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Soarin's Silver Lining pt.2

By blossomanon
Created: 14th November 2020 01:36:53 AM

  1. **** BOOK 2 ****
  2. **** CHAPTER 4 ****
  3.  
  4. >You are Diamond Tiara and you made a mistake.
  5. >You’re sitting alone in the classroom, holding your phone. Staring at it.
  6. >Silver had begged you not to do it.
  7. >Her blood smeared on the bathroom’s tiles, and she *begged* you not to tell anyone.
  8. >Dried tears streaked her face, but she pleaded with you as soon as you pulled your phone from your pocket.
  9. >But…
  10. >He *hurt* her.
  11. >It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
  12. >She’s yours. She always has been. You’re supposed to look after her, take care of her.
  13. >There’s an unread text – Silver asking when she can see Soarin again, probably.
  14. >That’s not why you’re staring at your phone, though. You’re trying to muster up the courage to call.
  15. >Soarin – that bastard – he called your bluff, though – at the time – it wasn’t a bluff.
  16. >It was a threat.
  17. >You never thought he would call it.
  18. >You never thought he would hurt her.
  19. >There’s no doubt in your mind.
  20. >You should call the police and turn him in. He has to pay.
  21. >But…
  22. >You’ll never see Silver again.
  23. >She’ll be safe, but her parents will send her to Crystal Prep. They’ll know it was your fault. You’re supposed to take care of her, and you… you let…
  24. >Things weren’t supposed to turn out like this.
  25.  
  26. >You are Silver Spoon and you want to be with him again.
  27. >It has been four days.
  28. >You can barely sit without crying.
  29. >Walking is agony.
  30. >Still, you keep a smile on your face.
  31. >Di taught you well. Always smile when someone is watching – and someone *is* watching.
  32. “You don’t have to walk me to my class, you know.”
  33. >Lily – Lily Longsocks – hesitates, falling half a step behind you before catching up again.
  34. >”I… I know…”
  35. >She’s so shy, almost like you.
  36. >A part of you wonders why the two of you never spoke before, not really.
  37. >She’d gone out with Di and you a few times, but never seemed happy to be there.
  38. >The other part of you remembers the way you had laughed at her along with everyone else.
  39. >Of course she wasn’t happy to be there.
  40. >She’s not happy to be here *now*, pretending to be your friend.
  41. >You wish she wasn’t pretending – that she *was* your friend – but you burned that bridge years ago.
  42. >Di is right, anyway. You don’t need other friends. Just her… and Soarin.
  43. >You want to ask why she’s doing this.
  44. >Is she trying to reach out to you? Forgive you?
  45. >It’s uncomfortable.
  46. >You want to tell her to go away and leave you alone. You *tried*.
  47. >It was as close as you could manage, but she’s still walking at your side.
  48. >You want her to go away. You want Di. You want her to tell you it’s okay, that you can see him again.
  49. >You want Soarin.
  50. >You want him to hold you.
  51. >You want him to tell you that he loves you.
  52. >You want him to gently hold you as you fall asleep.
  53. >You want the impossible.
  54. >You can’t be complacent.
  55. >You may have won him over, but you can’t rely on your past successes.
  56. >You know he’s a jock. Di told you herself. Jocks… stray.
  57. >You don’t want him to.
  58. >You want him all to yourself.
  59. >You want him to hold you so bad, you want to cry.
  60. >You can’t. Lily is watching.
  61. >You smile.
  62.  
  63. >You are Soarin and you wish you could see Silver again.
  64. >Truly see her, not just passing glances in the hallways.
  65. >Not just watching helplessly from the cafeteria as she walks past the open doors.
  66. >You… you did what she wanted, right?
  67. >She enjoyed it, didn’t she?
  68. >Did you do something wrong?
  69. >Diamond made you get a coat from your car before bringing Silver out, but… she was smiling.
  70. >Silver was smiling as you walked her out.
  71. >Though she kept herself bundled up in your coat, that smile stayed plastered on her face the entire drive back.
  72. >She looked almost blissful as you kissed at the door.
  73. >You would have given anything to stay with her, to hold her all night long.
  74. >Remembering that makes you chuckle.
  75. >You *have* given up everything, haven’t you?
  76. >If this gets out, your life is ruined. No, it already is.
  77. >You quick the soccer team, started avoiding your friends… you can’t even remember the last time you –
  78. >”Hey, Soarin.”
  79. >You look up to see the last face you expected.
  80. >Well, not quite – that would be Silver, but you hoped… you had hope. It was stupid, but you had hope.
  81. “Hey, Blossom.”
  82. >”Why do you look so sad?” the girl asks as she sets down her tray and sits opposite you.
  83. “I do?”
  84. >”No more than usual,” Blossom responds with a tight smile, “but you always look a bit sad.”
  85. "Really?"
  86. >"A bit."
  87. >She giggles nervously as she picks at her food.
  88. >"I don't know if I thanked you for..."
  89. >You nod quickly. No need to make her say it.
  90. "Anyone else would have done the same."
  91. >"But they didn't. Thank you, Soarin. And... and thanks for saying with me. I really... I needed that. Thank you."
  92. "No problem."
  93. >Those are the words that come out of your mouth, anyway. Thing is, it *is* a problem.
  94. >Not really, and not to her, but it is to you, because it brings up Saturday night.
  95. >You should have stayed with Silver.
  96. >"Really, Soarin. Thank you."
  97. "It's okay."
  98. >It's not okay.
  99. >You aren't Flash Fucking Sentry - you don't do the deed and abandon the girl.
  100. >More importantly, you wanted to hold her. You didn't want your time with her to be over.
  101. >"You're doing it again."
  102. "Huh? What?"
  103. >"Looking sad."
  104. "You said I always look said."
  105. >"This is different."
  106. >Yeah. It is.
  107. >You wish you could be with her.
  108. >Openly.
  109. >She tries so hard, does everything she can to please you.
  110. >Silver deserves a little happiness in -
  111. >"You're still doing it."
  112. "Sorry."
  113. >"Don't be."
  114. "No, I don't have any right to be. I mean, next to you..."
  115. >You stop short, unsure what to say. Your problems are nothing next to what she went through.
  116. >"What, you think I'm doing fine?" Blossom asks with a forced grin. "Don't worry, I'm plenty fucked up inside - I just do a better job hiding it."
  117. "I'm sorry, I should have -"
  118. >"I shouldn't have been drunk," she cuts you off, shaking her head. "I shouldn't have run off like that. They shouldn't have..."
  119. >She sighs.
  120. >For a second, her mask cracks and you see the scared girl behind the smile.
  121. "It's not your fault."
  122. >"I know that, but that doesn't mean I couldn't have -"
  123. "You can't let yourself get caught up in what-ifs, should-haves, and if-onlys. What happened wasn't your fault."
  124. >It's something Spitfire always says. Miss a shot, lose a game... you can beat yourself up about it all you want, but it won't change things.
  125. >"It wasn't yours, either," Blossom responds. "And yet..."
  126. "It's a bad habit, I know."
  127. >The two of you share a moment of silence that breaks only when Blossom reaches for your hand.
  128. >She doesn't touch it - she doesn't even come close - but the gesture is there, comforting and welcome.
  129. >"For me, too," the girl sighs. "What if I had been sober?"
  130. "Then they -"
  131. >"Would you have listened to me then?"
  132. >Oh.
  133. >"Well, I'm sober now, but..."
  134. >You know what she's going to say and shake your head, but she continues before you can speak.
  135. >"... but... things happened. I want... I want to feel safe, Soarin. You make me feel safe. I also know..."
  136. >Blossom drifts off. Once the last hint of her voice has died away, she shrugs.
  137. >"I'm a little fucked up too, okay, but I know it."
  138. >She reaches for you again, still not quite touching you, but closer than before.
  139. >"Just remember what I said, okay?" she asks as she pushes her chair back. "I meant it. Right now, I don't trust anything, but maybe..."
  140. >Her mask slips again.
  141. >She smiles.
  142. >And then she walks away.
  143.  
  144. >You are Diamond Tiara and you never called.
  145. >If you did...
  146. >You don't want to be alone.
  147. >Not again.
  148. >The teacher is saying something, but you aren't paying attention.
  149. >Your phone buzzes a second time.
  150. >How is it so hard to answer Silver?
  151. >How can it be so hard to tell her -
  152. >"Why?"
  153. >It buzzes again.
  154. >"Why can't I see him?"
  155. >You've told her every day since why.
  156. >She doesn't listen.
  157. >She's *always* listened.
  158. >You're afraid that if you push this, she'll stop listening altogether.
  159.  
  160. >You are Silver Spoon and you are happy.
  161. >Everything hurts, but you're happy.
  162. >Di finally responded.
  163. >"We'll talk about this later."
  164. >She'll see reason, you know she will.
  165.  
  166. >You are Soarin and you are walking out to your car.
  167. >"Sure you don't want to come to practice?" Spitfire asks one last time.
  168. "Yeah, I'm sure. Sorry."
  169. >She shrugs.
  170. >"Had to ask. See you tomrrow?"
  171. "Yeah."
  172. >Spitfire splits off, doubling back to take a half-hearted swipe at your arm, and then heads towards the practice fields without another word.
  173. >She hadn't asked why, and you appreciate that, because you don't know what you could have told her.
  174. >You don't have a good reason. There's no hot date with a girl lined up. Shit, not even a new game or anything.
  175. >All you're doing is going home and doing nothing.
  176. >No, that's not entirely true. You're going home and worrying about Silver.
  177. >It's been four days.
  178. >Four days, and you're starting to worry that she's avoiding you.
  179. >That pleasant little thought leads to others, chief among them...
  180. >Why?
  181. >That's how you're going to spend the rest of the day - slumped over on the sofa asking yourself why. Running the possibilities through your head until you're sick of it all.
  182. >You shouldn't - it's a good thing Spitfire didn't ask what you were going to do, because you already know exactly what she would say.
  183. >She would tell you not to get distracted by what-ifs, should-haves, and if-onlys.
  184. >She would tell you to go up to Silver and just ask her.
  185. >You played the conversation out a dozen times in your head, how you would explain to Spitfire that you can't be so obvious about it, try to justify your cowardice because it wouldn't be fair to put Silver on the spot like that, point out that if she doesn't want to be with you that approaching her would be...
  186. >Hundreds of excuses, and you know how she would answer each and every one.
  187. >"Do you love her?" Spitfire would ask.
  188. >And that... that you don't know the answer to.
  189. >As you slide behind the steering wheel, you try to answer that question again.
  190. >You do, or at least you think you do, but what if... what if you just want to rescue her?
  191. >What if you don't actually love her?
  192. >You know how Spitfire would respond to that, too.
  193. >It involves punching you and calling you a pussy.
  194. >She doesn't understand.
  195. >It's not just your life on the line here.
  196. >Your keys slip from your hand.
  197. >You can't find the strength to pick them up.
  198. >There's no rush getting home - it doesn't really matter where you are.
  199. >You slump over in the seat with a shuddering sigh, until your forehead is pressed against the steering wheel.
  200. >This is as good a place as any.
  201.  
  202. >You are Diamond Tiara and you don't know why she doesn't understand!
  203. "He *hurt* you, Silver!"
  204. >There's no one around - you made sure of that. Everyone else is heading home or to their clubs.
  205. >The teacher left as soon as you pulled Silver into the classroom. She glared, but fuck her.
  206. >Your bitch of a mother and her precious school board are good for something, at least.
  207. >"He... he didn't," Silver moans, biting her lip.
  208. >It still hasn't healed fully, the split reopening.
  209. “He did!”
  210. >”Not… not intentionally. He didn’t know.”
  211. >Blood wells up around her teeth, not much, but it’s a reminder of what Soarin did to her.
  212. >Well, a reminder to you.
  213. >Silver doesn't seem to remember a damn thing!
  214. "He *hurt* you."
  215. >She flinches away as you reach for her - but not far enough to avoid your hand. She knows better than that.
  216. >You run your thumb across Silver's lip, drawing a hiss of pain from her.
  217. "See?"
  218. >A thin line of red streaks your thumb.
  219. "See, he hurt you! How could he not notice! Why don't you -"
  220. >"It’s just a little cut! He didn’t –"
  221. "How can you be so stupid!?"
  222. >"I... I did that, Di," Silver mumbles. "Not Soarin."
  223. "Yeah, well, what about the rest of it!?"
  224. >Silver shakes her head, but she isn't fooling anyone but herself.
  225. >You know what Soarin did to her.
  226. "He *hurt* you! That's why you can't see him again! HOW DO YOU NOT GET THAT!?"
  227. >Silver shudders.
  228. >She wants to cry. That's nothing new. She always wants to cry lately.
  229. >Because he HURT her.
  230. >"No," Silver whispers. "He... he only did what I wanted him to..."
  231. "Bullshit! He did what *he* wanted to!”
  232. >”It’s the same thing, Di.”
  233. >Wait.
  234. >She's covering for him.
  235. >She wants to see him again.
  236. >No, she knows better than that... but you can't shake the thought.
  237. "Silver."
  238. >The girl shudders, gripping her braid tight with both hands.
  239. >You cup her chin in your hand and force her to look at you.
  240. "Silver, do you *want* to be hurt?"
  241. >She's better than that.
  242. >You've trained her to be better than that.
  243. >"No..."
  244. >She shakes her head slightly - as much as she can with you gripping her chin.
  245. >"No... I just... I just want to be..."
  246. >Her voice trails off and she tries to look away.
  247. "What!?"
  248. >She winces as you jerk her head back to face you.
  249. >Whatever.
  250. >She brought it on herself.
  251. "You just want to be *what*? Hurt? Fucked? Is that what you are now!? Some little painslut!?"
  252. >"No!"
  253. "Then what?"
  254. >"I just... I just want to be..."
  255. "What?"
  256. >"...loved."
  257. >Silver bites her lip again, drawing a fresh drop of blood.
  258. >"I'm... I'm sorry," your friend - your only friend - murmurs through clenched teeth. "I care about you, Di, and you're my best friend - my only friend - but... I... I want to be loved."
  259. “I… *fine*.”
  260. >Time to try a different tactic.
  261. >Not the first new one you've tried.
  262. >All you can do is stall and keep her safe. If you push her...
  263. >You don't want to push her into *his* arms.
  264. "Fine, Sil.”
  265. >You throw your arms into the air theatrically in surrender.
  266. “You can see him, but you know it’s too soon."
  267. >”It is…?”
  268. “Yes! I know what I’m talking about.”
  269. >"I... I know," your friend - your only friend - replies, nervously playing with her braid. "I know you know better than me."
  270. "So it's settled."
  271. >All you have to do is stall. Soarin will lose interest in her eventually.
  272. >"But..." Silver whines, her lip quivering. "I know you know best and I've made mistakes, but... but so has he! Maybe he wants to see me?"
  273. >You groan and shake your head.
  274. "It's only been four days."
  275. >"I'm aware, but... I... I want to see *him* and... I thought..."
  276. "Ugh. Stop stuttering."
  277. >You shouldn't push her, but you can't help it.
  278. >It's just so annoying.
  279. >"Sorry," Silver squeeks, dipping her head and staring at her feet. “I just thought he might want to see me, too.”
  280. “Of course he doesn’t!”
  281. >”But –“
  282. “He hasn’t talked to you, has he?”
  283. >”No, but –“
  284. “Then why would you think he wants to see you?”
  285. >”Because it’s been four days,” Silver moans. “And… last time… he didn’t sleep with her, but it had only been one day, Di. Now it’s been four.”
  286. “So?”
  287. >”He’ll find someone else,” she answers reluctantly. “You said he will. He’s a jock. It’s what they do.”
  288. >She’s… she’s not going to budge, is she?
  289. >And if you push her too hard, all you’ll do is push her away.
  290. >You’re not about to let another person walk out on your life.
  291. “Fine. Do whatever you want.”
  292. >You walk away before she can.
  293.  
  294. >You are Soarin and you are still in your car.
  295. >Still in the parking lot with your head pressed against the steering wheel.
  296. >Still trying to figure things out.
  297. >There is a knock on your window.
  298. >Silver Spoon smiles as you look up at her.
  299.  
  300. >You are Silver Spoon and you are making a mistake.
  301. >This shouldn’t be happening, but it is. You want it to.
  302. >Di is right – she’s *always* right – but that doesn’t matter at this moment.
  303. >You step back as Soarin opens the door, giving room for it to swing out.
  304. >He looks at you - *only* at you.
  305. >”Hi.”
  306. >And he smiles.
  307. >You melt.
  308. >This was the right thing to do.
  309. >It’s a mistake, but Soarin makes mistakes too. You can be wrong together.
  310. >”Diamond isn’t with you.”
  311. >It’s not a question, but you nod anyway.
  312. “No. She isn’t.”
  313. >This isn’t the first time you’ve turned away from Di.
  314. >It’s happened once before. Once. In elementary. You learned not to do it again.
  315. >Di knows best. She always does, but this time, it’s different.
  316. >This time you aren’t alone. She doesn’t understand.
  317. >Soarin reaches out for you, his hand brushing across your cheek.
  318. >”Why are you here?”
  319. >You worry – is he angry? did he not want to see you? – but the feeling passes, burnt away by the warmth of his voice.
  320. >His touch makes you forget everything.
  321. >”I’m sure Diamond isn’t happy.”
  322. “We… we had a… fight…”
  323. >”About me?”
  324. >You nod silently.
  325. >He smiles – wider, that is. He hasn’t stopped smiling since he laid eyes on you.
  326. >You were right. He wants to see you.
  327. >His thumb brushes across your lips, tracing your own smi –
  328. >You flinch away as it runs across the cut in your lip.
  329. >A mistake.
  330. >Not the right kind of mistake.
  331. >His smile drops instantly.
  332. “Wait, I’m sorry, I –“
  333. >”Did she do that to you?”
  334. “W-what?”
  335. >”That cut,” he growls. “Did Diamond do that to you? Did she hit you? Slap you? I swear, if she laid a finger on you –“
  336. “No!”
  337. >”Don’t cover for her, Silver. I’ve seen enough to know what she’s like.”
  338. “But she didn’t! It’s…”
  339. >Soarin doesn’t believe you.
  340. >You… you can accept this. You can accept anything, so long as he doesn’t blame himself.
  341. >He’s angry. He wants to protect you. This is what you want, isn’t it? To be loved?
  342. >But… to let him blame your only friend…?
  343. “Soarin, I…”
  344. >Is it worth it?
  345. >”Get in,” he rumbles, jerking his head towards the passenger seat.
  346. >Yes, it’s worth it.
  347. >The engine comes to life before you are in.
  348. “Where are we going?”
  349. >”Away from here,” he snarls as you pull on your seatbelt. “Don’t know what I’d do if I see that bitch.”
  350. “She’s not -”
  351. >”Why do you put up with her?”
  352. “Because…”
  353. >”That’s not a good enough reason,” Soarin growls as his car roars out onto the street.
  354. “… she’s my friend.”
  355. >”She’s not, Silver. She *really* isn’t.”
  356. >She is, but you stay quiet. It hurts – Di is your *only* friend – but you don’t defend her.
  357. >“You don’t have to do everything she says, you know.”
  358. “I know.”
  359. >He’s so angry.
  360. >It makes you hate yourself.
  361. >You can’t tell him the truth now, that you hurt yourself. It would only make him hate you.
  362. >”Then why do you?”
  363. >He zips past a stopsign without even slowing.
  364. “Soarin, you should –“
  365. >”Just tell me why, Silver,” he snaps. “Why the hell do you listen to her?”
  366. “Because she’s –“
  367. >A sharp right turn catches you by surprise; if you hadn’t been wearing your seatbelt –
  368. >”Why!?”
  369. “Because she’s always right!”
  370. >”She’s not!”
  371. >Your heart is pounding.
  372. >His anger, his reckless driving… just being with him… you don’t know what it is, but you can barely hear your own thoughts over the drumming of your heart.
  373. “She is.”
  374. >”She isn’t! She’s wrong about everything!”
  375.  
  376. >You are Soarin and you want to kill that bitch.
  377. >”She isn’t.”
  378. “Everything she tells you is a lie, Silver. Everything she tells you is *wrong*.”
  379. >”It’s not,” Silver mumbles. “She told me…”
  380. “What?”
  381. >You turn left onto the freeway.
  382. “What the fuck did she tell you?”
  383. >”She told me to sleep with you.”
  384. “And look how that turned out.”
  385.  
  386. >You are Diamond Tiara and you put your phone away.
  387. >There’s no reason to call anyone.
  388. >Silver deserves whatever is going to happen to her.
  389.  
  390. >You are Silver Spoon and you don’t know what to say.
  391. >Your heart is suddenly silent – the quiet more deafening than the pounding could ever have hoped to be.
  392. >So quiet, you’re not even sure it’s beating.
  393. >That makes sense.
  394. >A broken heart cannot pump blood.
  395. “Oh.”
  396. >You didn’t mean to speak; it’s just the last of the air in your lungs escaping.
  397. >Soarin glances over at you.
  398. >There’s anger in his eyes – they’re practically burning with rage.
  399. “I’m sorry.”
  400. >You should get out. Now. Stop bothering him. Just undo your seatbelt and –
  401. >”I didn’t mean it like that,” Soarin sighs, looking away.
  402. “I’m sorry.”
  403. >You don’t even know for what; it’s an automatic reaction.
  404. >”Don’t be. It’s not your fault she –“
  405. “You can pull over and let me out here.”
  406. >You can walk home from here. Or not. You don’t even know where here is, nor does it matter.
  407. >”No, I’m not doing that.”
  408. “I’m –“
  409. >”We’re going on a date, Silver. A real date. One without Diamond Tiara.”
  410. >Despite his speed, he takes a hand from the steering wheel.
  411. >You would be worried, if life had any meaning, until his hand grabs yours.
  412. >”I’m glad I met you, Silver.”
  413. >And then you don’t care about anything at all.
  414. >Soarin’s hand squeezes yours once before returning to the wheel.
  415. >He takes in a deep breath and lets it out in a long, drawn out sigh.
  416. >You ride in silence.
  417. >A date.
  418. >Without Di.
  419. >You don’t know what to do.
  420. >Should you – no, you can’t. She didn’t want you to see him. You can’t call her; you can’t ask for advice.
  421. >She won’t help you.
  422. >You know she won’t, not so soon, not while she’s still angry.
  423. >Not unless you come crawling back on your hands and knees and beg – but you never want to do that again.
  424. >Not even for –
  425. >You glance at Soarin.
  426. >No, you can do this on your own.
  427. >You *have* to do this on your own and that terrifies you.
  428. >You should have thought this through.
  429. >You should have realized –
  430. >”We’re here.”
  431. >He takes your hand again, pulling you up and out of the car.
  432. >But, he’s – wait -
  433. >You hadn’t realized he had gotten out and come around to your side until you’re standing, wrapped in his arms and held tight against his chest.
  434. >You look up at him, up into his green eyes.
  435. >The fire in them has burned down, but they aren’t cold.
  436. >There’s a warmth there that restarts your heart.
  437. “Oh.”
  438. >”I really am glad we met,” Soarin whispers softly.
  439. >You can’t find any words – and then you lose your chance as his lips meet yours.
  440. >It's just a quick peck; he pulls away before you can respond in kind.
  441. >"Sorry," Soarin whispers, "I know we're in public, but..."
  442. "Somehow I don't mind."
  443. >"Good. I hope you don't mind Chinese either."
  444. "Huh?"
  445.  
  446. >You are Soarin and you want to laugh.
  447. >Silver looks up at you in confusion, her head tilted to the side.
  448. >You don't and you're proud of that.
  449. "For our date."
  450. >"Oh. Sure."
  451. "We can go somewhere else."
  452. >You hadn't come here on purpose. It just happened.
  453. >Silver tilts her head to the other side and peers past you.
  454. >"Ma Rou Wok?"
  455.  
  456. >You are Silver Spoon and you aren't sure if you want to eat here.
  457. >It looks a little... run down, if you're being polite.
  458. >Disreputable, if not.
  459. >Di would say it looks like a shit hole and you would agree. Quietly.
  460. >You look around - the surrounding business are no better; bars seem to be on every single one of the grime-stained windows.
  461. "No, Soarin. It's perfect."
  462. >No one will know you here.
  463. >Soarin can do whatever he wants with you.
  464. >He leads you inside, holding the door like a perfect gentleman.
  465. >The interior decor is... well, if you were being polite, you would call it ambitious.
  466. >Also confusing.
  467. "Soarin, why is there..."
  468. >You gesture towards the far wall - and the mural that spans it.
  469. >"Oh, that?" he chuckles. "Yeah, I asked the same thing."
  470. "And...?"
  471. >"Place used to be a Mexican restaurant. Stir Fry never got around to having it painted over."
  472. "Oh. That's... interesting?"
  473. >Not as interesting as the name.
  474. >Stir Fry.
  475. >Everywhere he goes, Soarin seems to know the names of every single employee. You don't even know the name of the maid that changes your sheets.
  476. >How many times has he been here? How many girls has he brought here?
  477. >"A lot, and none."
  478. "Huh?"
  479. >His words make no sense. You didn't -
  480. >"I haven't brought anyone else here, Silver. Just you."
  481. >You did. You said it aloud.
  482. "Oh."
  483. >If you could die of embarrassment, you would.
  484. >"Not even Spitfire," Soarin adds, putting his arm around your shoulders. "You're the first."
  485. >You could die of happiness right now.
  486.  
  487. >You are Diamond Tiara and… that’s all.
  488. >Not doing anything, just lying on your bed.
  489. >Certainly not thinking about your friend.
  490. >You don’t need to be scared for Silver anymore.
  491. >You don’t need her.
  492. >You don’t care what’s going to happen to her.
