the way you do because that was your life. When you were a kid you felt like you had to over compensate with your fists. You didn’t do well in school. It was a battle for you in fact. And so you developed this hero complex that, by theory is endearing but can sometimes be misunderstood. You come from a good place. You’re a good person. But you need to understand when you are pushing your limits. And Tallyho,” Haru sighed as he shifted toward her in his seat.

“You have trouble understanding the concept of collaboration and team work. But most importantly communication. You don’t talk to people. Yes, you have like what? Two friends that you talk to? But that doesn’t count. You don’t know how to coexist with the rest of the world. If you don’t like something you just write it off and run way. But in this phase of life—the phase of your life where you have to grow the fuck up and be a part of a team—you’re not in the position to run and you’re cornered so you hold grudges and let them boil over. I don’t know what you said to Harper but whatever it was it was probably unnecessarily venomous, festering for way too long and you were thinking too much about it. Just get over things. And what the hell was with that tone earlier? You try to act like you don’t give any shits and I’ll give it to you—you do a damn good job but at what cost? The way you’re living you’re just going to be alone and die alone. And I know you well enough to know that you don’t want that.”
Haru, continuing the trend, then went on to flip the script.
“But like Kyle and Harper I think you have a hard time conveying your true intentions to others. I think that sometimes your peers don’t consider your feelings simply because you’ve never shown them that you have any. You’ve done a hell of a good job keeping your past a secret but I think that others should know it. I think that you should be humanized. Who knows? You might share experiences with others. All three of you have issues with your fathers by the way so how about you mention that? Mention your mother’s consuming illness. Mention travelling alone as a child. Barely living meal to meal? Never having an actual friend before? I won’t give the whole story away. But I strongly encourage,” he turned to the two boys, “your peers to ask you about it one day and you had better do your part, be open, be social, and let them in to a decent degree. Maybe you can learn about each other.”

“And Harper. I think we know more about your history so I won’t get into that. I know that there is a chance that you will just think I’m personally attacking you. And if you want to believe that then so be it. But just remember this: I’m putting all three of you on the same playing field and I’m giving you all the most genuine advice that I am capable of. Harper. You want to be noticed. I really do believe that you crave that attention because of your situation with your parents. And while that can arguably be a natural human desire you crave it so much that a lot of times you seriously disregard the feelings of others. I mean seriously. You can say how kind you are to Xabier or Skylar or Dorian but you tend to be black and white about it and you can really make people feel like they don’t matter. Especially when you gather all of the attention to yourself and actively neglect others. And you can be very disrespectful even to those who try to help you. Do you think I like my job? I literally break my back for you guys and I’m still routinely disrespected by most of you. That’s all I’m going to say about you over all because I think you’ve been told enough about what you do wrong or this and that and blah blah blah. But let me make a few enlightening connections that might help you and those other two understand why you don’t like each other because I am sensing some serious mixed signals. You don’t know why you hate each other. So let me tell you. You and Kyle don’t get along because—well okay there’s that Skylar thing. There is the fact that you two generally don’t have compatible personalities. Kyle is too angry. You’re self-absorbed. And there is also the fact that Kyle lost a friend and you had something to do with it. He and Xabier hit it off quite well. But after—and yes even I know about that whole ordeal too—a while Xabier, who also exhibits a lack in being able to consider more than one person at a time, stopped talking to Kyle. You see that? This is an easy problem to fix and I really hope you two talk about it some other time. Meanwhile, you and Tallyho don’t get along because as I’ve said before Tallyho wants to be noticed too but she’s too socially inept to know how to do it naturally. Meanwhile, you seem to always be on someone’s mind. Tallyho despite her lack of formal education values her conscience and you value the guidance of the heart. You’re more impulsive. She’s more hesitant in certain circumstances. She probably told you why she doesn’t see eye to eye to you but I guarantee she didn’t mention the fact that she too lost Xabier as a friend and that she felt really crumby back at the falls when she (a person who couldn’t swim at all) ended up jumping alone at the falls and almost drowning while you had your episode. No it’s not your fault that you couldn’t swim at that moment. That’s not the issue. But could you imagine how she might have felt when none of her teammates not even Dorian went to help her because they were too busy helping you? She might have drowned had Kat not stepped in to help. It’s not anything in your control but you were still involved. And you have to understand that. And I think you have the capabilities to understand that. Back in the core when Tallyho slapped you she, like everyone else, was scared to death to be there. And when faced with the issue of being in an all or nothing situation in order to get out she naturally got pretty miffed when you wanted to stay put even as everyone else decided on a plan together. But Tallyho, when you hit him—I mean really what should he think. The issues between you two started as something circumstantial and because you wouldn’t talk about for three years they manifested into something more toxic. Harper, you have a good heart. You love your sister. You’re passionate. Occasionally endearing. And I think you do care about others but you have trouble looking from the perspective of others because you’re too wrapped up in your own.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel
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Harper was so withdrawn into himself that Xabi's presence, unfortunately, did little to nothing to alleviate his pain. If anything, it only made him angrier. Why. Why did this guy have to care for him? Why couldn't he just hate him like everyone else? Why did he have to remind him just how stupid he was with what he nearly succeeded in doing?