  493. >You don’t quite convince yourself any of that is true.
  494. >You don’t want to be alone.
  495.  
  496. >You are Soarin and you think this is going well.
  497. >Silver and you are seated in a small booth to one side, looking through the menu.
  498. >Well, she is.
  499. >You already know what you’re getting.
  500. >”And that is?”
  501. “Sweet and sour pork.”
  502. >”Oh.”
  503. >Silver closes her menu and looks up giggles.
  504. >”I shouldn’t be surprised, should I?”
  505. “Why?”
  506. >”That you like sweet things, I mean.”
  507. >You brace yourself for some cheesy comment about her disposition, but it never comes.
  508. >”After those pancakes…”
  509. >Oh.
  510. >She giggles. You chuckle.
  511. “Pancakes.”
  512. >”Pancakes,” she replies. “But maybe tomorrow. Today, I think the…”
  513. >She looks back down at the menu and frowns.
  514. >”… maybe something vegetarian.”
  515. “Broccoli with cashews?”
  516. >”That works.”
  517.  
  518. >You are Silver Spoon and you are relaxing. Slightly.
  519. >This is going better than you thought it would.
  520. >Soarin orders for the both of you – like a perfect gentleman – while you idly play with your braid.
  521. >You should get it trimmed – some of the hairs have split ends and you should always look your best.
  522. >Particularly now, for him. Soarin deserves –
  523. >”Let’s talk.”
  524. >You quickly look up from your hair; you can worry about that later.
  525. “About?”
  526. >”You.”
  527. “Or… you?”
  528. >You’re not very interesting.
  529. >“There’s not really anything to me,” Soarin sighs, shaking his head. “I am – no, I *was* - on the soccer team. That’s pretty much it.”
  530. >You smile at his modesty.
  531. “There has to be more.”
  532. >There is so much more. His kindness, his gentle touch, his… *preferences*…
  533. >“Well, I like sweet things,” he adds with a laugh, “but you already figured that out.”
  534. >There’s more, but how do you bring it up?
  535. “And…?”
  536. >”And I’ve been told I always look kind of sad.”
  537. >He smirks and runs a hand through his blue hair.
  538. >”I don’t really believe that, though.”
  539. “It’s true.”
  540. >Even now, he can’t avoid it.
  541. >”Really?”
  542. “A bit.”
  543. >”Always?”
  544. “It – it makes you look thoughtful and kind.”
  545. >"That's... um... good?"
  546. "Yes."
  547. >You nod and remember - and can feel the warmth your cheeks redden. You duck your head to hide your embarrassment, but avoiding his eyes doesn't alleviate it any.
  548. "It's... um... it's... why I chose you..."
  549. >There's a long moment of silence - painfully long.
  550. >Why doesn't he say anything?
  551. >You peer up from behind your bangs. Soarin's face is hard, lacking the soft eyes that make him look sad. Now, he looks angry. He *is* angry.
  552. >You look away.
  553. >This was a mistake.
  554. >You shouldn't -
  555. >His hands wrap around yours. Rough palms, but a gentle touch.
  556.  
  557. >You are Soarin and the words come easily.
  558. "I'm glad you chose me."
  559. >You softly squeeze her hands.
  560. "Really, I am."
  561. >"But..."
  562. "Look at me, Silver."
  563. >"... but you're angry..."
  564. >You squeeze her hands again.
  565. "Look at me, Silver. Look at me. Do I look angry?"
  566. >Slowly, timidly, she raises her head.
  567. >"N-no..." she stammers, "... but..."
  568. "I *was* angry."
  569. >She flinches.
  570. >You sigh.
  571. "Okay, I *am* angry -"
  572. >Another flinch.
  573. >You hold her hands tight.
  574. "- but not at you, Silver. Never at you. Certainly not because you picked me."
  575. >"But -"
  576. >You shake your head; the girl falls silent at your slightest gesture.
  577. "Diamond Tiara... she... she shouldn't have done that."
  578. >"What...?"
  579. "Make you chose someone."
  580. >"I'm glad she did," Silver mumbles. "If she had picked someone -"
  581. "No, I mean sleep with anyone. At all."
  582. >"Oh."
  583. "She shouldn't have done that."
  584. >"I'm glad she did."
  585. "Why?"
  586. >"Because I never would have met you otherwise. It's not like... not like we ever would have met. Not really."
  587. >You sigh, but force a smile onto your face. For her.
  588. >For her, you try to pretend that her age doesn't bother you.
  589. >For your... girlfriend... you'll try to pretend that you aren't a monster.
  590. "I know. I'm about to graduate and you -"
  591. >Silver shakes her head, the gesture so tiny you mistake it for trembling at first.
  592. >"That's... that too, but..."
  593. "What? Let me guess, Diamond won't let you have any friends."
  594. >Again, she shakes her head.
  595. >"It's not important, Soarin," Silver whispers. "It's nothing important. Not to me."
  596.  
  597. >You are Silver Spoon and you come from a wealthy family.
  598. >You were never supposed to go to Canterlot High; you had to *beg* your parents to let you go to the same school as Di.
  599. >"Silver, please. What is it?"
  600. >It's... endearing... that it hasn't even occurred to him. You don't want to bring it up; you just want to be a normal couple.
  601. >You want the impossible.
  602. "Soarin, age isn't the only gap between us."
  603. >"Then what?"
  604. "I... I was never supposed to go to this school."
  605. >"Diamond mentioned something like that," Soarin sneers.
  606. "No, I... I had the grades to get into Crystal Prep. My family has the money and standing... I was supposed to go there, not Canterlot. I was *never* supposed to be here.
  607. "My parents... they argued, they didn't want me going to... I won't repeat what they said, but it wasn't nice."
  608. >You smile, because it's all true. This is fate.
  609. "I never would have seen you, if it weren't for Di."
  610. >"Why? I don't get it."
  611. "She didn't pass the entrance exam, Soarin. She couldn't get in to Crystal Prep.
  612. "It's not just about that night she and I snuck into Spitfire's party. I *never* would have met you if it wasn't for her. I never would have come to this school if she had passed the exam."
  613. >Soarin frowns and shakes his head, more confused than doubtful.
  614. >"She comes from a rich family, too. Could she have just bought her way in?"
  615. >You giggle - a short, quiet laugh that you quickly stifle. It's not right; you shouldn't laugh.
  616. >"Well, couldn't she have?"
  617. "No."
  618. >Soarin gives a little half-chuckle and shakes his head.
  619. >"Not buying that. Money solves everything."
  620. "Only if..."
  621. >You hesitate; that's not your secret to tell.
  622. >He squeezes your hands - and lets go.
  623. "Wait -"
  624. >You'll tell him.
  625. >Anything.
  626. >"Food is here," he says sitting back and giving the waitress room to set down your dishes. "Don't worry, Silver, I believe you. I just don't understand. And..."
  627. >He turns away and nods to the waitress as she sets your plate in front of you.
  628. >"Thank you."
  629. >She nods back and scurries away.
  630. >"Anyway," Soarin sighs. "I don't believe *her*. Whatever she told you about it -"
  631. "I believe her."
  632. >"I know, and you shouldn't. She -"
  633. "I believe her, Soarin."
  634. >"Why?"
  635. "Because... because she's my friend."
  636. >Soarin lets out a long sigh and picks up his fork.
  637. >Good.
  638. >You pass over your own fork, reaching for the chopsticks instead.
  639. >The food looks good. It smells good.
  640. >Tonight will be good.
  641. "She's *not*, your friend, Silver," Soarin groans as he spears a piece of pork. "She takes advantage of you."
  642. "I -"
  643.  
  644. >You are Soarin and you can't believe what she just said.
  645. "Run that by me again, because -"
  646. >"I said I know," Silver repeats softly, pulling her chopsticks from their paper wrapper. "I don't mind."
  647. >She continues to stare down at her meal without actually seeing it. She doesn't eat anything, doesn't even poke at it with her chopsticks.
  648. >Silver isn't look at it, she's just not looking at you.
  649. >You don't think she can.
  650. "What."
  651. >"I don't," she mumbles. "I can't."
  652. "This is bullshit. Why?"
  653. >"I told you, Soarin," Silver answers, shrinking in on herself. "Everything I could ever need has been provided for me."
  654. "So your parents decided Diamond should be your friend and that's it? You're stuck with her forever?"
  655. >"*Everything* has been provided for me. *Everything* has been planned out, and... and I wasn't supposed to go to Canterlot High."
  656. >She grabs her chopsticks with both hands, so tight her knuckles turn white.
  657. >"I only went there because of Di. I wasn't supposed to be at that party - I wasn't even supposed to be out that late, but Di...
  658. >"These clothes," she says abruptly, "I picked them out with Di's help. They aren't... they aren't the type of thing I'm supposed to wear."
  659. "They look pretty normal to me."
  660. >A purple shirt and pink skirt. Nothing special about them.
  661. >"That's right, Soarin. They're *normal*."
  662. "So? Instead of your parents deciding what you do, you're letting *her* do it instead?"
  663. >"No," Silver whispers. "No, you don't... Di is the only reason I have any freedom at all."
  664.  
  665. >You are Silver Spoon.
  666. >You wish you weren't.
  667. >Soarin hasn't said a word in what feels like forever.
  668. >You shouldn't have said anything.
  669. >He doesn't understand. You wanted him to, but -
  670. >Fingers brush across your cheek.
  671. >"I don't get it, Silver," Soarin whispers, "but..."
  672. >His hand caresses you, brushing away tears that aren't there.
  673. >You're too scared to cry.
  674. >"That's a problem for later. There's something else we need to deal with first."
  675. "What."
  676. >"Your food is getting cold."
  677.  
  678. >You are Soarin and your heart aches as Silver slumps over.
  679. >"Sorry," she mumbles. "I'll eat"
  680. "I didn't mean it like that."
  681. >"I know."
  682. "Really, I'm not trying to ignore the issue, I just... I don't get it, okay? Anyway, we aren't here to argue."
  683. >"Sorry."
  684. "Don't be. It's my... no, it's *not* my fault, but it's not yours either. Right now, let's just eat and be happy. You can try to explain everything to your dumb jock boyfriend later tonight, okay?"
  685. >"Later tonight? What's happening later?"
  686. "Whatever you want, Silver. You want freedom? I'll give you freedom. We can do whatever you want."
  687. >Silver nods slowly, but doesn't look up.
  688. "Please..."
  689. >She nods again and pokes at a cashew with her chopsticks.
  690. >"Anything?"
  691. "Anything."
  692. >Whatever it takes, you're willing to do it.
  693. >Silver takes in a deep breath, holds it for a second, and lets it out slowly - just like you had told her to in the diner.
  694. "All better?"
  695. >She nods again and picks up a cashew.
  696. >You watch as she takes it into her mouth, waiting for any expression, any sign that she likes it.
  697. >Please, you silently beg, let *something* go right.
  698. >Silver doesn't smile, but after a second she reaches for another piece.
  699. "How is it?"
  700. >"It's... good?"
  701. "Really?"
  702. >Silver looks up, her purple eyes peering at you over the rim of her glasses.
  703. >"It's okay," she answers with a smile. "But... next time..."
  704. "Pancakes?"
  705. >"Pancakes."
  706. "You like sweet things, don't you?"
  707. >"So do you," Silver replies, pointing at your plate with her chopsticks.
  708. >You shrug. No point denying it.
  709. "Well, yeah... I mean, of course I like sweet things... I like *you*... and..."
  710. >Silver raises one eyebrow.
  711. "... and that was bad."
  712. >"That was bad," she agrees with a polite giggle, "but I appreciate it."
  713. "I try. Sometimes a little too hard, I admit."
  714. >You push your plate closer to Silver.
  715. "Here, want to try some?"
  716. >Silver looks at the sweet and sour pork for a second, but shakes her head.
  717. >"No... I... uh... no. Thank you, but no."
  718. "Why not?"
  719. >"You... um... you don't know any Mandarin, do you?"
  720. "No. Why?"
  721. >"Nevermind."
  722. >She never does answer, not that anyway.
  723. >Slowly, the conversation turns to other things, you and her swapping questions that miss, often as not.
  724. >Silver doesn't follow any of your teams.
  725. >You don't read any of her books.
  726. >She doesn't... it doesn't take you long to admit that you don't really share any hobbies. That bothers you less than you thought it would. Silver doesn't seem to mind, either.
  727. >"I've been to some games," Silver admits as she pushes her empty plate aside, chopsticks neatly set on top. "Di..."
  728. >She hesitates, glancing your direction, but you keep your face neutral.
  729. >"Di took me to a few."
  730. >It's the first time she's let the flow of the conversation break, the first time you've seen just how hollow her smile is instead of simply listening to her voice.
  731.  
  732. >You are Silver Spoon and you keep talking.
  733. >As long as you're talking, he's interested.
  734. "I... um... I had fun..."
  735. >You made a mistake.
  736. "... I mean..."
  737. >You shouldn't have mentioned Di; Soarin is frowning.
  738. "... it was..."
  739. >You fall silent.
  740. >You shouldn't have -
  741. >"Really?" Soarin grunts, pushing aside his plate.
  742. "I'm sorry, I -"
  743. >"Just surprised. Didn't really take her for someone that would be into sports."
  744.  
  745. >You are Diamond Tiara and you hate everyone.
  746. >"But I did what you told me to," Lily whines over the phone. "I stayed with Silver Spoon all day. No one even went near her!"
  747. "That's bullshit."
  748. >You start another circut of your room, pacing slowly.
  749. "Want to know how I know that's bullshit?"
  750. >"But it isn't!"
  751. "Because she left school with So-"
  752. >If anyone finds out, they'll take her away from you.
  753. >"Who...?"
  754. "With *someone*."
  755. >"She told me she was meeting you!"
  756. "And you believed her!?"
  757. >"Yes!"
  758. >Stupid bitch.
  759. >You hate her.
  760. "If anything happens to her..."
  761. >"What would happen to her? What's going on?"
  762. "... if anything happens to her, it's *your* fault."
  763. >"But I did what you told me to! I did everything -"
  764. >You hang up. You don't *want* to - you want to smash your phone against the wall - but... you make the gesture anyway, holding tight onto your phone and futilely punching the air.
  765. >It doesn't make you feel any better.
  766. >You can't break it.
  767. >Stupid parents wouldn't buy you a new phone for who knows how long. You don't even know when you'd see them to tell them.
  768. >That's not why you don't do it.
  769. >It's part of the reason, possibly.
  770. >Certainly the reason you give yourself, the one you try to tell yourself is true.
  771. >You don't smash it - in fact, you plug it into the charger - because...
  772. >What if she calls?
  773. >You fall back onto your bed with a sigh.
  774. >As angry as you are, as much as you want to hate Silver, it's impossible to maintain for more than a moment or two.
  775. >Her motives are too understandable.
  776. >She's not the only one that needs to be wanted.
  777.  
  778. >You miss her.
  779.  
  780. >You are Soarin and you shake your head.
  781. "No thanks, we won't need a to-go box."
  782. >The waitress nods and scurries away.
  783. >It's a shame to waste the rest of your meal, but you won't be heading home for a while. It would go bad anyway.
  784. >Probably.
  785. >Silver still hasn't told you what she wants to do.
  786. >You're... not stuffed, but full enough.
  787. >Still, it would be a shame to let it go to waste.
  788. "Sure you don't want to try it?"
  789. >You nudge the plate closer to Silver, but she shakes her head again.
  790. >"No... I... um... I'm fine. Thank you."
  791. "Okay then. Ready to go?"
  792. >Silver nods.
  793. >You're out of your seat in a flash.
  794. >She had recovered quickly, the stream of idle polite conversation continuing unbroken until now, but you've both run out of things to talk about.
  795. >There's only so much nothing that can be said.
  796. >Silver smiles as you offer her your hand.
  797. >"Oh. Thank you."
  798. >You pull her up.
  799. >She didn't need the help - she barely puts any weight on your hand - but it's the first genuine smile you've seen from her in a while.
  800. >It's the gesture that counts.
  801. "Well, where too now?"
  802. >Silver shrugs.
  803. >"Wherever you want to go."
  804. "What do you want to do?"
  805. >A hesitation.
  806. >A shrug.
  807. >"I... um..."
  808. "Okay, let's..."
  809. >The restaurant is starting to fill up - you have to pull Silver aside for an elderly couple to get past.
  810. "... let's talk about it in the car, okay?"
  811. >Silver holds tightly on to your hand as you lead her outside, only letting go once she's in her seat.
  812. >Even then, she releases you reluctantly, grabbing on immediately as soon as you slip behind the steering wheel.
  813. "Any ideas?"
  814. >Silver shakes her head.
  815. "Then how about... um... want to get dessert somewhere? No, what am I thinking. You're full, aren't you?"
  816. >"No, I could go for dessert," she answers. "I'm... um... still a little hungry, actually."
  817. "Then why didn't you have some of mine?"
  818. >"You should look up the restaurant's name when you get home tonight."
  819. "Why?"
  820. >"You'll get it when you see it."
  821. >That makes no damn sense, but so little about everything does these past couple of weeks.
  822. >Your sigh is drowned out by the roar of your car's engine.
  823. "Dessert it is. Where to?"
  824. >"There's this... um... no, nevermind. Wherever you want to go."
  825. "Where?"
  826. >Silver pulls her hand free of yours.
  827. >"It's... um... on the other side of town," she stammers, folding her hands on her lap. "People would recognize me. We shouldn't go there."
  828. "Okay. Got it. But it's good?"
  829. >"Yes."
  830. "Pie shop?"
  831. >"Cake."
  832. "I'll have to check it out on my own sometime."
  833. >"Yes," Silver giggles, "you should."
  834. "But for now, how does ice cream sound?"
  835. >"It sounds perfect."
  836.  
  837. >You are Silver Spoon and you think ice cream sounds perfect.
  838. >"Really?"
  839. "Well, yeah."
  840. >You smile cheerfull for him.
  841. "Whatever you want to do."
  842. >Soarin sighs.
  843. "Or -"
  844. > - and kills the engine.
  845. >Slowly, he turns to face you.
  846. "I mean, I would love ice cream and -"
  847. >"Look, Silver, I..." Soarin sighs, looks out the windshield, then back to you. "I'm trying to do something you want."
  848. "It is! If you want ice cream -"
  849. >"Don't worry about what I want."
  850. "But -"
  851. >Soarin sighs again and shakes his head.
  852. >"Don't," he says firmly. "Don't worry about making me happy. Making you happy..."
  853. >He hesitates.
  854. >That moment lasts forever.
  855. >"Making you happy makes *me* happy, okay? If you don't really want ice cream -"
  856. "I do!"
  857. >Anything to end this.
  858. >"If you don't really want ice cream," he continues, ignoring you, "we don't have to get ice cream. I meant what I said earlier, Silver. We can do whatever you want."
  859. "But... I..."
  860. >”I asked around, Silver, and you weren’t always like this. You used to be…”
  861. >A bitch.
  862. >Soarin thinks you used to be a bitch.
  863. >He’s right.
  864. >”… bossy,” he sighs. “To put it nicely. A couple said you were a bully. And now…?”
  865. >He shrugs.
  866. “Do you… do you *want* me to treat you like that? Is that why you hang out with Spitfire? Do you like -”
  867. >”No. Fuck no. You’re right, I get enough of that from Spitfire, but I want you to be you. Be the person you are deep down.”
  868. “What if you don’t like the person that is?”
  869. >Soarin reaches out, brushing a hand across your cheek.
  870. >”I’m pretty sure I’d still like you.”
  871. “Even if I’m a bitch?”
  872. >”You aren’t a bitch.”
  873. “B-but…”
  874. >If you act differently, then he…
  875. >There’s only one reason he’d like you.
  876. "S-sorry, I..."
  877. >You reach for him.
  878. >It's what he wants. You were right, that's all you're good for.
  879. >You don’t want to, not here, not now.
  880. >But… if he wants you in a parking lot... it's not the first time.
  881. >You reach for his belt.
  882. >"Silver, No!"
  883. >He grabs your wrists.
  884. >It hurts.
  885. >Not the physical pain - that's exists, but you barely notice it.
  886. >It hurts because he *stops* you from doing the only thing you can for him.
  887. >"What the hell?"
  888. "But... at the diner..."
  889. >"What are you doing?"
  890. "I thought you wanted me to... to..."
  891. >There's a moment, two really - the first makes you want to run and hide as Soarin stares at you in disbelief.
  892. >The second is when his eyes open wide and he gasps.
  893. >You know what he's thinking.
  894. >Slowly, he lets go of you and turns away.
  895. >"Silver, I need you to promise me something."
  896. "W-what...?"
  897. >Never see him again?
  898. >Never talk to him again?
  899.  
  900. >You are Soarin and you are a monster.
  901. >Silver only did those things because she thought you wanted her to.
  902. >What's worse, you *do* want her to... no... you can't think about that right now.
  903. >You’ll only hate yourself more.
  904. "Silver, promise me that you won't do that again."
  905. >"Do what...?" she asks meekly.
  906. "Do what you think I want. I want you to do what *you* want."
  907. >”But…”
  908. “So what do you want to do now?”
  909. >”I… I…”
  910. >She takes a deep breath.
  911. >”Iwanttogeticecream –“
  912. >Dammit. She –
  913. >”-andgoforawalkinapark.”
  914. >That’s new.
  915. >”And then…”
  916. >Silver stares down at her lap, avoiding your look.
  917. “And then?”
  918. >Her purple eyes make contact with yours for just a heartbeat before darting away.
  919. >”I’ll tell you later.”
  920. “I can live with that.”
  921. >Another quick glance.
  922. >You smile before she can look away.
  923. “Sounds like fun. Let’s go get some ice cream.”
  924. >You don't ask where - you think you've pushed Silver enough for right now - you just drive.
  925. >There's an ice cream shop not too far from here - and park right across the street.
  926. >You've been to the park a few times. Or more than a few. It's close to your house and has some nice open spaces for ultimate frisbee or just kicking a ball around.
  927. >Most importantly, it's small enough not to attract huge crowds, but not so small it doesn't offer any privacy.
  928. >You try to tell yourself that's important because she doesn't want her parents finding out.
  929. >It's... the truth. To a point.
  930. >So why is it so hard to convince yourself it's true?
  931. >You are a monster.
  932.  
  933. >You are Silver Spoon and you are nervous.
  934. >"Yeah, two cones. Waffle? Yeah, sure. Silver?"
  935. "Yes please."
  936. >"Okay, two waffle cones."
  937. >Soarin is all smiles and laughter now.
  938. >"Um... chocolate."
  939. >This is what you wanted - he's happy now.
  940. >But this is...
  941. >"Silver?"
  942. >You want this.
  943. >"Hey, Silver, what flavor do you want?"
  944. "Um... vanilla?"
  945. >"Are you sure?" Soarin asks doubtfully.
  946. >You don't blame him. It's bland. It's safe. But...
  947. "It's what I want."
  948. >He nods once and turns back to the cashier with a smile.
  949. >This is what you want.
  950. >He's happy. You're happy.
  951. >Tonight is going to be beautiful.
  952. >You look out the storefront windows, out across the street.
  953. >The sun is starting to dip below the horizon and the trees are casting long shadows.
  954. >Tiny little flashes of light flicker in darkness.
  955. >"Watching the fireflies?"
  956. "Huh?"
  957. >Soarin hands your cone to you, gesturing towards the park with his.
  958. >"The fireflies. It's a bit early for them to be out, but -"
  959. "Oh!"
  960. >"Once we finish our cones, we'll head over."
  961. >You nod, but you don't mean it.
  962. >That's why you grab Soarin's hand when he starts to move away.
  963. "Now? Can we go over there now?"
  964. >Your boyfriend smiles.
  965. >There's no hesitation, no uncertainty in his response.
  966. >"Yeah. Let's go."
  967. >With both of his hands full, Soarin pushes open the door with his hip, holding it open for you without ever releasing your hand - like a perfect gentleman.
  968. >"Let's just hop in the car -"
  969. >You don't stop walking.
  970. >"- or not. Not really any parking anyway."
  971. >You do what you want, not leading him as such - that wouldn't be right - but silently insisting.
  972. >So far... things have gone okay, haven't they?
  973. >Those little victories lend you confidence.
  974. >The sun disappears below the treeline as you are crossing the street. Lamps flicker on in the twilight glow, illuminating the park as you approach.
  975. >"Careful, Silver."
  976. >You look at your feet, at the street, at Soarin.
  977. >"Huh?"
  978. >You don't see -
  979. >"Your cone is starting to -"
  980. "Oh!"
  981. >You lick up the melting ice cream before it can drip down to your hand.
  982. >"So, want to go up to the gazebo or... " Soarin nods over towards the trees, "... go along the trail?"
  983. "I don't care."
  984. >"Silver..."
  985. "I'm with you and that's what matters. I don't care where we go."
  986. >Soarin hesitates a second before tugging you in the direction of the trail.
  987. >"You said you wanted to walk, so let's walk."
  988. >Lights frame the trailhead, surrounded by the flickering fireflies.
  989. >"If you want to rest - or just get tired of walking - there are a few benches along the way."
  990. >The trail is narrow, barely wide enough for three people to walk abreast. Luckily, it's just the two of you; the park seems deserted.
  991. "Sounds nice. Maybe we could stop and watch the fireflies."
  992. >"Yeah."
  993.  
  994. >You are Soarin and that wasn't exactly what you had in mind.
  995. "Sounds romantic."
  996. >"Mhm."
  997. >It's better than what you were thinking.
  998. >You hate yourself.
  999. >Lights dot the path, distant enough from each other that the places between fall into shadow.
  1000. >You try to focus on them and not the young girl beside you. Focus on their light, and not the soft skin of her hand. Count the lights and not the moments it's been since -
  1001. >A gentle pull catches you by surprise.
  1002. >"Soarin..."
  1003. "Hmm?"
  1004. >You turn to face Silver and she rolls her eyes. And giggles.
  1005. "What?"
  1006. >She leans in and - licks your hand. The one with the -
  1007. "Oh!"
  1008. >"It was dripping," she explains unnecessarily, straightening.
  1009. "Shit. I guess I was -"
  1010. >"Distracted?" Silver laughs. "Yeah, I could tell."
  1011. "Sorry."
  1012. >"Don't be. I'm enjoying myself."
  1013. >Silver smiles. Chocolate stains her lower lip.
  1014. >You can't help yourself.
  1015. >You kiss her.
  1016. >You shouldn't; you don't know if she wants that.
  1017. >But she returns the kiss immediately.
  1018. >It doesn't last long.
  1019. >"I was wondering how long it would take you," she laughs. "Guess you *really* like chocolate."
  1020. >Oh.
  1021. >She did want it.
  1022. "Not as much as I like you."
  1023. >Silver smiles sadly at you.
  1024. "Too cheesy?"
  1025. >"Too cheesy."
  1026. "That's the second time I've done that tonight."
  1027. >"Mhm," she sighs. "Almost makes me wonder how you ever picked up any girls before."
  1028. "I don't know. Because I'm a nice guy?"
  1029. >"Yeah. You are."
  1030. >Her eyes flicker over to your side.
  1031. >"It's dripping again."
  1032. "What? Dangit!"
  1033. >You've barely touched your cone; you've probably lost more than you've eaten.
  1034. "Help me out a bit?"
  1035. >Silver stares at your rapidly melting ice cream for a second before holding hers out to you.
  1036. >"If you'll help with mine...?"
  1037. >You look at her cone, then at yours.
  1038. >She's barely eaten more than you have.
  1039. "I guess we better hurry."
  1040. >Silver giggles and pulls you towards a nearby bench.
  1041. >You don't know why you end up laughing as you and your girlfriend swap cones. Perhaps the silliness of the situation - "helping" each other with your cones when both of you have barely touched your own. Or maybe you're just enjoying yourself.
  1042. >Whatever it is, it's infectious. Soon Silver is laughing along with you as you pass your cone to her again.
  1043. >It's harder than it sounds; her hand is still clasped tightly in yours.
  1044. >When it comes time to swap back, Silver doesn't even try to hand the cone to you - she just holds it up to your mouth. You do the same for her.
  1045.  
  1046. >The ice cream is gone, the cones are gone, but the laughter isn't.
  1047. >Silver's eyes are closed tight, but tears manage to leak out. She's laughing so hard, she's crying. And then -
  1048. >"Snnnnrk!"
  1049. >Her eyes open.
  1050. >She stares at you.
  1051. >There's a moment of silence.
  1052. >And then you both laugh, even harder than before.
  1053. >"Why are we even laughing?" Silver eventually gasps, her cheeks flushed.
  1054. "I don't know!"
  1055. >"It's a good... good thing no one else is around. We'd look like a pair of idiots."
  1056. "Yeah."
  1057. >You look up and down the trail. Not a person in sight.
  1058. "Yeah..."
  1059. >Just as planned.
  1060. >You hate yourself.
  1061. >Another giggle bubbles up from Silver.
  1062. >"What now?"
  1063. "That's... um... well, we... can..."
  1064. >Silver looks up at you expectantly, but you can only continue to stumble over your words.
  1065. >You don’t wat to be the one to say it.
  1066. “Wasn’t there… um, well, you said there was something else you wanted to do?”
  1067. >”Mhm.”
  1068. >She nods, then carefully adjusts her grip on your hand and pulls it up to her neck. Silver lets go of it for a second, just long enough to reach around and drag your arm across her shoulders.
  1069. >Your girlfriend snuggles up to your side.
  1070. >Rubs up against you.
  1071. >Yeah. She wants this.
  1072. “Well? What is it?”
  1073. >She wants to, but you want to hear her say it.
  1074. >”Tell you later.”
  1075. >Dammit.
  1076. >Silver cuddles in closer to you, pulling your arm tight around her.
  1077. >She’s tiny; your forearm dangles off her narrow shoulders. Her hand is wrapped around yours, holding it in place just below her neckline.
  1078. >You want her to be the one to say it.
  1079. >Somehow, that makes a difference. If she acts first, you aren’t a horrible person. If Silver is the instigator, then maybe you can live with yourself.
  1080. >Maybe it means that those other times aren’t your fault.
  1081. >She doesn’t say it. She doesn’t say anything.
  1082. >Silver sits quietly, staring into the darkness.
  1083. >You can feel her chest expand with every breath.
  1084. >You can feel the beating of her heart.
  1085. >It’s almost drowned out by your own.
  1086. “Silver, there’s… no one around now… if…”
  1087. >”If what?” she asks, her confusion clear in her voice.
  1088. “I mean, that thing.”
  1089. >”What?”
  1090. “What you… um… wanted to do.”
  1091. >”Huh?”
  1092. >She turns in your arm, squirming until her chest is rubbing up against your side and her eyes staring up into yours.
  1093. >Silver is teasing you, just like she did with the chocolate on her lips. She wants this, she wants you to make the first move.
  1094. >You’re not a monster if you only do what she wants.
  1095. >That’s what you tell yourself as you pull your hand free of hers.
  1096. >Her eyes widen as you reach down, your fingers brushing against her breast.
  1097. >”If… if that’s what you want…” Silver murmurs.
  1098. “What do you want?”
  1099. >She still needs to say it. You *need* her to say it.
  1100. >”I’ll… I’ll tell you later.”
  1101. >Silver looks down and grabs the hem of her shirt with her clean hand, the one that had been holding onto you just moments ago.
  1102. >”We can… we can…”
  1103. >You are a monster.
  1104. >She doesn’t want this.
  1105. >She didn’t say it, because she doesn’t want this.
  1106. >You almost let her do it anyway.
  1107. “No, we can do what you want.”
  1108. >The words pop out before you realize what you’re even saying.
  1109. >As much as you mean them, you also regret them.
  1110. >Your heart sinks when Silver shakes her head.
  1111. >”No, we’ve done that all night,” she says timidly. “It’s your turn. That’s how this works.”
  1112. >You feel like a monster.
  1113. >She doesn’t want to do this.
  1114. >You *are* a monster.
  1115. >”I don’t mind,” she mumbles unconvincingly. “If it’s what you want –“
  1116. “No.”
  1117. >You grab her hand.
  1118. “No, let’s just talk and watch the fireflies.”
  1119. >Silver hesitates, but snuggles back up to you after a moment.
  1120. >You still want her.
  1121. >Here. Now.
  1122. >You sit silently, pretending to pay attention to the flittering lights.
  1123. >Pretending that you aren’t a horrible person.
  1124. >Trying not to be too distracted by the way her chest rises and falls and how you feel her every movement.
  1125. >Minutes pass.
  1126. >They feel like hours.
  1127. >Maybe it has been.
  1128. >”Soarin,” your girlfriend suddenly says, her hand tightening around yours nervously, as if trying to hold you in place, “i… I want to do this right.”
  1129. “What do you mean by that?”
  1130. >”You’ll see.”
  1131. “I wish…”
  1132. >”Hmm?”
  1133. “I wish I understood this, Silver. Not what you want to do, I mean, but…”
  1134. >”All of it?” Silver sighs, squeezing your hand even tighter.
  1135. >Not what you were going to say, but you nod.
  1136. >She’s a minor.
  1137. >You’re a monster.
  1138. >This shouldn’t be happening.
  1139. >She shouldn’t be snuggled up to you like this.
  1140. “Why me, Silver?”
  1141. >Why would she try to be with someone like you?
  1142. >”I told you. Because –“
  1143. ”Because I was kind and gentle, yeah, but why… why *stay* with me? I… I understand why that night happened the way it did, but why are you here now?”
  1144. >Silver tilts her head to the side, as far as your arm allows, anyway.
  1145. >”Because I want to be.”
  1146. “Could you try to explain to your dumb jock boyfriend.”
  1147. >”You aren’t dumb.”
  1148. “Well, can you explain anyway?”
  1149. >Silver giggles, her whole body shaking with the short burst of laughter.
  1150. “You said it yourself, Silver, you shouldn’t be here.”
  1151. >She should be as far away from you as she can be.
  1152. >”Is this about…”
  1153. >Silver hesitates to say her name, but you know what she means.
  1154. “No, it’s…”
  1155. >You sigh, unsure what to say.
  1156. >Silver waits patiently – or perhaps fearfully.
  1157. “I just…”
  1158. >You want her to run.
  1159. “I wish…”
  1160. >”What?”
  1161. “I wish this was right.”
  1162. >Your girlfriend nods, agreeing silently with you.
  1163. >”I know,” she murmurs softly. “That’s why… that’s why I want to wait. Not here. Not now. I want…”
  1164. >Silver trails off.
  1165. “What?”
  1166. >She looks back up at you and sighs.
  1167. >”I want to do things right for once.”
  1168. >You can only blink at her.
  1169. “I don’t follow.”
  1170. >”Let’s go back to your place,” Silver whispers huskily. “I want it to be perfect.”
  1171. "And by perfect, you mean...?"
  1172. >"I mean..."
  1173. >Silver shifts, fidgeting uncomfortably in your arm.
  1174. >"I want... I want you to take me in your bed. I want you to look me in the eyes. I want you to be... to be gentle. I want to be your only one. I want to grow old together. But most of all, I want you to love me."
  1175. "I... uh... wow."
  1176. >"I'm sorry," Silver mumbles. "I know I want a lot."
  1177. "No, just... 'grow old together'?"
  1178. >"Yes."
  1179. "I... uh... I..."
  1180. >Say something, you idiot.
  1181. "That's..."
  1182. >She's going to cry.
  1183. >Fucking say something.
  1184. "... I... I kinda thought maybe..."
  1185. >"I don't want this to just be a... a fling, Soarin."
  1186. "Well, good, I... heh... I thought maybe you were just slumming it up a little with me or something."
  1187. >You try to laugh, you try to make it a joke, but your chuckle dies in your throat as Silver pulls off her glasses and stares into your eyes.
  1188. >"No."
  1189. >Your girlfriend shakes her head, never once breaking eye contact.
  1190. >"Never think that, Soarin."
  1191. "I - I don't. Just... I mean, the princess going out with the guy from the wrong side of the tracks? It's... you know..."
  1192. >You hope she does, because you don't, not really.
  1193. "... you know... the stories where the rich girl gives up everything to be with the poor guy she loves and all that."
  1194. >Silver sighs and rolls her eyes at you.
  1195. >"I..."
  1196. >She sighs again before snuggling up to you again.
  1197. >"I can see what you mean, but I don't romanticize that idea. I *enjoy* my lifestyle."
  1198. "But, I thought, I mean... you parents..."
  1199. >Silver shakes her head, somehow understanding what your stumbling words mean.
  1200. >"I want to make my own choices, but I don't envy the poor for their freedom or anything like that, Soarin," she sighs. "I'm greedy, I guess, but I like having money. I just want to have other things as well.
  1201. >"I'm not slumming. My family's means shouldn't be restricting."
  1202. "But -"
  1203. >"I have money. Enough. As far as I'm concerned, that means my husband doesn't need to.
  1204. >"Maybe I'm spoiled, maybe I just don't get things, but as long as I can maintain my current lifestyle... all I want is to be loved."
  1205. "And if you can't maintain it?"
  1206. >"I still want to be loved," she answers softly. "I'm not dating you because you're older or because you're... um... 'from the wrong side of the tracks.' You aren't. I not interesting in some romanticized notion or idea, I'm interested in *you*."
  1207. >You wish you could find that reassuring.
  1208. “But why me? Why… I mean, you’re talking about husbands and marriage and long term stuff, and you’re only… you’re only 14, Silver.”
  1209. >”True, but I know what I want,” she murmurs softly. “Don’t you?”
  1210. “I –“
  1211. >You know what you want. Her. Now. You also know you shouldn’t, that this isn’t right, that she’s too young, that…
  1212. “I know a lot of things.”
  1213. >”Well, you love me, don’t you?”
  1214. >You haven’t said it; you can’t bring yourself to say it. Not when you know you shouldn’t.
  1215. >But when she asks, so offhand, so matter-of-fact, you can’t say no. You can’t lie to her.
  1216. >You nod.
  1217. >”Why?”
  1218. >The question hits you like a brick.
  1219. >Because you were blackmailed into it isn’t something you want to tell her, nor is it true, not anymore. Pity? Not quite. Lust? No. Yes. Maybe, but no.
  1220. >”See?” Silver asks as you silently try to come up with a response. “It’s not so easy to answer, is it?”
  1221. “No, I guess not.”
  1222. >Silver nods and puts her glasses back on.
  1223. >With a contented sigh, she turns back to resume watching the fireflies.
  1224. >Relief washes over you as you realize she never expected an answer, but…
  1225. “I want to protect you.”
  1226. >… she deserves one.
  1227. >”From?”
  1228. >The question is so innocent, so guileless.
  1229. “At first, Diamond Tiara. Now… your parents too, I guess.”
  1230. >”Oh.”
  1231. >There’s a pause, heavy and ominous.
  1232. >You don’t speak, you don’t dare.
  1233. >There are few things you are afraid of. The usual, you suppose. Death, getting hurt. The ones that plague high schoolers, like worrying about your grades, or – until recently – your team. Normal things.
  1234. >You aren’t scared of much else. Not spiders or heights or anything else, really.
  1235. >But right now, at this very moment, you are afraid.
  1236. >You are afraid you said the wrong thing.
  1237. >Even more scared that you will say something worse.
  1238. >Say that you want her to run.
  1239. >Tell her that you want to protect her from yourself.
  1240. >”Soarin…”
  1241. >You don’t say a thing.
  1242. >The fear of losing her is too much.
  1243. >”… thank you.”
  1244.  
  1245. >You sit in silence a while longer before your girlfriend squeezes your hand.
  1246. >”I’m ready.”
  1247. “Ready to leave?”
  1248. >”Yes,” Silver answers, rising to her feat.
  1249. >You follow, letting a girl half your size drag you up.
  1250. “Should I take you home?”
  1251. >”Yes,” she answers with a raised eyebrow. “Wait. My home?”
  1252. “Yes.”
  1253. >”No.”
  1254. “It’s a school night.”
  1255. >”I don’t care.”
  1256. “My parents are probably home.”
  1257. >”I still don’t care.”
  1258. “Silver, I… I want to, but…”
  1259. >”Soarin…”
  1260. >She should run.
  1261. >”… I want this.”
  1262. >You are a monster.
  1263. “Me too.”
  1264.  
  1265. >You shouldn’t, but you lead her back to your car.
  1266. >Should have called her a taxi.
  1267. >Should have driven on when you saw your parents’ cars in the driveway, instead of parking on the curb.
  1268. >Should have taken her home, instead of gesturing for her to wait by a window.
  1269. >Should have kissed her goodnight, instead of opening it and helping her climb into your bedroom.
  1270. >About the only thing you do right is ask her one last time.
  1271. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
  1272. >”With all my heart.”
  1273. >No, there’s one other thing you do right: you make tonight perfect for her.
  1274. >She sets her glasses on the nightstand, next to your alarm clock.
  1275. >You throw her shirt on the floor, next to yours.
  1276. >Her skirt joins it a second later, leaving her dressed in just her undergarments.
  1277. >Pale pink bra.
  1278. >Matching panties.
  1279. >You can’t say that your eyes never leave hers as you reach around and undo the clasp, letting the bra fall to reveal the gentle swell of her breasts, but you can say that you are gentle.
  1280. >Not that any words pass between you and her. There’s no need.
  1281. >Your lips move, but only to plant kisses on her body.
  1282. >No words.
  1283. >No more questions, no more uncertainty.
  1284. >No hesitation as you slide your hands under the straps on her panties and pull them free.
  1285. >You’ve crossed the line long ago.
  1286. >Silver gasps as you lift her up.
  1287. >It’s easy – so very easy.
  1288. >She’s half your size.
  1289. >She moans happily as you lay her down on your bed. Quietly, but happily.
  1290. >You watch as your girlfriend flexes invitingly, watch as she undoes the strand of pearls around her neck and tries to put it next to her glasses.
  1291. >The necklace slips out of her hand and falls to the floor. Neither of you notice or care; you’re both otherwise occupied.
  1292. >You are gentle. You look her in the eyes.
  1293. >You make tonight everything the others should have been.
  1294. >Silver is squirming with pleasure before you even take your pants off. She whines as you roll out of bed and reach into your nightstand.
  1295. >”Don’t go,” she pleads, reaching for you.
  1296. “I’m not going anywhere.”
  1297. >She shakes her head as you hold up the condom.
  1298. >”Really, that’s not necessary.”
  1299. “Do you want to get pregnant?”
  1300. >”N-no.”
  1301. “Then we’re using a condom.”
  1302. >Those are the only words you exchange that night.
  1303. >She doesn’t say a thing as you tear open the package.
  1304. >You don’t as she fumblingly tries to put it on you, like she had never done it before.
  1305. >Of course she hadn’t.
  1306. >She’s only fourteen.
  1307. >There’s a moment of hesitation, a fraction of a second where you rethink things.
  1308. >It lasts about as long as it takes for Silver to roll onto her back and spread her legs. And then…
  1309. >You make tonight perfect for her.
  1310.  
  1311. >You are Silver Spoon and you do not sleep.
  1312. >How can you sleep, when adrenaline still floods your system?
  1313. >Tonight was everything you thought it would be, everything Di said it would be.
  1314. >Your first time. Tonight was your *real* first time.
  1315. >The first time Soarin looked at your body with undisguised desire. Truly looked at it, not out of the corner of his eyes, not like he was ashamed of it.
  1316. >The first time he touched you, not drunkenly pawed at you or reluctantly held you.
  1317. >The first time it didn’t hurt.
  1318. >The first time he held you afterward.
  1319. >He still is.
  1320. >One hand holds tight to yours, the other is clasped about your waist.
  1321. >He holds you tight.
  1322. >This is your place. At his side. In his arms.
  1323. >You don’t sleep. How could you?
  1324. >Exhaustion tries to drag you down, but you fight back, relishing every moment.
  1325. >Your naked body fits perfectly in his arms.
  1326. >Of course it does. This is your place.
  1327. >You swear you never close your eyes, that you never drift off to sleep, but it is the most restful night you have ever had in your life.
  1328. >When Soarin’s alarm goes off, you don’t feel tired at all.
  1329. >No, quite the opposite as he groans and tightens his arm about your waist.
  1330. >”I don’t want to get up,” he mumbles into your ear. “I want to stay like this forever.”
  1331. “Me too.”
  1332. >There's a moment of pure bliss where you both ignore the alarm and what it means.
  1333. >For a while, you have hope. For those brief seconds, you think it might last forever.
  1334. >It all fades away when Soarin pull his arm from your waist.
  1335. >The alarm stops and you silently pray that -
  1336. >"Time to get up, I guess."
  1337. > - that he wouldn't say that.
  1338. >"Unless..."
  1339. "Yes?"
  1340. >"Shit," Soarin lets out in a huff. "Shit."
  1341. >He curls back around you, his arm pulling you tight against his chest, his legs intertwining with yours.
  1342. >"We did not think this through," he sighs. "What happens now?"
  1343. "We skip school?"
  1344. >"I have a feeling that if we did that, we'd never leave this bed."
  1345. "Probably."
  1346. >You hope.
  1347. >It would be nice.
  1348. >"We can't do that."
  1349. "I know."
  1350. >"Shit."
  1351. >You lay there silently, trying to enjoy the feeling of his arm around you while it lasts.
  1352.  
  1353. >You are Diamond Tiara and you do not sleep.
  1354. >How can you sleep, when Silver is with *him*?
  1355. >You *try*. You tell yourself that whatever happens is only what she deserves.
  1356. >It’s not very convincing.
  1357. >Every hour, every fifteen minutes – no less than that – you’re checking your phone, hoping you missed a call or a text or something.
  1358. >Anything.
  1359. >Your phone flickers to life around midnight, but it’s just your mother.
  1360. >Nothing – and no one – important.
  1361. >You don’t bother to read her message. In fact, you stop checking your phone altogether.
  1362. >The next few hours are spent fitfully tossing in your bed.
  1363. >Sweat soaks your pajamas by the time the sun shines through your window.
  1364. >You check your phone again, praying you had fallen asleep at some point, but there’s only the one message.
  1365. >You still don’t read it. Whatever your mother had to say to you can’t be important. It never is.
  1366.  
  1367. >You are Soarin and you need to get up.
  1368. >It’s impossible, but it needs to be done. And yet, it doesn’t happen.
  1369. >Neither you nor Silver make any effort to get out of bed.
  1370. “We should probably shower.”
  1371. >”Mhm.”
  1372. >That’s as far as things go.
  1373. >A comment, an agreement, and nothing to show for it.
  1374. >The sky outside your window is bright with the morning sun.
  1375. >You’re ready to give up, resign yourself to spending the day in bed with Silver. You want to. She wants to.
  1376. >It can’t be that bad if –
  1377. >A phone rings.
  1378. >The sound barely registers; you probably wouldn’t have noticed it if Silver hadn’t suddenly tensed up.
  1379. “Need to get that?”
  1380. >”Y-yes.”
  1381. >Reluctantly, you let her go.
  1382. >She stays there for a second, until the phone rings again.
  1383. >With a stuttering sigh, she crawls over you to get to it.
  1384. >The hollow space in your bed leaves an even bigger hole in your heart.
  1385. >The ringing stops.
  1386. >”H-hello…?”
  1387. >You turn around – and the view of Silver silhouetted by the sun-lit window leaves you breathless.
  1388. >”N-no, I’m… I’m fine.”
  1389. >More than fine. She’s perfect.
  1390. >”Really.”
  1391. >Really.
  1392. >From her trim legs to the golden halo of hair surrounding her face. Perfect.
  1393. >”N-no! I promise!”
  1394. >Narrow hips. Narrower waist.
  1395. >”No!”
  1396. >She glances at you with her wide, beautiful eyes.
  1397. >Royal purple.
  1398. >”No, he wouldn’t! Ever!”
  1399. “Silver?”
  1400. >”No! I’m… I’m fine!”
  1401. “Silver, what’s –“
  1402. >”I said I’m fine! Everything is perfect! You were wrong and… and…”
  1403. >You push yourself out of bed and reach for the phone, but Silver twists aside.
  1404. >”… and I don’t need you anymore!”
  1405. >She throws the phone to the floor before you can grab for it again.
  1406. >You expect to see it explode into a million little pieces, but all you see is your girlfriend crying.
  1407. >So you do what any good boyfriend would do in this situation: you hold her until the tears stop. And then you hold her some more, until she tries to push you away.
  1408. >You pull her tighter.
  1409. >”Soarin,” she squeaks, “we should… we should get dressed. We’ll be late for school.”
  1410. “We’re already late.”
  1411. >Her head falls against your chest.
  1412. >”Really?”
  1413. “Really.”
  1414. >She slumps in your arms; you’re the only thing holding her up now.
  1415. >”I need a shower.”
  1416.  
  1417. >Your tub is small, barely large enough for the both of you to stand.
  1418. >Water cascades over you and her.
  1419. >At no point do you let go of Silver.
  1420. >”I don’t have any clean clothes,” she mumbles, barely audible over the rushing water.
  1421. “I know, we didn’t really –“
  1422. >”You’re too big. I can’t wear any of your clothes.”
  1423. “Yeah. They’d –“
  1424. >”Di always had clothes I could wear. We weren’t the same size, but…”
  1425. “Close enough?”
  1426. >”Yeah.”
  1427. “Maybe I can buy a few things…”
  1428. >”Won’t that be hard to explain?”
  1429. “No harder than explaining why you spent the night with me.”
  1430. >Silver’s head jerks up and she stares at you in a mixture of fear and shock.
  1431. >”Your parents!” she gasps. “Are they still –“
  1432. “They’re gone.”
  1433. >She gives a relieved sigh and lets her head drop back to your chest.
  1434. “Both of them work early. So… yeah…”
  1435. >”But you said –“
  1436. “I was just joking. Kind of. I mean… shit… if anyone finds out…
  1437. >”Yeah…”
  1438.  
  1439. >Your clothes *are* too large for Silver, but it’s all you have for her to wear as hers go through the laundry.
  1440. >The neck of your shirt is so large it practically hangs off of the girl, leaving one shoulder bare.
  1441. >”I should have just worn them,” she murmurs, snuggling up to you. “We could be at school by now.”
  1442. “No, you were right.”
  1443. >”Yeah, but… I can’t believe we didn’t notice.”
  1444. “Yeah.”
  1445. >”Even if no one recognized it as yesterday’s outfit, the melted ice cream... yeah.”
  1446. “Yeah.”
  1447. >You chuckle.
  1448. >”I can’t believe we didn’t notice!”
  1449. “We were… um… a little distracted.”
  1450. >Silver looks askance at you before giggling.
  1451. >”I guess so. At least I know you didn’t spend the entire time looking at my breasts.”
  1452. “How could I? I was mesmerized by your face.”
  1453. >You cringe as soon as the words leave your mouth.
  1454. “Sorry that was –“
  1455. >Silver cuts you off with a kiss.
  1456. >”No, that was good,” she whispers, before kissing you again.
  1457.  
  1458.  
  1459. **** CHAPTER 5 ****
  1460.  
  1461. >You are Soarin and you are coming back from throwing Silver’s clothes in the dryer.
  1462. >Should have done it earlier, but you were *distracted*.
  1463. >Now it’s past noon and Silver Spoon is sprawled out on your bed.
  1464. >She’s not wearing your shirt anymore.