He clenched his teeth against each other hard to prevent tears.

Stupid. So stupid. He was so, so, incredibly stupid. Mentally he had an image of himself ripping apart the bandage right then and there, digging fingers into the wound, willing the red to return, just to escape this terrible feeling. But he was too tired and physically exhausted to go through with it. The conviction wasn't there. And so he stayed still. Standing and not reciprocating. Eyes on his shoes.

Skylar spoke. Angry. Who was she angry at? Him? Or Tallyho and Kyle? He couldn't be sure.

There was silence. He could have laughed. As if calling those two out would prompt a response.

And then finally, Dorian to the rescue. As was the norm lately. Bare bones. Basic summary. Harper was fine with it. Nothing to argue with. Even if he wasn't fine with it, he still was.

He'd hoped that'd be the last of it, but Haru apparently wasn't done with them. He dismissed everyone BUT the three involved. All three of which were the last people Harper wanted to be around. When Haru told them to sit somewhere, Harper sat as far away from them as possible. Arms crossed. Legs folded in, shoes on top of the upholstery. Eyes staring at a spot on the floor. A direct contradiction to his usual splayed out style of sitting.

But despite his distance, the room was only so big, and he could still hear every word Haru was saying. Like it or not.

Harper tried to stay indifferent. He didn't want to know about these people. All that mattered was that Kyle never liked him, and apparently neither had Tallyho. That was easy. That was simple. Digestable.

But as Haru went on, the June warrior found bits and pieces in all of them that he could relate to. Kyle's difficulties in school. Tallyho's running away and inability to collaborate. The lack of friends prior to this entire shitstorm. And, as Haru mentioned, they apparently all had daddy issues.

Yes, let's just talk about how much we hate our dads why don't we Harper thought sarcastically, I'm sure that'll solve so much. Family bonding time and all that jazz.

And then Haru got to him. And yes, at first, despite the cat's disclaimer, Harper did initially think he was attacking him. Especially with that line, "You want to be noticed."

Why. Why did everyone think he was such an attention whore? Yeah, he got attention, but not because he asked for it! He wasn't some master manipulator scheming of ways to get all the attention to him. He just did what he did and if he got attention, so be it! If people felt like they didn't matter, that wasn't his fault.

But amid the louder, self-righteous mental squalling, a quieter voice nodded slightly. And when Haru mentioned his parents, it suddenly became clear. How much he had tried to please his father, since his own mother was too vapid and caught up in her own issues to be really worth the effort. How he simultaneously did and didn't want the attention they put on him. How upset he had gotten at each missed competition. Each missed assembly. The moment his father had written him off as a lost cause. The year after that Harper had scrambled to make it up to him. To really make a difference. And when that gave no fruit, the subsequent years afterwards when he spiraled backwards. Forced his dad to notice him. Even if, at the time, he had wanted his dad to stay out his business, now he was realizing. What was the point of an action, if not for the reaction? Why put in the effort, after all, if no one was there to notice it in the first place?