  1465. >”We’re not going to make it to school today, are we?” your girlfriend giggles as you sit down beside her. “I think I’ll need another shower before I get dressed.”
  1466. “No, probably not.”
  1467. >”I –“
  1468. >She jumps as her phone begins to ring. So do you.
  1469. >You assumed it was broken.
  1470. >It might be; the ring tone is higher pitched.
  1471. “Ignore it.”
  1472. >She doesn’t, practically scrabbling out of your bed to get to it.
  1473. “Silver, it’s just –“
  1474. >Your girlfriend looks at the screen and turns white.
  1475. “Silver –“
  1476. >She holds up a hand.
  1477. >The phone rings again.
  1478. >She taps the screen and holds it up to her ear.
  1479. >”Y-yes…?”
  1480. >”Yes. I –“
  1481. >”Yes, but –“
  1482. >”I… I understand.”
  1483. “Silver –“
  1484. >”Yes.”
  1485. >Her hand drops, her head a second later.
  1486. “Silver, what is it?”
  1487. >“I have to go.”
  1488.  
  1489. >You are Silver Spoon and you are walking into school the next day.
  1490. >Early.
  1491. >Alone.
  1492. >With your father watching from his car until you’re inside the door.
  1493. >Three things that haven’t happened since elementary.
  1494. >*Early* elementary.
  1495. >You’re halfway to your first class when a hand grabs your arm.
  1496. >”Hey.“
  1497. “I can’t talk right now, Soarin.”
  1498. >”But you tried to run out of my house wearing sopping wet clothes and –“
  1499. “We *can’t* talk about that now.”
  1500. >The halls are nearly empty, but not empty enough.
  1501. >”But why?”
  1502. “Let go of me. Please. I have to get to class.”
  1503. >”Bell doesn’t ring for another fifteen minutes, at least,” he argues. “Can’t you at least tell me who called you?”
  1504. “N-no.”
  1505. >”You made me drop you off at that shopping center and leave. Least you could do is tell me –“
  1506. “No.”
  1507. >You shake your head, but Soarin keeps pushing.
  1508. >”Was that your father?”
  1509. “W-what…?”
  1510. >”That old guy that picked you up from there? Please tell me that was your father and not some –“
  1511. “Yes.”
  1512. >”Good,” your boyfriend sighs, his shoulders slumping. “I was worried.”
  1513. “He’s right outside.”
  1514. >You don’t know if he is or not. Maybe he drove away, maybe he’s waiting to see if you sneak out.
  1515. >Maybe he’s going to come through those doors any second now to have a talk with the principals.
  1516. >You don’t know.
  1517. “I have to go to class, Soarin.”
  1518. >He – reluctantly – lets go.
  1519. >”Okay, but –“
  1520. >Soarin pauses, looking back at the doors.
  1521. >”- later, okay? We’ll talk later?”
  1522. “Yes, but… I…”
  1523. >You take a few steps, just to distance yourself. Just in case your father sees.
  1524. “… I can’t stay too late. I have to go home after the book club meeting. I…”
  1525. >The door opens and you nearly die.
  1526. >It’s not him, but it’s enough to make you rush off, quickly walking away before anyone else can see you together.
  1527. >You hope Soarin understands.
  1528. >”I’ll see you there!”
  1529. >He understands.
  1530. >You keep walking to your first class.
  1531. >Alone.
  1532. >It feels awkward. You keep half-turning to the girl not beside you, almost telling her how weird this feels.
  1533. >You don't, of course, but *almost*.
  1534. >It's been years, almost a decade since Di wasn't at your side. Your entire life, for all you can remember.
  1535. >You almost tell her that, too, but there's no one beside you.
  1536. >There must be a part of you that wasn't prepared for this; you *knew* she wouldn't be with you this morning.
  1537. >Maybe that part of you thought that Soarin would take her place.
  1538. >Another thing you *know* won't happen, but... despite that, your heart flutters at the thought.
  1539. >When you reach the classroom, you hold the door open for a second, until you realize Di isn't going to walk through before you.
  1540. >You go in, shoulders straight and head held high. Like you own the place.
  1541. >Like she would.
  1542. >You need to... you're on your own now. You need to have confidence in yourself.
  1543. >It's easy to pretend - just ape Di's attitude. Follow her lead like you have for so long. Do what she would do.
  1544. >That's why you walk past her without saying a word.
  1545. >This entire morning you've pretended she wasn't at your side. She wasn't of course, but you still had to pretend.
  1546. >It makes it easy to pretend she isn't here now.
  1547. >"Sil -"
  1548. >You drop your backpack on your desk and turn to the -
  1549. >No.
  1550. >Even if you knew what to say, you don't even know her name.
  1551. >You pull out a book and begin reading.
  1552. >There's a few minutes left until class starts.
  1553. >You could ask what her name is, or just strike up an idle conversation, but you've gone the entire school year without saying two words to the girl that sits to your left.
  1554. >It's not impossible - it's better than talking to Di - but too many new experiences in too short a time leaves you worn thin.
  1555. >You read, and leave your neighbor in peace.
  1556.  
  1557. >Di doesn't try to talk to you again.
  1558. >You're not entirely sure if that's a good thing or not.
  1559.  
  1560. >You are Soarin and you walk in to the library.
  1561. >Now that you think about it, it's kind of obvious. Where else would the book club meet?
  1562. >Almost makes you feel silly about asking for directions, except you're still lost.
  1563. >The place is deserted, except for Miss Cheerilee.
  1564. >"Oh, something you needed?" she asks, setting down the books she had been reshelving.
  1565. "Book club?"
  1566. >"Oh. Huh."
  1567. "What?"
  1568. >"Nothing," she answers innocently, gesturing for you to follow. "Meeting rooms are right down here."
  1569.  
  1570. >Silver smiles as you walk into the small room.
  1571. >"Looks like you finally got another member," the librarian comments, waving to your girlfriend. "Well, have fun!"
  1572. >She pulls the door shut behind her and you awkwardly shuffle over to a chair and flop into it.
  1573. >Your backpack hits the ground with a thud.
  1574. >Silver flinches at the sound.
  1575. "Sorry."
  1576. >"No, I... I get it," she mumbles. "You have every right to be angry."
  1577. "I'm not."
  1578. >Much.
  1579. "Mostly confused. You wouldn't explain *anything* yesterday -"
  1580. >"I'm sorry."
  1581. " - and this morning, you ran off without even saying goodbye. What's going on?"
  1582. >She closes the book she had been reading and shoves it away from her.
  1583. "Silver. Tell me."
  1584. >"I'm grounded," she sighs. "I can't go out with you - not, I mean, that I'm not your girlfriend or anything! Just that I can't go out at all this weekend.
  1585. >"No, not because of us," she's quick to add. "He doesn't know."
  1586. "He doesn't know you spent the night at my place?"
  1587. >"He... he thinks I was at Di's."
  1588. >You can literally feel the weight of that lift from your shoulders.
  1589. >"And... it *might* be longer..."
  1590. "Might?"
  1591. >"Probably," Silver reluctantly admits. "I... um... I've been skipping a lot of classes with... um... Di... and..."
  1592. "Oh."
  1593. >You have been, as well. Shit.
  1594. >"But hopefully not! With any luck, we can go out Monday night! I know that means going all weekend without... um..."
  1595. >Silver looks at the clock mounted on the wall and grins.
  1596. "It's only a few days, Silver. I think we can last that long."
  1597. >"Yeah," she sighs. "Only two days. Last time was longer."
  1598. "Yeah."
  1599. >You let out a relieved sigh.
  1600. "I thought something more serious was going on. If I was any older you might have given me a heart attack."
  1601. >"Oh. I know I... um... kinda ran out in the middle of things yesterday. Sorry."
  1602. "Don't be."
  1603. >You chuckle and lean back in your chair.
  1604. "You can make it up to me Monday."
  1605. >"Actually, we have about an hour until I have to go home..."
  1606.  
  1607. >You are Silver Spoon and you know you shouldn't be suggesting this.
  1608. "After the book club meeting, I have to go straight home, but until then..."
  1609. >You give him a meaningful smile.
  1610. "No one will interrupt us here."
  1611. >"That's..."
  1612. >Soarin looks at the door.
  1613. >"... if you're hinting at what I think you're hinting at, that's probably a bad idea. You *do* mean what I think you mean, right?"
  1614. >You lean forward, resting your elbows on the table and cupping your face in your hands.
  1615. "What do you think?"
  1616. >Soarin glances at the door again before answering slowly, "I think I'm going to the special hell."
  1617. "Really now."
  1618. >"Maybe."
  1619. >That's good enough for you.
  1620. >Your boyfriend looks up as you push back your chair. He shrugs and lets out a sigh
  1621. >"This is a bad idea, Silver. There's no lock on the door."
  1622. "So? You're the first person to come in here in months."
  1623. >"Yeah, but what if someone does?" he protests, but still takes your hand as you straddle his lap.
  1624. "It won't happen."
  1625. >"But -"
  1626. >You silence him with a kiss.
  1627. "We've been worried about getting caught this whole time, and all that's happened is I've been grounded for skipping school.
  1628. "Nothing bad will happen."
  1629. >”You’re tempting fate,” Soarin chuckles, but he puts his hands on your hips. “Shouldn’t say things like that. Someone’s going to come walking through that door right about…”
  1630. >He turns his head, meaningfully staring at the door.
  1631. >”… right about…”
  1632. “Never, Soarin.”
  1633. >You start unbuttoning your blouse.
  1634. “We can do whatever we want and no one will ever know.”
  1635. >”Well… not *whatever*.”
  1636. >His hands slide down your hips, along your legs, until they reach bare skin.
  1637. >”You got a little loud when -”
  1638. “I’ll be quiet.”
  1639. >He smiles.
  1640. >His hands travel back up your legs – under your skirt this time.
  1641. >Fingers hook around your panties.
  1642. >”Stand up.”
  1643. >You do, his fingers holding your undergarment in place as you raise yourself out of his lap, dragging them down to mid-thigh.
  1644. >With your legs spread apart to straddle his, the elastic bands dig into your flesh. It’s almost painful, or would be, if it wasn’t so exciting.
  1645. >”Turn around.”
  1646. >You take a step back, and spin with a twirl that makes your short skirt spin.
  1647. >The sound of a zipper follows, then a rustling.
  1648. >”Just… one…”
  1649. >You know what he’s doing. Being safe.
  1650. >Good.
  1651. >You bend over for him, bracing yourself against the table. Giving him a view. Something you would never do for anyone else, intentionally or otherwise. Not with a skirt this short, even if your panties hadn’t slipped down to your knees.
  1652. >You wait for him, excitedly biting your lower lip.
  1653. >”Sit.”
  1654. “Huh?”
  1655. >”Sit,” Soarin repeats. “Slowly.”
  1656. “Oh!”
  1657. >You back up and he grabs your hands, supporting you as you lower yourself on to him.
  1658. >Your legs burn with the awkward strain as you Soarin slowly slips inside of you.
  1659. >Too many evenings in the library; maybe you should take up soccer.
  1660. >The thought would make you laugh, if you weren’t already moaning softly.
  1661. >Very softly.
  1662. >So quiet, you almost suspect it’s only in your head.
  1663. >The first inch is easy.
  1664. >The next…
  1665. >You stand slowly, teasingly, before lowering yourself again. A little further this time.
  1666. >Again and again, taking more and more of him in you each repetition.
  1667. >The muscles in your legs ache, your thighs haven’t done this much work in… ever…
  1668. >That *might* be the reason you can no longer pretend your moans are imaginary. Or maybe you’re just enjoying yourself.
  1669. >You nearly fall as Soarin lets go with one hand, but he pulls you back against him.
  1670. >”Here,” he grunts. “This’ll be easier.”
  1671. >He must have noticed your legs trembling.
  1672. >You rest against him as he blindly unbuttons your shirt the rest of the way, letting it hang open.
  1673. >His hand ranges up your body, exploring, touching, feeling -
  1674. >”No bra?”
  1675. “Not… today…”
  1676. >Leaning against Soarin like this takes the strain off of your legs.
  1677. >More importantly…
  1678. >”Quiet,” he whispers teasingly into your ear as he gently fondles your exposed breasts.
  1679. >You bite your lip in a futile effort to keep the sounds from escaping your mouth as you lower yourself again, driving him further inside of you.
  1680. >Slow. Gentle.
  1681. >No pain, only pleasure.
  1682. >Not even when he suddenly pinches you.
  1683. >There’s no shriek or pained grunt from you, just a surprised gasp.
  1684. >It should hurt, you dimly recognize, but it doesn’t.
  1685. >”You like that?”
  1686. “Mhm.”
  1687. >He pinches your nipple again, twisting it slightly.
  1688. >It… feels good.
  1689. >It shouldn’t.
  1690. >It hasn’t when Di –
  1691. >She was trying to hurt you. Punish you.
  1692. >Not like Soarin is now.
  1693. >Maybe that makes all the difference in –
  1694. >”Quiet, Silver,” Soarin repeats, more forcefully this time.
  1695. >You hadn’t even noticed.
  1696. “Sor – sorr – ooooooo…”
  1697. >”This… was a bad idea,” your boyfriend grunts, though he says it while running his hand through the light fuzz on your mound.
  1698. “W-why?”
  1699. >”You aren’t… even halfway –“
  1700. “G-good.”
  1701. >You push yourself further, trying to –
  1702. >The door swings open.
  1703. >You get a clear look at the shocked faces of the people on the other side.
  1704. >It must mirror you own.
  1705. “I – I can expl-!”
  1706. >Your legs buckle.
  1707. >It isn’t possible, but your eyes widen even further as Soarin is suddenly inside of you all at once.
  1708. >Di stands frozen in the doorway, her arm still extended.
  1709. >"He’s not supposed to be here," you hear her whisper, the first sound that breaks the stunned silence.
  1710. >The expression on her face is one you've only seen once before and never again. She's never let you - or anyone else.
  1711. "I – I –"
  1712. >You have to explain. She'll understand if you explain.
  1713. "Di - I - he -"
  1714. >Your stuttering returns the still figures behind Di to life.
  1715. >Lily dashes off, the book she was holding clutched tightly to her chest.
  1716. "Wait! I -"
  1717. >You try to jump up, chase after her.
  1718. >She's going to tell someone and you can't let her.
  1719. >You can't let her take Soarin away from you, but his arms tighten around your waist, holding you down.
  1720. >"Don't move," he hisses into your ear.
  1721. "But -!"
  1722. >"Stay still and your skirt will keep us covered."
  1723. "But..."
  1724. >You try not to fidget - he's still deep inside of you - and he's right.
  1725. >If it was just Di... then... that wouldn't be so bad. It doesn’t matter if she sees anything. But...
  1726. >The *other* girl - Little Red - she has her phone out.
  1727. >She's recording this.
  1728. >You pull your shirt closed and try to stay as still as possible.
  1729. >"Oh, man," the chubby little bitch chuckles, "wait until everyone sees this!"
  1730. "No...!"
  1731. >"Oh, wow, you're totally going to get expell - HEY!"
  1732. >In one swift move, Di rounds on the other girl, yanks the phone from her hand and smashes it against the far wall.
  1733. >"WHAT THE FUCK, DIAMOND?"
  1734. >"Shut up," Di barks. "I'll buy you a new one."
  1735. >"SERIOUSLY, WHAT THE -"
  1736. >"Girls," an older voice intrudes.
  1737. >"Shit," Soarin sighs as the girls’ attention wavers from you for a second. "I knew this was a bad idea."
  1738. "I'm sorry, I'm -"
  1739. >"It's not your fault," he sighs, squeezing you tightly. "I should have said no."
  1740. "N-no..."
  1741. >"Now, Lily," you can hear Miss Cheerilee saying sternly from just out of sight, "is this what you brought me here for? Are these two -"
  1742. >Please, you beg silently, please just yell at the girls and go away.
  1743. >" - no? Then what?"
  1744. >Di steps over to block the door and shakes her head.
  1745. >"It's nothing," your friend hisses. "You can go away now."
  1746. >"I just saw you break Little Red's phone, Diamond. It's not - wait - Lily? What!?"
  1747. >The woman steps into the doorway, pushing Di back without ever touching her.
  1748. >She gasps in surprise, taking it all in.
  1749. >"Silver Spoon!"
  1750. >If only you had kept silent.
  1751. >If only you hadn’t tried to explain.
  1752. >Maybe Lily -
  1753. >"What are you two doing!?" Miss Cheerilee demands.
  1754. >You can only imagine what you look like to her. Shirt unbuttoned, Soarin’s arms around you, your face flushed, panties down around your knees.
  1755. >She knows what you were doing; there’s no way she can’t.
  1756. "I – we –"
  1757. >Miss Cheerilee pulls Diamond Tiara back and slams the door shut.
  1758. >"Make yourself decent this very moment!"
  1759. >The next few seconds are a mad scrabble – pulling yourself off Soarin’s lap, nearly falling as you try to tug your panties back into place.
  1760. >"I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry -"
  1761. >It takes you a second to realize you're the one talking.
  1762. "I'm sorry, Soarin, I’m sorry! She’s going to tell everyone! I’m sorry! I’ll never see you again! Please, Soarin, you have to forgive me! I’m sorry!"
  1763. >You frantically button your shirt, though you have to wonder why you’re even bothering.
  1764. >Things can’t get any worse.
  1765. "This is all my fault! My parents are going to send me to Crystal Prep and I'll never see you again! And... you..."
  1766. >Your chest aches at the thought of what is going to happen to him.
  1767. "... you're..."
  1768. >His arms encircle you, pulling you close.
  1769. >"It's not your fault," he whispers before kissing your forehead. "I should have known better."
  1770. "But you're going to -"
  1771. >Soarin puts a finger to your lips.
  1772. >"Hush. What's done is done and there's no point worrying about what's coming. I can't blame you for it.
  1773. >"I love you, Silver."
  1774. >Your heart skips a beat.
  1775. "Y-you haven't..."
  1776. >Has he?
  1777. >No.
  1778. "You haven't told me that before."
  1779. >There's no way you could have forgotten if he had.
  1780. >"I'm sorry, I should have. I love you."
  1781. "I - I love you, too."
  1782. >You wait silently, holding each other for the last time in your lives, waiting for a knock that never comes.
  1783. >The moment stretches on forever, neither one of you willing to break the silence lest it be the last thing you ever say to the other.
  1784. >Nothing can top what he just said to you, or you to him.
  1785. >You cry into his shirt, ignoring the sounds from outside.
  1786. >None of that matters, not the yelling or the screams, the angry shouts or shuffled steps.
  1787. >Whatever is happening, it isn't your problem. Things can't get any worse and you just want to spend your last moments with Soarin in peace.
  1788. >You cling to him tightly when the door swings open, as if you can somehow stop this from tearing you apart.
  1789. >You block out the angry voice that barks at you or Soarin's reply, just happy to feel the deep vibration of his chest as he speaks.
  1790. >" - Silver -"
  1791. >He says your name such warmth, it makes you want to melt.
  1792. >"Silver."
  1793. >He's talking to you.
  1794. >"Let's go."
  1795. "I don't want to."
  1796. >”We have to,” Soarin whispers, letting his arms fall from you. “Before…”
  1797. “Before what?”
  1798. >You squeeze him tighter, trying to hold him in place.
  1799. “Things can’t get any worse, Soarin. Just let me be with you.”
  1800. >”They will if you’re late getting home,” he chuckles, “You might not be able to go out on Monday.”
  1801. “I won’t anyway. Miss Cheerilee –“
  1802. >”Ugh,” a voice grunts from behind you. “Weren’t you listening to me?”
  1803. “W-what…?”
  1804. >You look back, over your shoulder.
  1805. >”She’s going to keep her mouth shut,” Di snarls, rolling her eyes at you. “*IF* she knows what’s good for her.”
  1806. “How…?“
  1807. >Di stares at you for a minute before adjusting her gaze to glare at your boyfriend.
  1808. >”Soarin. Leave. I need to have a moment alone with Silver.”
  1809. >”No,” he snaps back. “Thanks for what you did, but –“
  1810. >”Do it or I’ll bring her back.”
  1811. “Bring who…?”
  1812. >Soarin lets out a sigh and strokes a hand across your cheek.
  1813. >”I guess I’ll see you Monday.”
  1814. “What? No! Don’t –“
  1815. >”This is for the best, Silver,” he whispers, bending down to kiss your forehead. “I love you.”
  1816. >And the he pulls himself free of your hands.
  1817. “Wait, no! Soarin, don’t go!”
  1818. >You’re never going to see him again. Once he walks through that door –
  1819. >”I love you, Silver. Remember that.”
  1820. “I – I love you too!”
  1821. >Why is he walking through the door?
  1822. >You told him you love him!
  1823. >Why is he *leaving*?
  1824. >You’re rooted in place, too stunned to follow your boyfriend.
  1825. >By the time your body thinks to chase after him, Di is blocking the doorway.
  1826. >You mange one step. That’s all.
  1827. “Di… stop him. Please… at least let me say goodbye.”
  1828. >She sighs and walks towards you.
  1829. >“You’ll see him Monday.”
  1830. “How can you know that?”
  1831. >”Because you want to and I can’t stop you.”
  1832. >She puts her arms around you just as your legs give out.
  1833. >Your whole body is trembling.
  1834. >”But you still need me,” Di whispers. “You *need* me. If I wasn’t here, your parents would have found out everything.”
  1835. “If…”
  1836. >”You’re lucky I have dirt on all of them. They’ll keep their mouths shut, unless they want something bad to happen to them too.”
  1837. >She runs a hand along your back.
  1838. >”Everything is going to be okay, Silver. I fixed everything for you.”
  1839. “What?”
  1840. >Your mind reels with the revelation.
  1841. >Everything… is going to be… okay?
  1842. >Because of Di?
  1843. >She saved you?
  1844. >No, she was with them.
  1845. ”Di… you *brought* them here…”
  1846. >You try to push her away, but your shaking limbs can’t find the strength.
  1847. “… this is only happened because of *you*.”
  1848. >”But… no!” she protests. “Someone would have found out eventually, and then -”
  1849. "I... I could have handled it on my own!"
  1850. >You don’t know how – you can’t even stand – but you would have found a way.
  1851. >Somehow.
  1852. “And, besides! Nothing bad would have happened if you hadn’t brought *them* here!”
  1853. >”Silver!”
  1854. "You brought them here to humiliate me!"
  1855. >"It... wasn't supposed to turn out like that."
  1856. “What did you think would happen!?”
  1857. >You try to push her away again, with just as little success.
  1858. >”I thought you needed, well, more friends,” Di… sobs? She’s crying and you don’t know why. You should – you know her well enough – but anger clouds your mind. Not enough that you don’t realize the effect it’s having on you, but enough that you just don’t care.
  1859. >You lever your arm between her body and yours and push with all your strength.
  1860. “Leave me alone, Di! I! Don’t! Need! You!”
  1861. >”You do!” Di yells back as you shove her away. “If my mom hadn’t told your parents you were with me, they would have found out you spent the night with Soarin!”
  1862. >She stumbles back a few steps; without her support, you fall to your knees.
  1863. >That’s okay.
  1864. >You don’t *need* her support. You can stand if you want to – on your own two legs.
  1865. “I – I didn’t, Di! I don’t need you to lie for me, because I’ve spent every night at home!”
  1866. >”Whose home?” Di sneers, rolling her eyes. “Because your hair smells different.”
  1867. “I… um…”
  1868. >”You used a different shampoo.”
  1869. “Well…”
  1870. >”It doesn’t smell like you at all.”
  1871. >With fumbling hands, you reach for the table’s edge.
  1872. “I.”
  1873. >You get a grip and try to pull yourself up.
  1874. “Don’t.”
  1875. >Your legs threaten to buckle. You force them to behave.
  1876. “Need.”
  1877. >Standing is impossible. Your body is too stressed, too worn out, too frail.
  1878. “You.”
  1879. >You do it anyway, forcing your body to respond through sheer anger and will power.
  1880. “Di… you’re my friend and you always will be, but I don’t need you. Not like this.”
  1881. >She glares at you, but you suspect the rage is only a mask for her fear.
  1882. >You’ve put her through this before, but this time… this time you *mean* it.
  1883. “Di –“
  1884. >”Fine.”
  1885. >She spins around, turning her back to you.
  1886. >”I don’t need you either. Remember *that.*”
  1887.  
  1888. >You are Soarin and you regret your life choices.
  1889. >Not all of them, not *Silver*, just most.
  1890. >The ones that led you to where you are right now.
  1891. >Rethinking how much you hate Diamond Tiara.
  1892. >You shuffle out of the building with a sigh, noting the idling black sedan in front of the school.
  1893. >The windows are tinted so you can’t see who’s inside, not that you would know them anyway, but you have a suspicion that Silver’s time is up.
  1894. >You walk pasted it was quickly as you can without breaking into a run.
  1895. >No reason to tempt fate even more today.
  1896. >Diamond isn’t around to save your ass this time.
  1897. >She’s still a cunt, though.
  1898. >Nothing she does is going to change that.
  1899. >Making you leave Silver when your girlfriend clearly didn’t understand what was happening… that was a dick move.
  1900. >But… because of her…
  1901. >Monday. You’ll be able to see Silver on Monday.
  1902. >You’ll be able to hold her again.
  1903. >You *won’t* be going to jail.
  1904. >Not yet, anyway.
  1905. >Blackmailing one of the staff… you don’t know what Diamond has on Miss Cheerilee, but the librarian couldn’t even look at you as you walked out.
  1906. >Your mind wanders as you walk out towards the student parking lot, playing over everything that happened.
  1907. >If you had only told Silver no…
  1908. >If those other girls hadn’t been with Diamond…
  1909. >If –
  1910. >You blank out the thoughts as you pass by the practice field.
  1911. >Spitfire is right; those kinds of things don’t help anyone.
  1912. >There’s only one thing to think about, and that’s the future.
  1913. >Mostly that you still have one.
  1914. >You’ll need to be more careful.
  1915. >You’ll have to learn to tell her no.
  1916. >”Soarin! Hey, Soarin!” a voice calls out to you, followed by rapid footsteps chasing after you.
  1917. “Hey, Blossom.”
  1918. >”Hey,” she repeats with a smile as you walk back towards her. “Look, I… um… I wanted to ask you a favor.”
  1919. >Her smile is hollow; you’ve gotten too used to seeing that expression these days. Or maybe just too good at seeing what it really is.
  1920. “What’s wrong?”
  1921. >”Nothing, just…” she sighs as her teammates yell for her to come back. “HOLD ON! I’LL BE RIGHT THERE!”
  1922. >A chorus of groans responds, but they stop their hollering.
  1923. “Something’s wrong.”
  1924. >”No… just… I was hoping…”
  1925. “I’m not going on a date with you, Blossom. I just… I just don’t think that’s appropriate right now.”
  1926. >”Not what I was going to ask for,” she snaps back, one eyebrow raised. “At all.”
  1927. >That almost sounds insulting. Might be, if you weren’t emotionally exhausted.
  1928. “Then what?”
  1929. >”Could you… do you think you could stay at my place tonight? My parents are going to be out of town again and… I’m…”
  1930. >She trembles slightly, no doubt remembering things she would rather forget.
  1931. “I…”
  1932. >You need to say no. She can call the police or her other friends if necessary. You need to focus on your own problems.
  1933. >”I’m scared, Soarin.”
  1934.  
  1935. >You are Silver Spoon and you hesitate.
  1936. >”Get in the car, Silver.”
  1937. >It’s not too late. You could catch up to Soarin if you ran.
  1938. >Your father clears his throat with a loud harrumph.
  1939. “Sorry.”
  1940. >You drop your backpack on the floorboards and slide into the passenger seat.
  1941. >Thanks to Di, you can see Soarin on Monday.
  1942. >”So, how was school?”
  1943. “Fine.”
  1944. >”You actually went to all of your classes today?”
  1945. “Yes.”
  1946. >”Good, because if I find out you didn’t –“
  1947. “I did.”
  1948. >You aren’t trying to be short with him, just your mind is already so far away. Three days away, looking forward to Monday.
  1949. >The weekend will pass by in a blur for you, just time to pass until you can be with him again.
  1950. >You wonder if it will be the same for him, or if he’ll go out. Maybe go to a party.
  1951. >Maybe…
  1952. >You look out the window as the car starts to move, watching the school pass by. Hoping for one last glimpse of Soarin.
  1953. >Just something to tide you over until Monday.
  1954. >There! He’s by the practice field.
  1955. >He’s talking to…
  1956. >Oh.
  1957. >He’s talking to *her*.
  1958. >The girl from the last party.
  1959. >The girl he didn’t do anything with.
  1960. >You watch as he slowly nods his head.
  1961. >You watch as she reluctantly hugs him.
  1962. >It’s… platonic. Soarin has female friends.
  1963. >He won't do anything with her. It's only two days. You'll see him on Monday and everything will be fine and he'll still be yours.
  1964. >One close call won't change that. Just because you made a stupid decision and everyone nearly came crashing down… that won’t change anything.
  1965. >He said he loves you.
  1966. >He said he loves you when he thought he'd never see you again.
  1967. >He doesn't love you.
  1968. >He was just being nice.
  1969. >But you love him.
  1970. >You meant it. You love him.
  1971. >He's going to do something with her.
  1972. >Because... he can’t with you.
  1973. >And Soarin is a jock. He sleeps around.
  1974. >Di was right.
  1975. >It's what jocks do.
  1976. >You love him.
  1977. >You can't let him.
  1978. >She was right.
  1979. >You still need her.
  1980. >It’s okay if it’s her.
  1981.  
  1982. >You are Diamond Tiara and you hate everyone.
  1983. >Everyone.
  1984. >Including yourself.
  1985. >Including Silver.
  1986. >She doesn’t need you.
  1987. >Cheerilee frowns at you, but scurries away when you glare her direction.
  1988. >You hate her too.
  1989. >So weak.
  1990. >She caved without even trying to fight back.
  1991. >You hate Cheerilee for it, for the same reason you hate yourself.
  1992. >For just… walking away. Giving up.
  1993. >Letting *her* win.
  1994. >She needs you.
  1995. >Almost as much as you need her.
  1996. >That’s why you’re immediately reaching for your phone when it buzzes, in the hopes that it’s her.
  1997. >It is.
  1998. >It’s everything you hoped for.
  1999. >The text is only four words long, but it’s everything you wished.
  2000. >”I need a favor.”
  2001.  
  2002.  
  2003. **** CHAPTER 6 ****
  2004.  
  2005. >You are Diamond Tiara and you can't believe what you're hearing.
  2006. "No!?"
  2007. >"No," Soarin repeats firmly. "I don't know what you're up to, but I don't give a shit. Fuck off."
  2008. >He steps around you, but you follow, blocking him from getting into his car with your body.
  2009. >"Move."
  2010. "No way. You *owe* me."
  2011. >Soarin hesitates and for a second you think you have him.
  2012. >"Not enough to hurt Silver," he answers after moment, shaking his head. "Get out of my way."
  2013. "Silver's the one that -"
  2014. >"Move."
  2015. "Listen, you dumbass! Silver -"
  2016.  
  2017. >You are Soarin and you move her.
  2018. >Just grab her by the shoulders and twist.
  2019. >Her feet shuffle awkwardly just trying to stay upright and you forcibly set her aside.
  2020. >"Hey! You can't treat me like that!"
  2021. "I can when you're trying to come between me and her. Thanks for your help in the library, but I'm not going to let you ruin things."
  2022.  
  2023. >You are Silver Spoon and you hope things are going well.
  2024. >There's no way for you to know; your father took your phone away for the weekend.
  2025. >Since you're grounded, he said you didn't need it.
  2026.  
  2027. >You are Diamond Tiara and you feel a mixture of guilt and relief as Soarin drives away.
  2028. >After a few minutes, you can almost convince yourself this was for the best.
  2029. >It's not something you *wanted* to do, but you tried.
  2030. >Maybe Silver will break up with him.
  2031. >Yeah, you can *almost* convince yourself this was the best possible outcome.
  2032. >The problem with that is convincing yourself that there could have been *any* outcome that didn't leave you full of regret.
  2033. "Well, I tried."
  2034. >No one responds; no one is around to hear.
  2035. >You still felt the need to say it.
  2036. "I tried."
  2037. >You shrug to yourself and begin shuffling down the street.
  2038.  
  2039. >You are Soarin and you are furious.
  2040. >In truth, you'd still been reluctant to go to Blossom's. You were going to do it - you told her you would - but that doesn't mean you were feeling enthusiastic.
  2041. >But when Diamond showed up at your place and asked you to -
  2042. >Shit.
  2043. >You register the stop sign too late, already halfway through the intersection before you realize it was there.
  2044. >Whatever. There's no one else around, so it's not like you're hurting anyone.
  2045. >You blow through the intersection without slowing. Same with the next stop sign.
  2046. >If it's not hurting anyone, you're not doing anything wrong.
  2047. >That's the pleasant little lie you tell yourself.
  2048. >By the time you reach Blossom's house, you believe it.
  2049. >Your car roars into the empty driveway, slamming to a halt just shy of the garage door.
  2050. >The stop is so sudden, you're glad you didn't bother to wear your seatbelt. That would have hurt and you don't need any more shit today.
  2051. >In your anger, you're already out of the car and walking up to the patio before you realize it - your mind still focused on other things.
  2052. >Blossom meets you at the door, frowning.
  2053. "Were you waiting for me?"
  2054. >"No," Blossom answers, shaking her head. "Heard you pull up."
  2055. >She steps back, opening the door fully so you can enter.
  2056. >"You don't always drive like that, do you?"
  2057. "Only when I'm fucking pissed."
  2058. >"You shouldn't," Blossom says quietly, following behind you.
  2059. "It's no big deal. Not like I hit anyone or anything."
  2060. >"One of these days, you're going to hurt someone."
  2061. "I doubt that."
  2062. >"Y-yeah. Okay. Look, you didn't have to come if that's what you're so angry about."
  2063. "It's not. Besides, I said I'd do this."
  2064. >"You can go," Blossom says quietly. "I'll be fine."
  2065. "No, I -"
  2066. >You turned as you spoke - and the way she's looking at you brings you to a full stop.
  2067. "Sorry."
  2068. >"Really," she mutters, her eyes trembling fearfully. "I'll be fine. You can go."
  2069. "I'm not angry at you, and if you don't mind I'd rather not go home. For all I know, *she* might be waiting for me."
  2070. >You sigh and lock your hands together behind your head.
  2071. >Nervous habit.
  2072. >Makes you look tough, but non-threatening, Spitfire said.
  2073. "I didn't mean to scare you."
  2074. >"Well, you did," Blossom huffs, pushing past you and stalking into her living room. "It's not like I had anything planned, anyway. I just didn't want to be alone."
  2075. >Then again, Spitfire finds a lot of stuff non-threatening. Once called someone out for coming at her with a knife that she thought was too small.
  2076. "I'll stay...
  2077. >Force your company on her?
  2078. >Not one of your best ideas.
  2079. "... at least until one of your other friends can get here."
  2080. >Someone that won't fuck everything up like you are.
  2081. >Blossom snorts and throws herself into a nearby overstuffed chair.
  2082. >"Yeah, like I can trust any of them."
  2083. >She wraps herself in tan blanket she'd left draped over the chair's arm.
  2084. >"Don't know if you noticed, but a few of those girls *were* my friends."
  2085. >Blossom pulls the blanket tighter around herself.
  2086. >"*Are,*" she softly corrects herself, still fumbling with the blanket.
  2087. "I'm sure you have others you could call."
  2088. >"Yeah, but that would lead to awkward questions and... look, I don't want to make a big deal out of it, okay? I can't talk to any of them about what happened; that's why I asked you.
  2089. >"If you're not going to go, just... I don't know... sit anywhere. We'll watch some stupid movies or something."
  2090. >The girl is cocooned up in her seat, her eyes peering at you from just above her blanket.
  2091. >They're still trembling, nervously tracking your every move. She's still scared of you, defeating the whole point of you being here.
  2092. "I should go..."
  2093. >You turn to leave.
  2094. >"At least wait until you calm down a bit. Driving like that isn't safe."
  2095. >Blossomforth tugs down her blanket, just enough for you to see her shy smile.
  2096. >She's still afraid, but she's more afraid of being alone.
  2097. "Okay, I'll stay for now."
  2098. >You're spending the night here and you both know it.
  2099. >There's another overstuffed chair - you claim it as your own, leaving a matching sofa as a buffer between you and her.
  2100. >Just to give her some space. Not because sofas are made for cuddling or anything.
  2101. "We're just going to watch movies?"
  2102. >"Mhm. Until we fall asleep or you decide to leave."
  2103. "Sounds good then, I guess."
  2104. >You sigh and settle back, sinking into the soft padding of the chair.
  2105. "I could use some distraction, too."
  2106. >"Because of... *her*?"
  2107. "Who? Oh."
  2108. >You grimace.
  2109. "Yeah."
  2110. >"Spitfire?" Blossom asks cautiously.
  2111. "What? No. If I'm pissed at her, I can just slug her. It's that fucking bitch Diamond Tiara. She -!"
  2112. >You spoke too quickly, too fast. Your brain doesn't catch up with what your mouth is saying until her name has already left your lips.
  2113. "Shit."
  2114. >"Diamond Tiara...?"
  2115. "Yeah."
  2116. >No point denying it now.
  2117. >"What did she do?"
  2118. "She..."
  2119. >You hesitate.
  2120. >"I've never seen you like that before," Blossom murmurs. "Was she trying to bully you or something? I thought she mostly left upperclassmen alone."
  2121. >You can't help but chuckle.
  2122. >Leave upperclassmen alone?
  2123. >She bullies the fucking adults.
  2124. "Yeah, you could say that."
  2125. >You turn your attention to the TV, ready to forget everything about today.
  2126. >Everything.
  2127. "So, what are we going to watch?"
  2128. >There's moment of silence. Four, five seconds at the most, but it feels like longer.
  2129. "Blossom? Did you -"
  2130. >"You can talk about it, if you want," she interrupts, cutting you off by the simple fact you have to stop talking to even hear her hushed whisper. She retreats into her blanket when you turn you eyes on her, but doesn't change her mind.
  2131. >"I mean... I... I know I can't talk to anyone else about what happened to me, and if it's the same for you... not that I know what happened or what she's doing to you... but...
  2132. >"It's the least I could do," she continues. "If you're going to be here for me, I can at least be here for you."
  2133. "It's not like that."
  2134. >"Then why are you so angry?"
  2135. "Because that bitch demanded I take her out on a date."
  2136. >Blossom lets out a little groan and burrows back under her blanket.
  2137. >"Sorry," she murmurs, the word further muffled by the thick blanket. "I shouldn't have asked you for help."
  2138. "Why not?"
  2139. >You punctuate the question with a wild wave of your hand.
  2140. >"Well, she's jealous, isn't she?"
  2141. "Fuck if I know. Or care."
  2142. >Blossom raises an eyebrow. With half her face hidden, it's hard to read her expression, but it's not just curiosity or confusion.
  2143. "What?"
  2144. >You get the distinct impression she's frowning behind that blanket.
  2145. >"That's a horrible thing to say," Blossom answers after a moment.
  2146. "Maybe, but it's the truth. It's not like she gives a fuck about how anyone else feels."
  2147. >Blossom shifts, uncomfortably fidgeting in her chair.
  2148. "What? You just said she was a bully, so it's not like it's a secret she's a bitch."
  2149. >"Yeah, but isn't she your girlfriend?"
  2150. >What.
  2151. >Your mouth hangs open, surprise robbing you of the ability to speak. Or yell or shout or throw a cushion.
  2152. >"I know you have a girlfriend," Blossomforth rushes to explain, shrugging under her blanket. "It's kind of obvious."
  2153. "But why would you think it's her!?"
  2154. >"Rumors. Not about her or anything, but... you must have had a reason to quit the soccer team."
  2155. "That doesn't mean it's that little bitch!"
  2156. >"No," Blossom concedes, looking away. "But... being scared all the time..."
  2157. >She giggles nervously.
  2158. >"Maybe I'm just imagining things. I haven't been getting much sleep."
  2159. "Probably."
  2160. >"But I've seen you with them. Her and Silver Spoon. And I know you have a girlfriend. You've basically said as much, and... I know it's not Silver."
  2161. "W-what?"
  2162. >"You're a good guy, Soarin," Blossom follows, letting out a little giggle. "You wouldn't date someone that young."
  2163. "She's... um... Diamond isn't even a year older than her."
  2164. >"Yeah, but..."
  2165. >She sighs.
  2166. >"... maybe I'm imagining everything. Like I said, I haven't been getting much sleep."
  2167. >Blossom's head bobs in the direction of the TV.
  2168. >"I've been staying up every night, just watching stuff until I can't keep my eyes open. I don't think I've actually slept in my bed in..."
  2169. >Another shrug.
  2170. >"I don't know how long it's been."
  2171. >Another sigh - or is it a stifled yawn?
  2172. >"So, yeah, don't pay any attention to me. I'm probably wrong."
  2173. >She doesn't quite sound like she believes it, just that she's willing to move on.
  2174. >Her eyes dart your way as Blossom tries to judge your mood, flickering away immediately when she notices you watching.
  2175. >"I shouldn't have said anything. Let's just -"
  2176. "You're not entirely wrong."
  2177. >"- let's just watch something."
  2178. "You're not wrong, Blossom. But I'm not dating her."
  2179. >A pale arm slips free from the blanket, reaching for the remote.
  2180. >"It's okay, you don't have to talk about it. I shouldn't have brought it up."
  2181. "She's..."
  2182. >Blossom hesitates, her finger over the power button, waiting for you to continue.
  2183. "... she's blackmailing me."
  2184. >She remains silent for an eternity, her arm still extended.
  2185. >Eventually, her head droops.
  2186. >"Yeah, I figured it was something like that."
  2187. "You aren't going to ask what she's blackmailing me with?"
  2188. >"No," Blossom sighs. "I shouldn't have even brought it up in the first place. I mean, you're doing me a favor. I shouldn't pry. Besides... if it's blackmail..."
  2189. >She giggles - a short, harsh burst - and picks up the remote.
  2190. >"... telling me would kind of defeat the whole purpose, wouldn't it?"
  2191. >Blossom twists her head to look at you out of the corner of her eye.
  2192. >"I mean, you *can* if you want to. Sometimes it's better just come out and own up to things -"
  2193. >She breaks off in another burst of dark giggling.
  2194. >"I know. Don't say anything. I'm just repeating back what the police told me, but since I'm not coming forward..."
  2195. "You aren't going to insist?"
  2196. >"Like I said, I shouldn't have even said anything in the first place."
  2197. >She sighs and curls up tighter under her blanket.
  2198. >"Besides, it's not like it's any different from you and Spitfire, right?"
  2199. "Huh?"
  2200. >"She makes you take her places. Buy her things. That's it, right?
  2201. >"Pretty much what you did with Spitfire."
  2202. "I wasn't dating Spitfire. I don't know why people think that!"
  2203. >"And you're not dating Diamond either," Blossom murmurs. "I get it, Soarin. You're a nice guy and you let girls take advantage of you."
  2204. >You raise an eyebrow.
  2205. >"Yes, I know," the girl giggles, more honestly this time, "thank you. But sooner or later, you're going to have to learn to say no."
  2206. >If only you knew how to, without breaking Silver's heart.
  2207. >A half-hearted grunt is all you can manage, but it's enough for Blossomforth.
  2208. >She nods - and you think she understands. You have a suspicion the chaos in her head mirrors your own.
  2209. >"Anyway," she mumbles, "thanks."
  2210. >The hand holding the remote emerges from under the blanket.
  2211. >"What do you want to watch?"
  2212. "Whatever you feel like."
  2213. >"Soarin..."
  2214. >She glares at you in mock anger.
  2215. "I'm not being a pushover; it just doesn't matter. To you either, I'm guessing."
  2216. >"Yeah. Pretty much."
  2217. >The selects the first movie that looks remotely amusing, and autoplay calls the shots from there. The TV goes from one bad movie to the next without pause.
  2218. >Really. Without pause.
  2219. >Even when Blossom get up to use the restroom and you reach for the remote, she waves you off.
  2220. >"I don't think I'll really miss anything," she jokes as she walks out of the room.
  2221. >You're not so sure - this one *does* have that kung-fu guy, whatever his name is, with another B horror movie star.
  2222. >You should know their names, but you can't even remember the name of the movie, and the title flashed up not more than three minutes ago.
  2223. >She's right, though, and you tell her to let it keep running when you step out of the room to order pizza on your phone. You would have just driven there, but she asked you to stay.
  2224. >You'll practice saying no tomorrow.
  2225. >Blossom shakes her head when you flop back into the chair.
  2226. >"Didn't miss anything good," she laughs. "This isn't even worth making fun of."
  2227. "Want to skip to the next one?"
  2228. >"No, this is exactly what I need."
  2229. >You nod and lean back in your seat.
  2230. >This is exactly what you need, too: something stupid to take your mind off everything.
  2231. >The movie is nearly over before the doorbell rings.
  2232. >Blossomforth nearly jumps out of her skin at the sound.
  2233. "Relax, it's just the pizza. I'll go grab it."
  2234. >She nods and pauses the movie.
  2235. >Weird, you were just about to ask her to do that.
  2236. >Doubly weird, because you don't know why or how you managed to get so invested in such a crappy movie.
  2237. "Thanks."
  2238. >Blossom gives you the slightest of smiles and unbundles herself.
  2239. >"I'll get us something to drink."
  2240. >The delivery guy is nervously shifting back and forth when you open the door, staring down at the pizza in his hands.
  2241. >He looks up immediately as you open the door.
  2242. >"So, that's one half cheese, half meat lovers, so - Soarin!?"
  2243. "Uh, heh, yeah dude. I... uh... I didn't know you worked for the pizza place."
  2244. >"First day."
  2245. >Cloudy Kicks leans to one side, trying to look past you.
  2246. >"Party going on or something?"
  2247. "No, just... uh..."
  2248. >"Because, you know, this is Blossom's house, and..."
  2249. >She leans to the other side, then looks back to you, eyebrow raised.
  2250. >"What are you doing here?"
  2251. "Just hanging out."
  2252. >You pull out your wallet and start counting out bills.
  2253. "How much is it?"
  2254. >"Weird," Kicks mumbles. "Oh, uh, 11.50"
  2255. >You hold out the money, but she doesn't take it.
  2256. >"Blossom hasn't wanted to hang out with anyone lately," she says, glaring at you suspiciously. "And you..."
  2257. >She frowns suddenly.
  2258. >You have the feeling she would be crossing her arms angrily over her chest if she wasn't holding a pizza. She almost tries, though.
  2259. "Yeah, I know, I've been a little distant."
  2260. >"Dude, you quit the team."
  2261. >She seems almost grateful when you yank the box out of her hands - it allows her to finally cross her arms and glare properly.
  2262. >"What's going on?"
  2263. "Nothing, Kicks."
  2264. >"You've never taken any girl this seriously."
  2265. >Reluctantly, she takes the money you hold out to her again, immediately folding her arms back over her chest as soon as the cash is in her pocket.
  2266. "We're just friends. I'll see you at school."
  2267. >"You knocked her up, didn't you?"
  2268. "What? No!? You know I always use a condom!"
  2269. >"After me, you mean?"
  2270. "One pregnancy scare is enough for me, Kicks. I'll see you at school."
  2271. >"Yeah, yeah," she murmurs, smirking. "You know, if you and Blossom are up for something..."
  2272. >She wiggles her eyebrows suggestively.
  2273. "I'll see you at school."
  2274. >"See you there," she chuckles as you close the door.
  2275. >Blossom holds up a pair of bottles when you walk back into the living room.
  2276. >"Root beer okay?"
  2277. "Yeah, that'll be fine."
  2278. >She goes to set one of them down by your chair, but stops and frowns.
  2279. >"Bleh. I hate how our living room is set up."
  2280. >You look around, trying to understand what she's getting at.
  2281. >Nothing comes to mind.
  2282. "It seems pretty nice to me. Spacious."
  2283. >"Yeah," Blossomforth groans. "Which means having to get up and walk somewhere to reach anything. Here, put it on the coffee table."
  2284. >She gestures towards it, then picks up the plate she had already put on your chair's arm.
  2285. >"Here's your plate," she sighs, handing it to you. "And your root beer."
  2286. "Um..."
  2287. >She walks across the room to grab hers and her bundle of blankets from the other chair, relocating them - and herself - to the far end of the sofa.
  2288. >"There," she mumbles, bundling herself back up. "Now we can both reach the pizza."
  2289. "Okay..."
  2290. >"Sit."
  2291. >She points towards the near end of the sofa.
  2292. >You hesitate, long enough that she looks up from her cocoon and smiles shyly.
  2293. >"It's fine. I'll be fine. Sit. I wanna see what happens."
  2294. "You sure?"
  2295. >Blossom shrugs.
  2296. >"No, but I can pretend. Now sit down, I wanna see what happens and I've already waited long enough. I thought you were having the pizza delivered?"
  2297. "Um, I did."
  2298. >"Huh, took you long enough, I was starting to wonder if you'd gone to pick it up."
  2299. >She forces a smile onto her face. Not a convincing one, but enough that you finally sit down.
  2300. >"What happened?"
  2301. "Nothing really."
  2302. >"Really now."
  2303. "Well..."
  2304. >You shrug.
  2305. "... I hope it's nothing. Did you know Cloudy got a job?"
  2306. >"O-oh...?"
  2307. "She... uh... I think she thinks we're dating. But that's not a big deal, right? I mean, everyone thinks I'm dating Spitfire and you thought I was dating Diamond Tiara, so... it's nothing, right?"
  2308.  
  2309. >You are Diamond Tiara and you are waiting.
  2310. >You don't like waiting.
  2311. >Nor do you particularly like having to walk.
  2312. >And public transportation is for fucking poor people, not you.
  2313. >So you're waiting, alternating between playing stupid games on your phone, sipping from your soda, and glaring angrily at the counter.
  2314. >How fucking hard is it to make a pizza?
  2315. >Not even a fucking small one! Just a personal pan!
  2316. >Fuck!
  2317. >Waiting for a ride was infuriating enough, but having to wait for your pizza is unacceptable.
  2318. >Lazy cunt at the counter is just lounging around, playing on her phone. She could be helping the cooks or something. Whatever. You don’t know what they do back there, just that they aren’t doing it fast enough.
  2319. >The bell set above the door jingles and you turn – only to be disappointed.
  2320. >It’s not anyone you can fuck with. Just the driver.
  2321. >No one you have any dirt on.
  2322. >You are going to die here. Of boredom. Or old age.
  2323. >It’s not that hard to make a simple fucking pizza.
  2324. >”Anything new to go out?” she asks, leaning up against the counter.
  2325. >”Nah. Nothing yet.”
  2326. >”Sweet. You would *not* believe what I saw.”
  2327. >”What?”
  2328. >The girl behind the counter doesn’t even look up from her phone.
  2329. >You do, but only because you’re bored of it.
  2330. >”Soarin.”
  2331. >And now because it has your attention.
  2332. >”But weren’t you delivering to Blossomforth’s place?”
  2333. >Fuck.