It was his first personal epiphany since the jail cell, and considerably less jarring. In fact, the thought was so easily adaptable that Harper realized that perhaps he had always known this, deep down. Which only made it ring truer for him.

Steadily, anger flowed out of him as Haru continued speaking, this time on the reason for all the hate. Harper listened, and saw the pattern of it all being that he would do something without realizing its effects and the others would take it personally. Haru mentioned the rift with Kyle being easy to mend, a matter of simply addressing the Xabi issue (which, by now, they should probably just go public with it since private clearly didn't work out). But Harper felt it wouldn't actually be that simple. Kyle had hated him long before he had dated Xabi.

And then with Tallyho it just seemed like the things she was mad at him for he couldn't really change. Even Haru mentioned this. And here Harper was growing frustrated with it all. Yes, perhaps his actions were the root of all this. But even if he changed--which certainly wasn't going to be easy or happen overnight--or at least put in the effort, who was to say that Kyle and Tallyho would reciprocate? What if he really tried to be a better person, and they still hated him? Still saw him as a disgusting person? Still thought he hadn't changed a bit?

It was easier to just stay the way he was. Safer. Less of a gamble. At least here he knew now exactly how they felt about him. And, with Haru's help, why. That was simpler to deal with. Just stay the bad guy. Know your role. Play the part, and shrug off the consequences because they were meant for the act. Not for you personally.

It was what he had planned on doing in the first place, if Tallyho's words hadn't been so on point.

And yes, he had resigned himself to continue this pattern. To keep being the asshole. To suck it up until they all got to go home and then block all memories from his mind forever.

But then...as Haru was finishing his speech...Harper heard words that had rarely been said to him.

"Harper, you have a good heart."

Harper, you have a good heart....you have a good heart...those simple words bounced around in his head. Not only did they insinuate that he had a heart to begin with (in the metaphorical sense of course), but that it was also good. A good heart. A good...heart...

The words that followed seemed to support that statement, and even that last criticism didn't feel like one. He was too wrapped up in those first few words.

Did he really? Did he really have a good heart? Was loving your sister really enough reason for that? He wanted to believe Haru, but he also wanted to demand further explanations. Why did he think he had a good heart? What were the reasonings? What exactly constituted it? What factors went into play that Haru could make a judgement call like that? What was the criteria a heart had to meet in order for it be 'good'? And was his like a C- good heart, one that barely met the standard, or was it above average?

Lying...he's lying to me... he thought bitterly, Just trying to make me feel better. But it was working. If this was a lie, it was the best kind. Something he could choose to believe in, to cheer himself up when he was down. At least Haru said you had a good heart that one time.

But if it was truth, then it was the worst kind of truth. If he was supposed to have a good heart, then why was he so terrible? What excuse did he have anymore for acting the way he did?

A good heart. You have a good heart.

For a moment he desperately wanted to deny it. Throw those words from him. Of course he didn't have a good heart! He was empty. Empty and soulless and...and evil and...and a whole plethora of terrible things. Why, he would laugh at their deaths! Of course he would! He didn't need anyone! Didn't care about anyone!

But those arguments sounded flat in his mind. Lacked foundation. He knew they weren't true. For so long he had deluded himself into believing the act he put on, as well as the layers underneath. He tried not to care what others said, but he did care. To the point where every negative thing ever said to him he just absorbed. Insults hurt less when you own them. Yet he had owned the negative so much that the positive was almost unbelievable. Even if it were true.

Harper, you have a good heart.

Great. He was crying now. Fuck.

He glanced up at the ceiling, trying to force the tears back in. Sentiment. It was always the fucking sentiment. With a shuddering sigh, he brought both palms to his eyes and breathed in through his nose. Exhaled through the mouth. Wiped the tears away in one firm swipe, only to have more return when he blinked. He sniffed. Fixed his red-eyed gaze on Haru.

"Anything else?" he croaked out, stretching his legs out in front of him, arms returning to their crossed position, "Or are we done?"