  2334. >You had been hoping no one would find out. You could lie to Silver, tell her you did her little favor for her.
  2335. >”Yeah,” the driver chuckles. “I think they’re dating.”
  2336. >”Meh. Boring.”
  2337. >Not to you.
  2338. >”Wait…” the girl behind the counter says, putting down her phone. “Didn’t you and he used to date?”
  2339. >”Well, uh… not exactly *date*, but yeah.”
  2340. >”Huh. I thought you were a little weird. Jealous or something?”
  2341. >”No. I think she’s pregnant.”
  2342. >What.
  2343. >”What?”
  2344. >You scoot closer, moving to the edge of the booth as if an extra six inches means anything.
  2345. >”I said I think she’s pregnant,” the driver repeats, frowning. “I mean, Soarin’s never afraid of anything, but he was *terrified* just now. The only time I’ve seen him like that was when my period was late…”
  2346. >”Shit. Seriously?”
  2347. >”Yeah,” she answers, leaning against the counter. “Man, I can't believe I didn’t even know they were dating until today.”
  2348.  
  2349. >You are Soarin and you must have fallen asleep.
  2350. >So has Blossom. Finally.
  2351. >You've been nodding off for a while now. It seems that every time you open your eyes, a different movie is playing. Or maybe the same movie.
  2352. >It's hard to tell; they all look like crap.
  2353. >You pick up the remote from the table and turn off the TV.
  2354. >Blossomforth looks content where she is, curled up in the corner of the sofa with her blanket.
  2355. >More than content.
  2356. >Relaxed.
  2357. >Safe.
  2358. >The thought of carrying her to her bed had crossed your mind.
  2359. >You leave her where she.
  2360.  
  2361. >The next time you open your eyes, ribbons of sunlight are streaming through the window blinds.
  2362. >Blossom is still asleep, her face buried in her blanket.
  2363. >You let her sleep - the girl needs her rest - and begin tidying up instead. Quietly. And ineffectively.
  2364. >It's not as if you know where anything goes, but you slowly figure it out.
  2365. >Years of sticking around after parties to help clean up gives you a general idea.
  2366. >People can set things up so many ways.
  2367. >There's not much of a mess to clean up. Before long, you're left holding an empty pizza box.
  2368. >The debate raging in your head is petty - to take it outside or dump it in the kitchen trash - but you let it rage.
  2369. >It's nice to have something so simple to worry about for once.
  2370. >You've just resolved to take it outside when it's plucked from your hands.
  2371. >"I'll take care of that," Blossom mumbles, shedding her blanket and rising to her feet.
  2372. "I can get it. Go back to sleep."
  2373. >"Nuuuh. Slept enough."
  2374. "The sun's barely up."
  2375. >"It's after noon."
  2376. >That seems impossible. You pull out your phone and check - and sigh.
  2377. "Damn. Feels earlier."
  2378. >"Sorry."
  2379. >Blossomforth drowsily smiles at you and shuffles away, pizza box in hand.
  2380. "I'm surprised your parents aren't back!"
  2381. >"Sunday!" she calls back from the kitchen. "They'll be back Sunday!"
  2382. >You look down at your phone.
  2383. >No messages, no voicemails.
  2384. >No plans.
  2385. >No team.
  2386. "I don't have anything going on. Want me to stay again tonight?"
  2387. >Blossom's head pokes around the edge of the kitchen door.
  2388. >"Won't that make your girlfriend jealous?" she laughs.
  2389. >Your first thought is of Silver. It takes a moment for you to realize she's joking about Diamond - a moment longer than it takes for your mouth to respond.
  2390. >Luckily, the answer is the same.
  2391. "Probably, but it'll be okay."
  2392. >Silver knows you have female friends.
  2393. >She'll just have to accept that you have one more.
  2394.  
  2395.  
  2396. **** CHAPTER 7 ****
  2397.  
  2398. >"Why?"
  2399. >You are Soarin and you have not heard the rumors.
  2400. >Not until Monday is half over.
  2401. >*Then* you understand the hurt look Silver flashed you as you walked into school.
  2402. >She didn't say anything.
  2403. >She didn't answer when you respond to the text she sent you as soon as your eyes locked with hers.
  2404. >She looked at you... and she walked away.
  2405. >You didn't know what was going on until you were halfway through the school day.
  2406. >As soon as you see Diamond, you know.
  2407. >Well, not know, not for sure, but you're certain it's her.
  2408. >The girl looks over as you stomp up to her.
  2409. >Eyes tremble slightly, but she doesn't flinch away from your hand. She doesn't struggle as you pull her out of the main hallway, to where the two of you can have some measure of privacy.
  2410. "What did you say to her?"
  2411. >Diamond meets your glare for a fraction of a second before looking away.
  2412. "What the fuck did you tell her?"
  2413. >"I didn't tell her anything."
  2414. >You are Diamond Tiara and you have not spoken to Silver since Friday.
  2415. >What could you tell her anyway?
  2416. >"You told her that I fucked you, didn't you?" Soarin hisses. "I wouldn't play your little game, so you're punishing us."
  2417. "She *asked* me to -"
  2418. >"Bullshit."
  2419. >He jerks on your arm, drawing out an involuntary yelp from you.
  2420. >"You're going to tell her the truth, Diamond. And then you are going to leave us alone. Forever. Got it?"
  2421. >He pulls on your arm again.
  2422. "Stop."
  2423. >You keep your voice low.
  2424. >No one is going to rush to protect you, even if you did scream.
  2425. >Better to not draw attention. Better to not let anyone see you like this.
  2426. >"Not until you tell her the truth."
  2427. >His hand tightens around your arm, fingers digging painfully into your flesh.
  2428. "Stop. You're hurting me."
  2429. >"Good. You deserve it."
  2430. >Soarin pulls you further down the hall, away from the stream of students moving to and from their classes.
  2431. >You try to pull away, but his hold on you is unyielding. Worse than unyielding.
  2432. >Struggling only makes him yank harder.
  2433. "Stop it! I'll - I'll have you expelled!"
  2434. >"You've already threatened me with worse," Soarin growls, dragging you around a corner and away from any witnesses.
  2435. "But I haven't done anything! I haven't talked to Silver since Friday! I haven't even *seen* her today!"
  2436. >"Then why won't is she avoiding me?" the boy snarls, looming over you.
  2437. >His face is barely inches from yours.
  2438. "She..."
  2439. >"What!?"
  2440. "... she probably thinks you and Blossomforth..."
  2441. >"We're just friends."
  2442. "... but there's a rumor going around that you're dating now."
  2443. >"Bull. Fucking. Shit. People always think that shit. Silver knows better!"
  2444. "They're saying she's pregnant and you're the father!"
  2445.  
  2446. >You are Soarin and that is when you found out why Silver Spoon was avoiding you.
  2447. >Why she looked so hurt as she ran away.
  2448. >What she was actually asking.
  2449. "Bullshit."
  2450. >"Ask around!" Diamond hisses, trying to jerk her arm away. "It's what everyone is saying!"
  2451. "Silver wouldn't believe that. She knows I love her."
  2452. >You told her that. It might even be true.
  2453. >It *has* to be true or this wouldn't hurt so much.
  2454. "No, she wouldn't believe that. Not unless *you* -"
  2455. >"She'll believe anything that proves how inadequate she is," Diamond snaps back. "Now let go!"
  2456. >She balls up her free hand and slams it into your arm.
  2457. >Meh. You've gotten worse from Spitfire.
  2458. >What she said troubles you more, even after her second and third punch.
  2459. >"Let go! It's not my fault you fucked up!"
  2460. >Fucked up?
  2461. >You didn't fuck up.
  2462. "I didn't do *anything*."
  2463. >"Neither have I!"
  2464. >Diamond claws at your arm.
  2465. >Long nails tear your skin.
  2466. >You're vaguely aware of, but don't feel it.
  2467. >All you feel is anger.
  2468. >At her.
  2469. >At yourself.
  2470. >At Silver.
  2471. >She should know better.
  2472. >But, somehow, she believes it. You know she does.
  2473. >Diamond lets out a muffled shriek as you twist her arm.
  2474. >"I didn't do anything," the girl moans through the hand clasped over her mouth.
  2475. "Bullshit. Even if you didn't start that rumor -"
  2476. >"I didn't!"
  2477. "You probably fucking did, just to get between us. But even if you didn't, you still tried to make me cheat on her!"
  2478. >"It's what she wanted! I only did what she asked me to do!"
  2479. "Well, what she wants isn't always what she needs."
  2480. >"I'm her friend! I think I know -"
  2481.  
  2482. >You are Diamond Tiara and you are lucky you had a jacket in your locker.
  2483. >You're lucky your locker wasn't too far away.
  2484. >Even luckier that Soarin let you go at all.
  2485. >Silver watches you with dead eyes as you shuffle up to her.
  2486. "Hey."
  2487. >Her eyes focus on you momentarily, but turn dull soon after.
  2488. "I didn't see you in class this morning. You didn't skip again, did you?"
  2489. >She shrugs.
  2490. "You're going to get grounded again if you -"
  2491. >"Doesn't matter."
  2492. >You lower yourself into your seat, wincing as pain shoots up your arm.
  2493. >You're lucky that's all he did to you.
  2494. "Silver..."
  2495. >She looks away.
  2496. "... it's not true. He loves you."
  2497. >You're lucky that's all you had to promise him.
  2498. >Tell Silver the truth.
  2499. >Convince her.
  2500. >Silver glances back at you for a moment and sighs.
  2501. >"How can I believe that?"
  2502. "Because I'm telling you it's true."
  2503. >"And how can I trust you?"
  2504. "Because I'm your friend!"
  2505. >Silver's head slumps over, putting her practically with her face against her desk.
  2506. >"If that's true, where was he this weekend?"
  2507. >This is why you hadn't tried to talk to her earlier.
  2508. >"He was at Blossomforth's house, wasn't he?"
  2509. "Well, that doesn't mean anything."
  2510. >"It means you didn't do what I asked you to," Silver mumbles. "All I wanted was one little favor, but I guess I'm not that important to you after all."
  2511. "No, I tried! I went to his place and -"
  2512. >"I wouldn't have minded if it was you. I could have lived with that, because I thought you were my friend."
  2513. >"I am!"
  2514. >Your shout draws others' eyes your way.
  2515. >"Diamond Tiara," the teacher barks. "Is there a problem?"
  2516. "No! I - uh - no, there's no problem."
  2517. >"Then do try to be a little quieter. Class is about to start."
  2518.  
  2519. >You are Silver Spoon and you had been so excited this morning.
  2520. >You were finally going to see him again.
  2521. >It had only been two days, but to you it had felt like an eternity.
  2522. >Silly, you know, but it's how it felt.
  2523. >Being away from him that long was almost physically painful.
  2524. >Your homework hadn't taken long to finish, leaving you with nothing but time and longing.
  2525. >It was two days of boredom and torture.
  2526. >Your father had laughed when he saw you dressed and waiting at the bottom of the stairs almost an hour early.
  2527. >"That eager to get back to your friends?"
  2528. >He chuckled again when you nodded.
  2529. >"Okay, Silver. I'll get ready."
  2530. >You wanted to get to school as early as possible, to be with Soarin again as soon as possible.
  2531. >He would do the same. You knew he would.
  2532. >The school looked practically deserted when your father dropped you off. You weren't worried.
  2533. >It was earlier than you thought.
  2534. >You waited just inside the main doors, leaning against a locker.
  2535. >It wouldn't be long, you assumed.
  2536. >You pulled out a book and read.
  2537. >The first time the doors had flown open, you looked up so suddenly you dropped your book.
  2538. >It wasn't Soarin.
  2539. >Just a lone girl.
  2540. >She waved shyly.
  2541. >You waved back.
  2542. >She walked past.
  2543. >You picked up your book. And waited.
  2544. >And waited.
  2545. >He wasn't the next person through the doors, either, nor the one after that.
  2546. >Or in the waves of students that flowed through the doors as the first of the buses began dropping off.
  2547. >The once-silent hallway filled with the chatter of happy friends, the groans of those that didn't want the weekend to end.
  2548. >You tried to focus on your book, to drown out the clamor with the printed words, but it was too much. You couldn't focus, not and keep an eye out for Soarin.
  2549. >The book went back into your bag and you simply waited. And watched. And listened.
  2550. >And that's when you heard it.
  2551. >Your head spun around as you heard his name spoken.
  2552. >He couldn't have gotten past you. He hadn't come through the doors.
  2553. >Unless... unless he had come in through the side.
  2554. >You turned, hoping to see him, but he wasn't there. No one was calling out to him.
  2555. >You were imagining things.
  2556. >"... believe it? Soarin..."
  2557. >You couldn't hear the rest of their conversation, but it didn't take long to reach you.
  2558. >No one was looking your way yet, but it was only a matter of time.
  2559. >The news was out.
  2560. >Everyone knew what you and Soarin did in the library.
  2561. >Someone was going to notice you eventually. And then -
  2562. >You couldn't handle that again. You had to get out of there.
  2563. >You start to walk. Slowly. Head down.
  2564. >"... pregnant? Seriously!?"
  2565. >They knew.
  2566. >You hadn't made it five steps before someone turns to you.
  2567. >A girl you knew from class, but whose name you couldn't remember. Not then and not now.
  2568. >Years in the same school together, but panic drove the memory of her name right out of your head.
  2569. >"Silver, you won't believe it!"
  2570. >You tried to walk away, but she matched your pace. Just for a few feet, but long enough to say a few words.
  2571. >That was when you found out that Soarin didn't really love you at all.
  2572.  
  2573. >You find it impossible to concentrate on the teacher's droning.
  2574. >It just doesn't seem very important now. Nothing does.
  2575. >She turns to the blackboard - the movement more than what she writes is what catches your eye.
  2576. >A heartbeat later, a folded square of paper lands on your desk.
  2577. >You nearly flick it off of your desk.
  2578. >The only thing stopping you is that it doesn't matter.
  2579. >Read it. Don't read it. Doesn't matter.
  2580. >The square unfolds into a torn scrap of notebook paper.
  2581. >"I'M TRYING TO HELP!"
  2582. >You glance over at Diamond and sigh.
  2583. >A few minutes later, she slides another note in front of you.
  2584. >"I MADE SURE NO ONE FOUND OUT ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED IN THE LIBRARY, DIDN'T I?"
  2585. >If only she hadn't.
  2586. >Then the rumors had been about you, not some other girl.
  2587. >You could live with that.
  2588. >It would have ruined your life, but it's ruined anyway.
  2589. >There's no point to living.
  2590. >Another note.
  2591. >This one you leave where it lies.
  2592. >You've lost interest.
  2593.  
  2594. >You are Diamond Tiara and you are scared.
  2595. >Silver shoves her notebook into her backpack and walks out, never even looking in your direction.
  2596. >She doesn't even bother to take the notes. Not to read later, not to dispose of.
  2597. >She just... walks away. From them and you.
  2598. >You sweep the scraps of paper into your backpack and chase after Silver.
  2599.  
  2600. >You are Silver Spoon and you don't care anymore.
  2601. >Let people find the notes.
  2602. >It doesn't matter if they know.
  2603. >No one will believe it now.
  2604. >As you walk down the hallway, all you can hear from the clamour surrounding you is the rumor. Repeated over and over and over.
  2605. >You stop a moment to stare at one girl as she digs through her locker.
  2606. >Not because of anything about her really, just because she is saying his name.
  2607. >Repeating it like a broken record.
  2608. >You wish it made you angry. Or hurt. Instead, it's merely curious.
  2609. >With every utterance, her lips form a different word.
  2610. >Some too long. Some too short. Some with her mouth open wide at all the wrong times.
  2611. >You look away.
  2612. >You *walk* away.
  2613. >Not to your next class.
  2614. >Not to the library either.
  2615. >You tried going there first; you can't go back.
  2616. >Staying - *hiding* - there was impossible. After what happened - after what he did - it's no longer a place of refuge from the world.
  2617. >You don't know where you're going, just as you hadn't when your feet carried you away from the library.
  2618. >Maybe you'll go to class. Maybe not.
  2619. >You don't know.
  2620. >You don't care.
  2621. >Away from the people and the noise.
  2622. >Somewhere you can forget about him.
  2623. >Pretend it never happened.
  2624. >Perhaps even convince yourself.
  2625. >If it never happened, you didn't give up everything for no reason.
  2626. >If it never happened, he never hurt you.
  2627. >If it never happened... if he had never tenderly held you... if he had never said...
  2628. >The sun is blinding.
  2629. >You don't know when you got outside, but when you turn the corner the sun beats down on you like... like *life*.
  2630. >Overbearing, painful, and unwanted.
  2631. >You step back into the shade.
  2632. >Slowly, leaning against the wall for support, you lower yourself to the ground.
  2633. >You sit on the grass, your backpack beside you, and you cry.
  2634.  
  2635. >You are Diamond Tiara and...
  2636. >... and you...
  2637. >... you could have stopped this.
  2638. >Silver is crying.
  2639. >Your best friend - your only friend - is crying and you could have stopped it.
  2640. >The pain in your arm is a dull, distant ache. Nothing compared to the guilt that tears at your heart.
  2641. >Even when Soarin had left her bloody and bruised, Silver had been smiling.
  2642. >She had looked up at you and *smiled*, unabashedly *happy* about what he had done to her!
  2643. >This time, she doesn’t look up as you walk towards her.
  2644. >Silver doesn’t react at all as you sit down beside her.
  2645. >She’s too hurt to care.
  2646. >You let her cry, waiting for her to run out of tears.
  2647. >And during that time, you try not to think about how you let this happen to her. Or what Soarin will do to you if you don’t stop it.
  2648. >You try to ignore the pain of your twisted arm.
  2649. >Fantasies of having him expelled dance through your mind.
  2650. >Even if your mother would listen, you wouldn’t.
  2651. >Silver followed you here, but there’s no guarantee she wouldn’t follow him elsewhere.
  2652. >Still, you entertain the idea. It distracts from both Silver’s pain and your own.
  2653. >Keeps you occupied until Silver’s sobbing trails off.
  2654. >You wait a moment more, trying to think of a way to atone without apologizing.
  2655. >You could have stopped this, but it isn’t your fault.
  2656. “I tried.”
  2657. >”You didn’t try,” Silver answers – a few moments after you had realized you had spoken aloud. “If you had tried to sleep with Soarin, none of this would be happening.”
  2658. “I did try!”
  2659. >”No, you didn’t. If you had tried, he would have spent the night with *you*, not her. You can make anyone do anything. I know you can. I’ve seen you do it.
  2660. >”You just didn’t because I’m not your friend.”
  2661. >There’s a pause – long enough for you to raise your hand –
  2662. >”I’m… I’m sorry…”
  2663. > - but thankfully not long enough for you to lash out.
  2664. >”… I’m sure you tried…”
  2665. “Soarin rejected me, Silver. He loves you.”
  2666. >”I… I know.”
  2667. “He didn't want to cheat on you.”
  2668. >”I know.”
  2669. “He probably hasn’t even *touched* Blossomforth. He cares too much about you to do *anything* like that.”
  2670. >”I know.”
  2671. “Then why are you crying?”
  2672. >”I don't know!” she moans, rocking back and forth.
  2673. “The rumors can’t be true, so just get over it and talk to him again!”
  2674. >”I can’t!”
  2675. “Well, why the fuck not?”
  2676. >”I don’t know!”
  2677.  
  2678. >You are Silver Spoon and you don’t know why this hurts so much.
  2679. >Beside you, Di scoffs wordlessly.
  2680. >You can practically hear her rolling her eyes, not that you don’t deserve it.
  2681. >“Then just sit right here,” she snarls after a minute of awkward silence. “I’m going to get Soarin.”
  2682. “W-wait…”
  2683. >”Why? So you can feel sorry for yourself longer? You’re not just hurting yourself, you know.”
  2684. “No! Just… please… give me some time to think.”
  2685. >Di stands – you think she’s about to walk away without a word when she finally responds.
  2686. >”Fine. Don’t do anything stupid. Wait right here and we’ll be back in a while.”
  2687. >She walks away.
  2688. >Not once during the entire conversation do you raise your head.
  2689. >You don’t think you can take seeing the disgust on her face.
  2690.  
  2691. >You are Soarin and you don’t know where Diamond Tiara is leading you.
  2692. >To talk to Silver, she had said, but you don’t know if you believe that.
  2693. >The way your girlfriend had looked at you before running off makes you doubt she would ever want to see you again.
  2694. >It makes you doubt your own senses when you step outside and see the shy smile on her face.
  2695. “You can wait inside, Diamond.”
  2696. >”I was planning to.”
  2697. >Silver barely looks up as you walk towards her, just enough to say she acknowledges your presence.
  2698. >You sit down beside her, still managing to loom over the tiny girl.
  2699. >For what feels like hours, you simply enjoy her presence. No words, no accusations or demands, just your girlfriend and your love for her.
  2700. >When her hand settles on yours, it breaks the serenity of the moment.
  2701. >You had thought about what to say. To scream or yell or beg, but all that comes out is a single word.
  2702. >The same question she had asked you.
  2703. “Why?”
  2704. >Silver squeezes your hand.
  2705. >”I didn’t know until a minute ago,” she answers, slowly drawing the words out as if still thinking them over, “but I finally figured it out.”
  2706. “I didn’t do anything with her. You know that, right?”
  2707. >”I know,” Silver sighs. “You have female friends. I… I accept that.”
  2708. “Then please tell me what the hell happened!”
  2709. >”I know you didn’t do anything with her, but everyone else thinks that you did.”
  2710. “So?”
  2711. >”So… I… I didn’t know why it hurt so much, but now I do.”
  2712. >She looks up suddenly, peering at you over the rim of her glasses.
  2713. >”Soarin… I want to be yours.”
  2714. “You are.”
  2715. >She smiles, warm and earnest.
  2716. >”I know,” she whispers back, “but I want everyone to know that I’m yours.”
  2717. >The ease with which she says it is startling.
  2718. “That… that can’t happen. Not yet. You told me –“
  2719. >”I don’t care what I said.”
  2720. “But –“
  2721. >”It doesn’t have to be obvious,” she mumbles, “I just… I just want something I can point to and say is yours. Proof that *I* am yours.”
  2722. “Like what?”
  2723. >”Soarin, I want…”
  2724. >She stares at you with her wide, purple eyes with such longing that it hurts to not hug her right then and there.
  2725. >And she smiles.
  2726. >You would do anything to for that smile.
  2727. “What, Silver?”
  2728. >”Soarin, I want you to make me a mother.”
  2729. >There's a moment of perfect silence.
  2730. >Birdsong fades away.
  2731. >The wind ceases to blow.
  2732. >Neither you nor your girlfriend so much as draw breath.
  2733. >The last one you took in lingers and grows stale, until you finally let it out -
  2734. "You're crazy."
  2735. > - and your thoughts with it.
  2736. >"Don't say no. Please, don't tell me no. I don't think I could take it."
  2737. "Are you literally insane?"
  2738. >"N-no..." she stammers, cringing away from your shout. "Just think, how would you feel if you heard rumors that someone else had gotten me pregnant?"
  2739. "Angry, but not at you! I know it was a lie!"
  2740. >"What would you do if you heard I'd spent the night with... with someone like... Button Mash? Or Flash -"
  2741. "I would kill him, because you wouldn't do that."
  2742. >Silver falls quiet.
  2743. >She looks at you for a moment, but turns to look off into the distance before the first of a fresh crop of tears begins to fall.
  2744. "How would you feel if you had seen me with them?"
  2745. "I wouldn't believe it."
  2746. >"I saw you hugging her, Soarin. I know you didn't do anything with her, but I *saw* you -"
  2747. >Whatever she thinks she saw, you don't even remember it.
  2748. "You're getting worked up over nothing!"
  2749. >"I know! I know I'm weak and insecure. That's why I need this. I need to know that I am yours."
  2750. "This is... you said something that wouldn't be obvious!"
  2751. >"I'll be 15 in a few months," she snaps back. "It won't start to show before then."
  2752. "You're still too young!"
  2753. >Your girlfriend deflates like a punctured balloon, collapsing in on herself.
  2754. "Silver..."
  2755. >"What about Di?"
  2756. "What about her?"
  2757. >"She's 15, and I don't mind if it's her instead of me..."
  2758. >And that's when it clicks.
  2759. "You sent her. Friday."
  2760. >Silver nods once, still looking away.
  2761. "Why!?"
  2762. >"Because... because she's my... my friend. If it's with her... I... I don't mind if you..."
  2763. "I do!"
  2764. >Silver shrinks further, her arms wrapped around herself tightly.
  2765. >Those should be your arms, you think, watching Silver begin to shake. You should hold her.
  2766. >You just can't bring yourself to do it.
  2767. "I can't... this is insane, Silver. You're way too young to even think about that kind of stuff. And with Diamond -"
  2768. >"I know!" she screams. "But I can't think of anything else that matters! It's not like we can get married."
  2769. "Not without your parents' blessing."
  2770. >If you had that, you could.
  2771. >The things Pinkie knows.
  2772. >You sigh and reach out a hand, placing it on Silver's shoulder.
  2773. >She doesn't seem to draw much comfort from your touch.
  2774. "Why is this so important to you?"
  2775. >"B-because... because people think you're dating someone else."
  2776. "You and Diamond, you're the ones that said we had to keep this secret. For *your* sake."
  2777. >"And I thought I was okay with that, but I'm not. Not if it means everyone thinks you're with someone else."
  2778. >She shudders under your hand.
  2779. >"I don't even know what to believe," Silver whispers softly. "I know you wouldn't, but if everyone thinks it..."
  2780. "They're wrong."
  2781. >"Prove it, Soarin. Please."
  2782. >Her hand comes up, grabbing on to yours like it's the only thing keeping her from falling into oblivion.
  2783. >"I don't care what you do, but please... convince me that I'm yours."
  2784. "How?"
  2785. >She sits quietly, holding onto your hand with all her strength.
  2786. "Silver, how?"
  2787. >"Maybe... an engagement ring, maybe?"
  2788. "I can't afford one. I don't have a job."
  2789. >"An... an engagement ring... should be three month's salary. Traditionally."
  2790. "I don't have a job."
  2791. >"Three times zero is zero, Soarin. Anything will do."
  2792. >She looks back at you over her shoulder, daring to hope.
  2793. >"Really. Anything," she murmurs. "Costume jewelry, a toy, a... a fucking ring pop. I don't care, so long as it comes from you."
  2794. >Your face must be harder than you intend; her eyes - and spirit - drop quickly.
  2795. >"Just something to remind me, Soarin. Please."
  2796. >You sigh and try to pull your hand away, but she holds tight.
  2797. >"Please!"
  2798. "Why?"
  2799. >"W-why...?"
  2800. "Why should I? Why can't you believe in me? Why did you... I mean, did you *seriously* just suggest I knock up your best friend?"
  2801. >"No. Not seriously."
  2802. "This is insane."
  2803. >"Maybe, but it's how I feel."
  2804. "Like I don't fucking love you?"
  2805. >"Like I'm incapable of being loved. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have..."
  2806. "What, Silver? You shouldn't have what?"
  2807. >"... have thought..."
  2808. >She shakes her head suddenly.
  2809. >"Nevermind, that's just more of me feeling sorry for myself. I'm not... I'm not trying to guilt you into anything. Or be... *crazy*. I know it's insane, but it's how I feel, Soarin.
  2810. >"I know you care about me, but I still want something to remind me of that."
  2811. >You give her shoulder a squeeze.
  2812. "At least you're being honest about your feelings. That counts. A lot."
  2813. >More than she'll ever know.
  2814. "But I'm not getting you a stupid ring pop."
  2815. >You pull your hand away from hers before she can react.
  2816. >Silver reaches for you, her hand searching for yours.
  2817. >"No, please," she moans. "Please..."
  2818. >You're on your feet before you know it.
  2819. "Go to class. I'll call you tonight."
  2820. >"Soarin...!"
  2821. "I'll call you. Answer this time."
  2822. >It's all you can tell her; you don't know what you're going to do.
  2823. >"But -"
  2824. "Actually fucking answer when I call you."
  2825. >You don't know what you're going to do, only that you've had enough.
  2826. >Of what, you're not sure. That doesn't seem very important at the moment.
  2827. >Time seems to skip - you don't have any memory of walking away.
  2828. >The sound of the doors slamming open shocks you, almost as much as the awareness that you're the one that flung them open.
  2829. >Your rapid, stiff pace eats up the floor tiles.
  2830. >Diamond raises her head just as you raise your hand.
  2831. >She pulls away, but not quick enough.
  2832. "Come with me."
  2833. >"Why?" the girl protests, but she doesn't struggle beyond the initial impulse as you lead her away, your hand clamped around her upper arm like a vice.
  2834. "Because this is all your fault."
  2835.  
  2836. >You are Diamond Tiara and you can feel the anger radiating off of Soarin in waves.
  2837. >With every step he takes, Soarin jerks you forward. You have to rush just to stop him from yanking your arm off.
  2838. >He just might, too - he's furious enough to do it - but that's not why you follow along quietly.
  2839. >And it's not because he's right or anything - this isn't your fault.
  2840. >Whatever happened between him and Silver, you didn't have anything to do with.
  2841. >You stay quiet because the halls are empty and you want them to stay that way.
  2842. >If others saw someone treating you like this, someone *not* doing what you tell them to, then they might think they could get away with it too.
  2843. >So you let him. Quietly. Without struggling.
  2844. >All of that runs through your mind between the first step and the second.
  2845. >You don't even realize your reasoning, not exactly, until later when you're home.
  2846. >When you're thinking over what happened and how much you hate Soarin and fantasizing about various things you could have - or should have - said and done.
  2847. >But that happens later.
  2848. >Now, from the second step to the moment he's pushing open the doors and dragging you outside into the parking lot, you simply follow.
  2849. >At the speed he's pulling you along, there's no time for anything else.
  2850. >Soarin pauses as he steps out into the sun, stopping to look out over the field of vehicles and giving you time to think.
  2851. >It's just enough time for your brain to catch up with your body and realize how bad this could actually be.
  2852. >How scared you are of him right now and that it isn't scared enough.
  2853. >Soarin is in a rage, his every movement stiff, rapid and not quite under his own control.
  2854. >And as that dawns on you - clinically, as if it was all happening to some other person - Soarin begins to move again.
  2855. >He pulls on your arm and the pain makes this all real.
  2856. >It's not happening to someone else.
  2857. >You resist. You still follow - his doesn't give you much choice - but you resist, pulling against him with all the strength your bruised arm can muster.
  2858. >It has no effect. You doubt he even notices.
  2859. "Where are you taking me?"
  2860. >"I don't fucking know," he snaps back. "To my car, then... I don't fucking know. Just shut up and follow me."
  2861. "Why should I go anywhere with you?"
  2862. >Soarin doesn't hesitates, doesn't miss a beat.
  2863. >He continues to haul you forward without pause.
  2864. >"Because this is your fault."
  2865. "Why is this *my* fault? What is even my fault? I don't know what you're -"
  2866. >The fingers around your arm tighten painfully.
  2867. >You scream.
  2868. >Not long, not loud.
  2869. >A short, involuntary yelp of pain, but his grip loosens instantly. He doesn't let go.
  2870. >"It's your fault she's like this," Soarin hisses, pushing you towards his car. "Get in."
  2871. "Like what!? I didn't do anything!"
  2872. >"You fucking *broke* Silver. Now get in."
  2873. "No!"
  2874. >Your every instinct screams at you, tells you to run.
  2875. >You would, too, if you could. If he wasn't holding you so tight.
  2876. >"Get the *fuck* in."
  2877. "Why should I!?"
  2878. >"Because you're going to help me fix her."
  2879. >You shake your head and try to step back.
  2880. >All that happens is you slam your back into another car.
  2881. "No, she's fine. She might be a little depressed, but -"
  2882. >"A *little* depressed!?"
  2883. >Soarin twitches.
  2884. >His arm moves.
  2885. >For a second, you think he's about to hit you.
  2886. >For a second longer, you think he's thinking he might, too.
  2887. >He doesn't, though.
  2888. >He doesn't raise his hand, doesn't make a single threatening gesture.
  2889. "She's just depressed because of the rumors, but she'll get over it! Everything is fine! Let me go, I'll talk to her, and -"
  2890. >"No."
  2891. >His hand tightens again, crushing bruised flesh like... like... all you can think of is like when you'd wad up a piece of paper in frustration.
  2892. >"Silver is not just depressed," he rumbles, looming over you. "She's... she's..."
  2893. >Fingers that you thought couldn't squeeze any tighter clamp down on you.
  2894. >"You. Stupid. BITCH! Do you know what she said to me!?"
  2895. >You shake your head, not trusting your mouth to open without screaming out in pain or terror or both.
  2896. >"She wants me to fucking knock her up!"
  2897. >There's no time to register what he says before his hand slams into the roof of his car.
  2898. >"Who the fuck wants that? What did you fucking do to her to make her think that's normal!?
  2899. >"She thinks it's the only way to know I love her and I don't even..."
  2900. >Soarin's neck twitches, his entire body tense with barely controlled fury.
  2901. >"What did you *do* to her?"
  2902. "I didn't do anything."
  2903. >Your voice is soft and meek - barely recognizable as your own.
  2904. >It almost sounds more like *her*.
  2905. >"She wants me to get her pregnant to prove I love her," he hisses, suddenly quiet. And close.
  2906. >His eyes are mere inches from yours.
  2907. >"You did something to her. Said something. I know it. She's only fourteen and you..."
  2908. >Soarin trails off, the rest of whatever he was going to say lost in a wordless grunt.
  2909. >He stares. And he waits. And you finally - eventually - speak.
  2910. "You're hurting me."
  2911. >It's all you can think of.
  2912. >The effect is immediate.
  2913. >Soarin’s hand drops away from your arm before the last syllable is out of your mouth.
  2914. >He backs away, just a step. Then another.
  2915. >”Sorry,” Soarin mumbles. “I …”
  2916. >He shudders again, biting his lip to stop from screaming out in rage. Or crying.
  2917. >Soarin blinks a few times before letting out a stuttering sigh.
  2918. >”I just… I just want her to be happy.”
  2919.  
  2920. >You are Soarin and you just want Silver Spoon to be happy.
  2921. "Get in the car."
  2922. >You wave towards the passenger side door.
  2923. "We're going to..."
  2924. >You don't have a clue what you're going to do or where you're going to go, just that you can't be here.
  2925. >"What if I don't?" Diamond snaps, crossing her arms over - no, *under* her chest.
  2926. >You never noticed that before - and feel slightly guilty for noticing it at all.
  2927. >"So!? What are you going to do?"
  2928. >Diamond shrugs, the gesture quickly aborted in a hiss of pain.
  2929. >Theatrics to earn sympathy, nothing more. You hadn't been that rough with her.
  2930. >"Well, what if I don't go with you? Are you going to hurt me some more?"
  2931. >What little guilt you felt burns away.
  2932. "There's no 'if'."
  2933. >You yank open the door and motion for her to get in.
  2934. "You're coming with me and we're going to do something to make Silver happy. For once in your fucking life, you're going to do something for her and not yourself."
  2935. >"I'm not going anywhere."
  2936. >If you could, you would leave her here.
  2937. >If you knew what to do, you wouldn't need her.
  2938. "Yes. You are."
  2939. >Diamond's eyes dart between the car and you.
  2940. "Get in. Help me fix Silver."
  2941. >You don't beg or ask - she's not doing you a favor and you won't let her think she is.
  2942. "You're going to help me."
  2943. >This is nothing more than atoning for her past sins.
  2944. >A moment passes, then another.
  2945. >You take a step closer to her.
  2946. >That's all it takes.
  2947. >"Fine," Diamond sneers. "I mean, with your temper you'd probably kill me if I didn't."
  2948.  
  2949. >You are Diamond Tiara and your bravado is hollow.
  2950. >It withers the instant his body tenses up.
  2951. >Soarin doesn't lay a hand on you. In fact, he's very careful to not even come close.
  2952. >Nonetheless, you get into the car.
  2953. >Silently.
  2954. >Without protest.
  2955. >You were needling him. Petty revenge for your pain.
  2956. >But -
  2957. >He slams the door shut with such force that the entire car rocks.
  2958. >You should have stayed quiet.
  2959. >Or screamed for help when others could hear you.
  2960. >Now it's too late.
  2961. >Soarin slides behind the steering wheel and glares at you with such fury that you almost feel lucky.
  2962. >He has hurt you, but not really. Nothing serious.
  2963. >"You're going to help me," he rumbles, deeper and more explosive than the engine that roars to life.
  2964. >You remember Silver sitting bloodied and broken on the floor of a bathroom stall, and you nod.
  2965. >A few bruises and aches are nothing compared to what he could do.
  2966. >Soarin throws the car into reverse without warning, jerking the wheel hard and nearly clipping a truck.
  2967. >You barely get your seatbelt on before the next swerve.
  2968. >He hits the road at something like twice the limit, tires screeching as they skid along the asphalt.
  2969. >It's a miracle he can keep the car under control.
  2970. >He's barely in control of himself.
  2971. "Where are we going...?"
  2972. >"Don't know. Away from here. I just can't fucking be here right now. And don't give me any shit. I can't take any more right now."
  2973. >You nod, trying to ignore the erratic swerving.
  2974. >He stays withing his lane, but just barely.
  2975. >Five minutes alone with Silver did this to Soarin.
  2976. >You don't know what she said, but you're glad she's not here with him.
  2977. >He's right. It's time to do something for Silver Spoon for the first time in your life.
  2978. >You aren't helping him. You're helping *her*.
  2979. >Keeping Silver safe.
  2980. >From him.
  2981. >He blows past the stop sign without even slowing.
  2982. >Takes the next turn without signalling.
  2983. >And the next.
  2984. >You lose track after that.
  2985. >It takes everything you have just to stay in your seat. Wild swerve after wild swerve send you reeling one way then another.
  2986. "Stop."
  2987. >"Shut the fuck up, Diamond."
  2988. "No, stop! You don't even know where you're going!"
  2989. >"Doesn't matter."
  2990. "You're going to get us killed! I'll help you but you have to stop this!"
  2991. >Soarin's eyes flicker over toward you. Off of the road.
  2992. "Fine."
  2993. >He jerks the wheel. Hard.
  2994. >The car spins.
  2995. >Tires scream.
  2996. >You squeeze your eyes shut and keep them that way until everything stops moving.
  2997. >When you see you're in a parking lot, you let out a tiny sigh of relief.
  2998. >He didn't crash.
  2999. >"I've got to think," Soarin snarls, kicking open his door. "Silver skipped class. Make whatever calls you've got to make so her parents never find out."
  3000. >He glares until you nod.
  3001. >Then he gets out, slamming the door behind him.
  3002. >You pull out your phone.
  3003. >And think.
  3004. >You were right.
  3005. >He's a danger to Silver.
  3006.  
  3007. >You make the calls.
  3008. >Just not the one you should have made. Your courage failed before you could dial the third digit.
  3009. >Every time.
  3010. >You wanted to; you would have if you weren't so scared.
  3011. >But every time your finger hovered over the last number, you looked out the window and saw Soarin.
  3012. >Every time you thought about what he might do, to you or to her.
  3013. >And then you called another teacher. Told them to falsify the attendance records for the day.
  3014.  
  3015. >You are Soarin and you want to scream.
  3016. >Punch something.
  3017. >Someone.
  3018. >Diamond.
  3019. >Not Silver. Never Silver. It's not her fault.
  3020. >You don't know where those thoughts of hers came from, but they weren't *hers*.
  3021. >They couldn't have been hers.
  3022. >There's no way.
  3023. >Those weren't her words, let alone her thoughts.
  3024. >You pace back and forth, your steps rapid and unmeasured.
  3025. >Only one person could influence Silver like that.
  3026. >No, two. She would do anything for you, wouldn't she?
  3027. >But you didn't ask for this.
  3028. >You would never take advantage of her like that - you're a decent person, aren't you?
  3029. >"You're a monster."
  3030. >Maybe, but you would never hurt Silver.
  3031. >Ever.
  3032. >You shake your head, trying to drive away the voice in the back of your mind. The one telling you this is all your fault.
  3033. >You've never done anything Silver didn't want.
  3034. >Never asked anything of her that she hadn't offered.
  3035. >Certainly hadn't asked *that* of her.
  3036. >You hadn't said anything that would lead her to think a child was something you wanted. You're sure of it.
  3037. >There's no way.
  3038. >It's just crazy.
  3039. >Maybe later, if she didn't grow out of this - if she didn't lose interest and leave you.
  3040. >Not *now*. Not when she's fourteen. Not when you're only nineteen.
  3041. >She's a smart girl. She knows how insane it is.
  3042. >That's why it couldn't have been her idea.
  3043. >Still...
  3044. >You've gone further with Silver than you thought you would ever be comfortable with, but it felt right at the time.
  3045. >It still feels right, even though you know it was wrong.
  3046. >You're a monster, but you're trying to be a good person.
  3047. >You're trying to be good for *her*.
  3048. >You had been.
  3049. >So why is she doing this?
  3050. >Silver understood. You *thought* she understood. Having female friends doesn't mean that you're cheating on her.
  3051. >Blossomforth needed you. She needed someone to be there for her right then.
  3052. >It's not as if you could have spent the weekend with Silver - she was grounded.
  3053. >You didn't do anything wrong. You hadn't chosen Blossom over Silver.
  3054. >She *knows* this.
  3055. >You have never lied to her, never cheated on her, always tried to be everything she wanted and everything she needed.
  3056. >Kept things quiet.
  3057. >Tried to keep her away from the bad influences in her life.
  3058. >Ignored the nagging voice in the back of your head telling you that everything you did was wrong.
  3059. >Pretended everything you did was for her and not because it's what you wanted to do.
  3060. >It's not entirely a lie - you *want* to help her.
  3061. >More than that, you want to be perfect for her.
  3062. >Silver deserves it.
  3063. >You've tried.
  3064. >You've never done anything to hurt her.
  3065. >... but that's about all you can say, isn't it?
  3066. >She deserves better.
  3067. >You haven't done anything to hurt her, but she's been hurt anyway.
  3068. >Being a good person isn't enough.
  3069. >It will never be enough.
  3070. >You're a fucking monster.
  3071. >Rough bricks catch your shirt as you slide down the wall.
  3072. >You hadn't even noticed your feet had stopped moving or that you had slumped against the side of a building.
  3073. >For a brief moment, you wonder how long you've been leaning against it.
  3074. >The question is fleeting - it doesn't really matter.
  3075. >Knees buckle under you, dropping you into a crouch.
  3076. >Silver deserves better.
  3077.  
  3078. >You are Diamond Tiara and you are watching Soarin.
  3079. >He hasn't moved for five minutes. Maybe more. You weren't really keeping track.
  3080. >You could run - he probably wouldn't notice - but you don't.
  3081. >He's not the only one worried about Silver.
  3082. >Not that it's your fault or anything.
  3083. >No, she's just your friend.
  3084. >A person is supposed to care about her friends.
  3085. >That's why you're worried. Not because you feel guilty or anything.
  3086. >Silver is your friend. Your best friend. Only friend.
  3087. >The only person you trust.
  3088. >The only one that stays by your side because she trusts you and not out of fear.
  3089. >Just... not anymore.
  3090. >Now she doesn't even want to talk to you.
  3091. >As much as you want to blame Soarin for the change, you've blamed him for so much lately.
  3092. >True or not, it hasn't done much good, has it?
  3093. >no, he's right.
  3094. >This is all your fault.
  3095. >If you hadn't taken Silver to that party, none of this would be happening.
  3096. >If you hadn't teased her into sleeping with Soarin, she would be happy right now.
  3097. >If you hadn't tried to blackmail him, she wouldn't be broken inside.
  3098. >If you had just slept with Soarin, Silver would still be your friend.
  3099. >You've done worse to her - even you have to admit that - but somehow not sleeping with her boyfriend is what hurt her the most.
  3100. >Was it the final straw... or did Silver really mean what she said?
  3101. >Was she really okay with Soarin cheating on her if it was with you?
  3102. >It couldn't have turned out any worse than this.
  3103. >Your arm hurts, but you can't say you don't deserve it.
  3104. >Not that you would say that you *do*, but something about watching Soarin crying in an alley makes you almost believe it.
  3105.  
  3106. >You are Silver Spoon.
  3107. >You wish you weren't.
  3108. >Soarin hates you. He called you crazy.
  3109. >Worst part is... he's right.
  3110. >A sane girl would have gone to class.
  3111. >Instead, you're still sitting outside, in the very same spot. You haven't moved an inch; you can't find the strength - or will - to stand.
  3112. >Your knees are drawn up tight against your chest, your arms wrapped around them.
  3113. >A sane girl wouldn't have overreacted to rumors she knew were false.
  3114. >You can't blame him for hating you. Begging for him to make you pregnant? At your age? ...at his?
  3115. >Holding yourself together is already too much. Raising a child would be beyond impossible.
  3116. >Why did you ask for that?
  3117. >You know that your parents would not let you keep it. A grandchild is not part of their plan for you, not until after college.
  3118. >Abortion, you think. You know.
  3119. >Adoption would require carrying to term and they couldn't have that. People would notice.
  3120. >And... you would lose Soarin.
  3121. >You can barely hide your relationship with him from your parents as it is.
  3122. >You squeeze your arms tighter, as tight as you can manage, wishing there was someone here to hold you and tell you everything would be okay.
  3123. >There isn't - you have driven everyone away.
  3124. >Soarin was right when he said you were insane.
  3125. >He's not coming back. He's not going to call, except to break up with you.
  3126. >Your phone dangles loosely from your hand.
  3127. >He'll call, you know he will. He said he would.
  3128. >Soarin is a good person. He will tell you that he doesn't want to see you anymore.
  3129. >He won't leave you dangling.
  3130. >He's a good person.
  3131. >As angry as he was, he didn't touch you.
  3132. >You thought he would. You thought Soarin was going to hit you.
  3133. >You wish he had.
  3134. >He would have regretted it. He would have held you and apologized and you would have felt loved.
  3135. >It's sick and you hate yourself for it, but you know it's true and still wish he had.
  3136. >Instead, he left angry. He couldn't stand to look at you any longer.
  3137. >You hold on to your phone, if nothing else.
  3138. >Certainly not sanity or reason - you recognize you abandoned those when you pleaded with Soarin to do the impossible.
  3139. >You should never have asked for that. You tried to backpeddle, to beg for something reasonable.
  3140. >Asking for something was idiotic. You should have trusted in Soarin.
  3141. >He loves - loved - you.
  3142. >So you hold on to your phone, waiting to say you're sorry.
  3143. >Waiting to say goodbye.
  3144. >You won't ask for another chance.
  3145. >You should never have asked for anything at all.
  3146.  
  3147. >You are Soarin and you don't know what to do.
  3148. >"Get up."
  3149. >Diamond stands over you, her face twisted in disgust.
  3150. >You let your head drop again.
  3151. "Why."
  3152. >"Because Silver needs you, asshole."
  3153. "I know. And I left her."
  3154. >"Yeah. Because you're an asshole. But *she* thinks there's something about you worth loving or something, so get up!"
  3155. >She drives her foot into your leg. You barely feel it.
  3156. >You got worse every day during practice.
  3157. >"Get the fuck up, shitstain!"
  3158. >She kicks you again.
  3159. >"Tell me what your fucking plan is! I can't help her if I don't know what you're going to do!"
  3160. >Diamond pulls back her foot to lash out again.
  3161. >The apathetic glare you cast her way does not thing to hinder her from ramming the tip of her shoe into your thigh. Harder than you expected.
  3162. >It doesn’t hurt.
  3163. >Probably because you can barely feel anything at all.
  3164. >”Get up!” the girl screeches as you sway unsteadily. “I’m playing along with your stupid little plan, so do something!”
  3165. "Stop it."
  3166. >You don’t need this right now. It’s distracting. Stopping you from thinking.
  3167. >Not that your thoughts were going anywhere anyway.
  3168. >"Why!?” Diamond snarls, hitting you again. “You didn't stop when *I* told you to!"
  3169. “I wasn’t trying to hurt you.”
  3170. >”Well, you did!” the girl sneers down at you as she jerks up the sleeve of her jacket and exposes her arm.
  3171. >There's no bruising, not yet, but the red splotches mottling her skin are proof of her claim.
  3172. >You’ve played sports your whole life. Long enough that you can tell those marks will turn dark in a day.
  3173. >”See!?”
  3174. “Yeah.”
  3175. >There’s a hand print clear as day on her upper arm, each finger individual and distinct.
  3176. "Sorry."
  3177. >You are, vaguely.
  3178. >About as strongly as you can feel anything right now.
  3179. >”Sorry doesn’t mean anything,” Diamond hisses as she pulls the sleeve down. “Either you help her or –“
  3180. >You sigh. Loudly.
  3181. >Loud enough Diamond’s mouth snaps shut audibly.
  3182. >Loud enough that she flinches away as you turn your head to stare her in the eyes.
  3183. “Or what?”
  3184. >”I’ll –“
  3185. ”Have me arrested for kidnapping? Assault?”
  3186. >You can’t bring yourself to care.
  3187. “Pretty sure we’ve been through this before. I’ve done worse already.”
  3188. >"Y-yeah. So get the fuck up and... and..."
  3189. "And what?"
  3190. >"Do something! Do something for Silver!”
  3191. “What?”
  3192. >”I – I don’t know!” Diamond screeches, shaking her head violently. “I don’t even know why she’s acting the way she is!”
  3193. “You know why.”
  3194. >”I don’t know why! Some stupid rumor wouldn’t do this to her!”
  3195. “You know why.”
  3196. >”I *DON’T*! I don’t have the faintest clue, because you’ve poisoned my best friend against me!”
  3197. “Don’t blame me for that. You’re a shitty friend to her.”
  3198. >”M-maybe,” she stammers, catching you by surprise.
  3199. >Diamond has the decency to blush. Faintly, but it’s there. Tiny dewdrops gather in the corners of her eyes as you watch.
  3200. >“I… I should have treated her better.”
  3201. >Words you never expected to hear from the girl, but they give you no hope.
  3202. >It doesn’t change the situation, even if her realization isn’t fleeting.
  3203. >You sigh and shift your weight, leaning back against the rough wall.
  3204. “Then you know why I’ve been keeping her safe from you.”
  3205. >”I should have kept her safe from *you*,” Diamond snarls back. “I should never have let Silver get near you! She’s never been like this before. Never…”
  3206. >The girl breaks off, looking back down the alley, back towards your car – no, past that.
  3207. >Looking in the general direction of the school, as if she could see Silver from here.
  3208. >”I don’t have a clue what’s going on with her,” Diamond whimpers. “We haven’t really spoken in… in…”
  3209. “Good. It’s your fault –“
  3210. >”It’s yours, asshole! Silver has spent her entire life with me and she’s never been like this!”
  3211. >Diamond stamps her foot on the bare concrete of the alley ground. Her hands squeeze shut into little fists.
  3212. >”It’s your fault and I don’t even know what’s going on between you two!”
  3213. >Her whole body trembles.
  3214. >In anger?
  3215. >Fear?
  3216. >For herself or for Silver?
  3217. >Her expression doesn’t change as you shift again, falling from a crouch to sit on the on the ground as deadened legs slide out from under you.
  3218. “You don’t want to know.”
  3219. >”I. Do.”
  3220. >You stare up into her eyes – and she stares back, with such intensity and anger that you see the you of earlier reflected back.
  3221. >Such similar emotions, such a similar cause.
  3222. >Which of you is the monster and which is the one that fought them?
  3223. >Which of you is the abyss?
  3224. “My girlfriend… is insane.”
  3225. >”Don’t call her that.”
  3226. “My girlfriend?”
  3227. >”Insane!” Diamond spits, her arms held stiffly at her sides. “She’s not!”
  3228. “She’s fourteen and asked me to knock her up to prove I love her. What would you call that?”
  3229. >”She… she’s…”
  3230. “She’s fourteen, Diamond. She’s too young for that. She’s too young for any of this.”
  3231. >You sigh – the last of your strength escapes with the air rushing out of your lungs.
  3232. “I’ve been… I’ve been trying to keep it a secret like she wants. it’s what’s best, I know. If anyone found out, I’d be…”
  3233. >You chuckle weakly.
  3234. “… at best, we’d never see each other again. At worst, I’d end up in jail.”
  3235. >”I *told* you that!”
  3236. “And it’s what’s best.”
  3237. >You laugh again, a short, sarcastic burst. You lack the strength to stop yourself.
  3238. >”YES!”
  3239. “But is it what’s best for her?”
  3240. >That gives Diamond pause, but not for long.
  3241. >The anger and certainty on her faces wavers for only a second.
  3242. >”Well, *yeah*. If she never got to see you again –“
  3243. >You cut her off with a shake of your head.
  3244. “I think… I think she doesn’t feel like I really consider her my girlfriend.”
  3245. >”But you’re *fucking* her!”
  3246. “That’s not enough. For her or me.”
  3247. >”Why not!?”
  3248. “Because it’s not. Because she wants proof that I love her.”
  3249. >”Then… then tell her that,” the girl stammers, “or I… I don’t know…”
  3250. “I’ve done that and it’s still not enough for her.”
  3251. >Or for you, if you’re being honest.
  3252. >”Do *something!”
  3253. “Like what?”
  3254. >You shrug helplessly.
  3255. “I don’t know how to prove I care for her. Truthfully… I don’t even blame her for feeling that way. We’ve spent time together, had dinner, stuff like that, but… I’ve never even taken her on a real date.”
  3256. >Diamond blinks once.
  3257. >Lets out an exasperated sigh.
  3258. >Rolls her eyes.
  3259. “What?”
  3260. >”I swear, you are so stupid. Do *that*. Take her on a date!”
  3261. “I need to do more than that.”
  3262. >”WHY!?”
  3263. “I need to make her happy. I can’t just… just take her somewhere. Some stupid restaurant. I’ve done that. It just wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t a *date*.”
  3264. >”What more does it need to be!?”
  3265. “It needs to be good enough for her.”
  3266.  
  3267. >You are Silver Spoon and you wait.
  3268. >For Soarin to call.
  3269. >For your life to end.
  3270. >You wonder how he’ll do it.
  3271. >Will he ask to meet you in person?
  3272. >Tell you face-to-face?
  3273. >You hope so.
  3274. >You *think* so.
  3275. >Soarin is a good person. He’ll break up with you as politely as possible. He’ll do it in person.
  3276. >If he does, you can give him his book back. The one he gave you, the one with the blue cover.
  3277. >He will never leave your heart, but that’s okay. Your heart will die when he says goodbye.
  3278. >It will be easier for your body to go through the motions if there are no reminders of him.
  3279.  
  3280. >You are Diamond Tiara and you can’t believe what you are hearing.
  3281. “What do you mean by *that*?”
  3282. >”I mean… I mean I need to take her someplace nice,” Soarin sighs, his shoulders falling. “I can’t just… I *can’t* just take her to…”
  3283. >He waves his hand dismissively.
  3284. >”I *can’t* take her to IHOP or something. And I can’t take her someplace fancy because people will recognize her there. We can’t even go to the good side of town together.”
  3285. >Soarin’s head falls and he cradles his face in his hands.
  3286. >”Even if I could, I don’t have the money for it.”
  3287. >He doesn’t cry, but you think he wants to.
  3288. >”She asked for a ring and I can’t afford that either. Nothing like what she deserves.”
  3289. >You roll your eyes, not that he can see it. You just can’t help yourself.
  3290. “Even trash like you should be able to afford a nice dinner. I mean, you *always* take that Spitfire girl out to that diner, right? So *clearly* -“
  3291. >”Once or twice a week,” he sighs, “but that’s… maybe…”
  3292.  
  3293. >You are Soarin and you are doing the math in your head.
  3294. >Not really to answer her question, more to prove to yourself that it’s true.
  3295. >You *know* it’s true, that there’s no possible way you could afford to take Silver to a nice restaurant. You’ve got thirty bucks and change in your wallet right now.
  3296. >Soccer didn’t give you much opportunity for a part-time job.
  3297. >You do the math to find a way, to prove that there’s no way.
  3298. ”Fifty? Maybe?”
  3299. >“A plate?” Diamond scoffs. “Well, in *that* case –“
  3300. “A *week*. Not even that, because Spitfire pays half the time.”
  3301. >”Well… Silver can pay then. That solves everything!”
  3302. >You let your hands drop and shake your head.
  3303. “I can’t ask her to do that. I have to prove that I love her by doing this *right*.”
  3304. >You just can’t see how.
  3305. >A restaurant you can’t go to, that you can’t afford, that you don’t have the clothes for…
  3306. >”Haven’t…” Diamond starts before hesitating.
  3307. “Wh-“
  3308. >”Haven’t you tried thinking *outside* the box? Why do you have to take her to a fancy restaurant anyway?”
  3309. “Everything I can afford, we’ve done. None of it has been good enough.”
  3310. >”Like *what*?”
  3311. “Dinner. Walk in the park. Ice cream.”
  3312. >Memories of happier times wash over you.
  3313. >You can remember every smile Silver flashed you, every happy purr.
  3314. >They sting, a painful reminded that *you* aren’t good enough for her.
  3315. “Doing nothing. Spending the day together. Going to the Entertainment Complex.”
  3316. >”You… um… you could take her shopping?”
  3317. “And what would I buy her? A couple books? A cheap dress?”
  3318. >”She’d probably be happy with anything.”
  3319. “A gave her a book already and it’s not enough.”
  3320. >You sigh.
  3321. “It’s not good enough.”
  3322. >There is a long silence before Diamond lets out an angry sigh and an even longer one before she speaks.
  3323. >You wrack your mind, trying to think of something – anything – that you could do, but all your thoughts do is run in circles.
  3324. >No new solution presents itself, not that you expected it to.
  3325. >You’re too worn out, emotionally and physically.
  3326. >Right now, you aren’t thinking any clearer than Silver was.
  3327. >A child is almost starting to seem reasonable.
  3328. >With your anger drained away, you would do anything to prove to Silver that you love her, even the impossible.
  3329. >”Fine.”
  3330.  
  3331. >You are Diamond Tiara and you are going to regret this.
  3332. >”Huh?”
  3333. >Who are you kidding? You regret it even as you speak the first word, but you don’t stop.
  3334. “I’ll loan you the money.”
  3335. >”W-what…?”
  3336. “I’ll *loan* you the money, but you *better* do this right!”
  3337. >Soarin looks at you in disbelief.
  3338. >”Why?”
  3339. “Because I can’t think of anything either!”
  3340. >He’s wrong, though. Silver would be happy with anything. She always has been.
  3341. >This is something *he* needs, not her.
  3342. >You wouldn’t give Soarin the money, except he is something she needs.
  3343. >It used to be that all she needed was you.
  3344. “… and… and I want my friend back.”
  3345. >”If letting you continue to abuse her is a condition –“
  3346. “It’s not.”
  3347. >You walk away, fumbling for your phone.
  3348. >There are some calls you have to make.
  3349. “No conditions Soarin, except you make her happy. I just… I just want her back to normal.”
  3350. >It’s hard to dial; it’s hard to see through the rain.
  3351.  
  3352. >You are Soarin and you don’t believe it.
  3353. >You certainly don’t trust it.
  3354. >”Father?” Diamond says into her phone, turning away so you can’t see her tears. “I need… yes, I know you’re busy, but I need a favor. Please.”
  3355. >You push yourself up off the ground, leaning heavily against the wall as you do so to keep yourself from falling.
  3356. >”Just two thousand.”
  3357. >The casual way she says it –
  3358. >”But -!
  3359. >”Okay, one thousand. Five hundred?”
  3360. >Diamond looks at you, a quick glance but long enough to see her expression.
  3361. >You look away before she does.
  3362. >”Three hundred? And… reservations at…? Yes, father. Oh. Thanks, I won’t –“
  3363. >She cuts off so abruptly, it’s almost painful for you.
  3364. >It *is* for her.
  3365. >That much is obvious from the way Diamond slowly pulls her phone away from her ear.
  3366. >She looks at it for a moment before dropping it back into her small purse with a stuttering sigh.
  3367. >”Dinner is taken care of,” the girl mumbles. “I don’t suppose you own a suit, do you?”
  3368. “Not one that fits. I rented one for the formal.”
  3369. >Diamond sighs again as she begins shuffling towards your car.
  3370. >”Great, just great.”
  3371.  
  3372. >You are Silver Spoon and you are nervous.
  3373. >Soarin hadn’t said anything except to dress well and be ready by seven.
  3374. >He’s obviously taking you someplace nice to break up with you.
  3375. >Did he really think you would make a scene if he didn’t do it in a public place?
  3376. >… is he wrong?
  3377. >Part of you is worried about it, about being seen in public together. Part of you knows it’s the only way you could take it calmly.
  3378. >You clutch his book tightly in your hand – you can’t think of it as anything but *his* now.
  3379. >It’s not yours anymore; you’ve already made the decision to give it back to him.
  3380. >Everything has already been decided and now you’re merely going through the formalities with Soarin, but as much as you try to will your heart to stop racing wildly, it continues unhindered.
  3381. >More than once, you catch yourself playing with your braid.
  3382. >It’s been hours since your father picked you up from school. Enough time for him to hear about you skipping class again, but he doesn’t say a thing about it.
  3383. >Any minute now… but the phone never rings.
  3384. >He waves as you walk past. Doesn’t stop you. Doesn’t say a –
  3385. >”Have fun with your friends.”
  3386. “I will. Thank you.”
  3387. >Even to your own ears, your response is wooden and flat.
  3388. >You wait for Soarin outside, but he never arrives.
  3389. >Shortly before seven, a taxi rolls to a stop in front of your house. When no one gets out, you realize why it’s there.
  3390. >You should have known better – he couldn’t pick you up himself.
  3391. >The driver tips his hat as you approach, but doesn’t ask your name or destination.
  3392. >The first is unimportant, the second he already knows, though you do not.
  3393. >No words are exchanged, nor payment.
  3394. >When you open your purse, he shakes his head.
  3395. >He leaves you standing at the side of the road. Alone.
  3396. >You aren’t afraid, though. You know this area well.
  3397. >Famous restaurants line the street, names well known locally and – for a special few – abroad.
  3398. >But no Soarin.
  3399. >He’ll be here, you know he will. He wouldn’t leave you like this.
  3400. >Soarin is a good person.
  3401. >It’s why you love him.
  3402. >You look again, but don’t see him anywhere.
  3403. >You continue, hoping against hope, so intently that you almost don’t notice your phone vibrating in your purse.
  3404. >It’s from him. Just a short text. The name of a restaurant, nothing more.
  3405. >Nothing more needs to be said.
  3406. >They know you there.
  3407. >For the first moment, you hesitate.
  3408. >They know you there. You can’t be seen together.
  3409. >You take a deep breath… and trust in Soarin.
  3410. >He would never hurt you.
  3411. >This – breaking up – you brought it on yourself.
  3412. >Soarin would never hurt you if he had a choice.
  3413. >Holding that breath almost as tightly as you grip the book, you walk into the restaurant.
  3414.  
  3415. >You are Soarin and you have never seen anyone so beautiful in your life.
  3416. >Dark grey silk clings to her body as she steps into the private room, shimmering with every step.
  3417. >The dress is plain, lacking the ruffles and the frills you expected. It’s nothing like you imagined, but upon seeing it you find you cannot imagine anything else.
  3418. >It’s plunging neckline neither shows nor hints of cleavage, but makes silent, modest promises nonetheless. Promises you know to be true.
  3419. >It follows the subtle curves of her body tightly, shifting with every movement, sliding across her skin so smoothly that you envy it from the first moment to the last. Your hands must have felt coarse and rough in comparison and you wonder how she could ever have stood to let you touch her.
  3420. >Across that dark canvas, her hair is pulled over her shoulder to shimmer in the dim light, each strand picking up the faint illumination and glowing like a stream of rippling silver as it flows down her body.
  3421. >Above, the diamonds – what else could they be? – in her ears twinkle like tiny stars with every hesitant movement. Each facet seems to catch the light at its own time, in its own way. Flashy. Expensive. Beautiful.
  3422. >But lifeless next to the deep violet of her eyes, though they seem almost dead themselves. Eyes that are flat and hopeless, yet hold such depth of pain that you nearly leap out of your seat the moment you see her.
  3423. >Eyes that scream for someone to hold her.
  3424. >No diamond or treasure could ever bring forth such emotion.
  3425. >No dress could ever plead for someone to tell her that everything will be okay the way the faint tremble of her mouth begs you to.
  3426. >High heels click gently as she moves forward, but you can’t hear them – your heart thumps in time with her every step, with every minute sway of her narrow hips.
  3427. >Her necklace, the necklace she always wears, looks plain and ordinary set against the elegant curve of her neck.
  3428. >It always does.
  3429. >You want to leap up and hug her tight, to whisper into her ear and promise you will never leave her.
  3430. >You had thought you might, but you can’t.
  3431. >She takes your breath away.
  3432. >Everything you had thought you would do, everything you had considered saying, everything you had planned… it all withers and dies in the scant moments it takes for her to cross from the door to the table.
  3433. >Hours of planning and debate, ruined in seconds.
  3434. >No, ruined from the first moment you laid eyes on her.
  3435. >You watch entranced as she takes her place. As she sits, slowly and deliberately, in the chair opposite you, the only other chair in the room.
  3436. >You notice only the hand she stretches out to you and not the thing clasped in it, not until you reach out and find her hand occupied by something other than yours.
  3437. >You take it.
  3438. >You set it aside.
  3439. >You grab her hand.
  3440. >You shouldn’t be sitting for this, but your body and mouth move on their own.
  3441. >This wasn’t what you had planned. This wasn’t what you had discussed.
  3442. >You don’t even know if it’s the right thing to do.
  3443. >There are a lot of things you don’t know.
  3444. >Things you don’t need to know.
  3445. >You can see her hurting. You *know* she’s hurting.
  3446. >That’s all you need.
  3447. “I’m… sorry…”
  3448. >She looks at you with fear.
  3449. >She should never have that expression.
  3450. “… I’m not doing this right.”
  3451. >”It’s…”
  3452. “Silver Spoon…”
  3453. >Her eyes tremble and you hesitate.
  3454. >You rethink everything. This isn’t right. This isn’t *perfect*. You had a plan. You –
  3455. “…will you marry me?”
  3456. >You say it anyway.
  3457.  
  3458. >You are Silver Spoon and you hate yourself.
  3459. >His hand squeezes yours tightly. Almost painfully so, but for the ache in your heart that drowns out everything else.
  3460. >You see him awkwardly drop out of his chair, down to one knee to the side of the small table, but you don't hear what he says.
  3461. >The words wash over you without taking root.
  3462. >He stares for a moment, then begins fumbling in his pocket for something.
  3463. >Never, not once, does he so much as hold you any less tightly.
  3464. >He's trying so hard.
  3465. >That's what hurts the most.
  3466. >He finds what he's looking for and pulls it out, smiling up at you as it comes free.
  3467. >Your eyes meet and he falters. You look away.
  3468. >He doesn't let go of you.
  3469. >He's a good person. Better than you thought. Better than you deserve.
  3470. "Soarin..."
  3471. >You hate yourself so very much.
  3472. "... you don't have to do this."
  3473. >You don't deserve happiness, not at the cost of his.
  3474. >"I do."
  3475. "But -"
  3476. >"I know we can't," Soarin rattles off without pause. "Not now, maybe not even when you turn eighteen. I'm not asking you to marry me *now*, I'm asking you to marry me when you *can*."
  3477. >Out of the corner of your eye, you see him set something on the table.
  3478. >"I'm asking you to be mine."
  3479. >You can barely see his hand move.
  3480. >Watery haze clouds your vision - try as you might to blink it away, it comes back again every time.
  3481. "Soarin, you don't want to do this. I don't deserve it. I'm... I'm greedy... and..."
  3482. >Fingers brush against your cheek, cradling your face.
  3483. >They're rough. Scratchy. Warm. Gentle.
  3484. >Loving.
  3485. >Insistent.
  3486. >He pulls you back, tenderly forcing you to look at him.
  3487. "Don't do this, Soarin. Please."
  3488. >"I am."
  3489. "I don't deserve it."
  3490. >"You do."
  3491. "But you don't want to marry me."
  3492. >Who would?
  3493. >You try to look away from him, but you can't. Even though his hand is no longer caressing your cheek, you can't bring yourself to turn away as Soarin reaches for the box he had set on the table.
  3494. "Stop. You're just doing this to make me happy."
  3495. >"I *want* you to be happy."
  3496. "But everything you've done has been for *me*. What about you? You deserve someone better."
  3497. >"I want to do this, Silver. I want you to be mine."
  3498. "I don't make you happy."
  3499. >"You do."
  3500. "I don't! You said it yourself: I'm crazy."
  3501. >"We were..."
  3502. >He hesitates.
  3503. >"... we were both under a lot of stress."
  3504. "I'm needy and demanding and you're so nice and -"
  3505. >"And I haven't been a proper boyfriend to you."
  3506. >He opens the box.
  3507. >You recognize that ring. Those colors, that shape.
  3508. "No, you can't."
  3509. >Soarin ignores you and pulls the ring from the box one-handed.
  3510. "You earned that ring!"
  3511. >You remember the day he won it - Di had insisted you both watch the championship game, even though you were barely in middle school.
  3512. >"Yes, I did," Soarin sighs with a soft smile lingering on his face. "I played my ass off that year. Came home every evening bruised and exhausted. Gave up my weekends for games or practice -"
  3513. >He holds the ring up, letting the synthetic gems glimmer in the dim light.
  3514. >A golden horseshoe shines dully on a field of blue, but it’s the lone lightning bolt that draws your eye.
  3515. >It’s not the way the clear stones catch the light or the size of it, but its solitude.
  3516. >"It was my freshman year, Silver.”
  3517. >One year. One lightning bolt. One ring out of five, maybe six in all of the school’s history.
  3518. >A unique distinction to make on the rings, but one that makes his special beyond measure.
  3519. >”I'm honestly still surprised they let me play, but they did and we won. Our first win in years..."
  3520. >He sighs, a frown darkening his face for the briefest of moments.
  3521. >"... our *only* win in years. You're right, I did earn this ring. I worked hard for it and I'll never have another shot at one again -"
  3522. "You... you will…"
  3523. >"I quit the team," he counters with a shake of his head. "Besides, our season wasn't looking too good anyway. It’s possible we could still… But that's not what's important. What matters is this ring means a lot to me.”
  3524. "You've given up so much for me already. I can’t -”
  3525. >“It's a symbol of all of my hard work and effort. It's proof that even a freshman can do great things, if only he - or she - tries."
  3526. >He spreads your fingers apart, holding the championship ring just shy of your ring finger.
  3527. “I can’t ask you to do this, Soarin. It means so much to you."
  3528. >"It does,” he agrees softly. “That's why I'm offering it to you."
  3529. "But you can't!"
  3530. >Soarin pauses, perhaps even lets out a little sigh. He seems to shrink a little, just the tiniest of bits.
  3531. "Please -"
  3532. >"Don’t say no," he cuts you off, "not if you don’t really mean it.”
  3533. “N-“
  3534. >”Because if you do, I’ll stop. I won’t do anything you don’t want, but don’t you ever say it because you think you don't deserve it."
  3535. “… but I don’t.”
  3536. >”Are you saying no?”
  3537. “I…”
  3538. >You can’t let him do this.
  3539. >Everything that has happened in his life since that day has been because of you.
  3540. >He’s given up everything he cared about, all because you let Di’s teasing get to you.
  3541. >You chose him.
  3542. >You fell in love.
  3543. >You let Di bully him into being with you.
  3544. >You let a lot of things happen.
  3545. >But did you ever make him happy?
  3546. >Was he happy eating pancakes with you in the diner?
  3547. >Was he happy sitting next to you on that park bench?
  3548. >Was he happy holding you in his arms the morning after?
  3549. >You stare down into his eyes, trying to find the answer in them.
  3550. >Was he ever happy?
  3551. >You look and you search and you pray, until you find an answer for both your question and his.
  3552. “Yes.”
  3553. >Soarin begins to slide the ring onto your finger.
  3554. >It's too large - you knew that from the moment you saw it, from the very instant you recognized what it was.
  3555. >The ring is sized for a man's finger, for *his* finger, for the finger of a champion.
  3556. >A freshman can do great things if they try, like he did, but you don't know if you can ever live up to this.
  3557. >It's too much to live up to, his shoes - or ring - too large for you to fill.
  3558. >He expects too much of you.
  3559. >You can't do it, you can't be everything he wants you to be.
  3560. "Wait."
  3561. >The ring is just past your first knuckle.
  3562. "Soarin, wait."
  3563. >"Please don't say you've changed your mind."
  3564. >His tone is heartbreaking.
  3565. >Your hand trembles, your heart stops.
  3566. >For a moment you second guess yourself, but in your soul you know he needs more.
  3567. "N-no, never. Just... promise me something?"
  3568. >You can't give him everything he needs.
  3569. >It would make you happy, being the only thing in his world, but for how long?
  3570. >How long could he live like that?
  3571. >The two of you can be happy together like that, but he will never be fullfilled. Not like this.
  3572. >He's already given up so much. His hobby, his friends. You can't begin to imagine where he got the money to bring you here.
  3573. "Promise me, Soarin."
  3574. >His hand is shaking as much as yours.
  3575. >"What...?"
  3576. "Promise me that you'll rejoin the team."
  3577. >"I... huh?"
  3578. "Rejoin the Wonderbolts, Soarin. Play soccer. Win again.
  3579. >"I can't do that," he sighs, shaking his head.
  3580. "You can. I need you to."
  3581. >"Why? If this is about the ring, I really doubt we'll make it to the championship this year. Even I start playing again, I won't win another."
  3582. "No..."
  3583. >You sigh as sudden weariness overtakes you.
  3584. >It's as if your own body and mind are fighting against this, urging you to simply accept Soarin's proposal without condition.
  3585. >You almost give in. You *want* to give in, to let him carry you away from all your worries - and from yourself - but you can't.
  3586. >The hollowness you felt earlier, the pain and anger and shame - those are things you never want to feel again.
  3587. "Because this isn't healthy, Soarin. For you or me."
  3588. >His eyes flare open wide in sudden panic and confusion.
  3589. >"But -!"
  3590. >It hurts to see him like this.
  3591. >Your words almost trip over each other as you rush to explain.
  3592. "No, I don't mean us being in a relationship! I mean..."
  3593. >His hand is shaking so much, he starts to pull away. The ring, his ring - *your* ring - slides back across your finger.
  3594. "As much as I want you all to myself, a part of me knows that's not realistic.
  3595. "You need to lead your own life, too. Humoring my sick whims isn't... it isn't good for either of us.
  3596. "I so rarely get to have what I want - not what my parents or what Di want me to want, but what *I* want, that when it happens, I..."
  3597. >"And that's why I want to spend as much -"
  3598. "I get obsessed easily, Soarin. First, when I was a child -"
  3599. >You still *are* a child, a silent voice reminds you.
  3600. " - it was with Diamond Tiara, then..."
  3601. >You can't meet his eyes - the pain in them is unbearable - and so you look away, at the book he had given you. The one you had treasured these few short weeks, despite everything.
  3602. "It's not healthy, Soarin. *I* am not healthy. I've tried to kill myself. Twice."
  3603. >"Why!?"
  3604. >One hand is still gripped in his own - he still hasn't let go and you hope he never does - but you stretch out the other wrist for him to see.
  3605. "Because I got too obsessed. If the doctors were any less skilled - or expensive - you might be able to see a scar. But heaven forbid the perfect heiress might ever have 'issues.'"
  3606. >Soarin's mouth falls open.
  3607. >"Were you...?"
  3608. >He can't complete the question, for which you are thankful. You don't know if you could answer if he had.
  3609. "I don't think so."
  3610. >You laugh softly at yourself, at your stupidity.
  3611. "It wouldn't do any good. I don't think my parents would let me die.
  3612. "They haven't yet."
  3613. >Soarin chuckles along sympathetically - almost sarcastically.
  3614. >"You aren't making much of an argument for me to ever leave you alone."
  3615. "You need to be your own person, Soarin. Please don't let me take that away from you, because I will if you let me. I'll cling to you and never let go."
  3616. >"I'm okay with that."
  3617. "You shouldn't be. If that happens, would you still be the Soarin I fell in love with?"
  3618. >"I -"
  3619. "Would you still be the Soarin that loves me...? Or would you resent me?"
  3620. >"I wouldn't."
  3621. >You shake your head slowly.
  3622. "I don't believe that."
  3623. >"You should."
  3624. "I can't, not after what happened earlier. I made you angry and... I... I really can't blame you.
  3625. "I need you to do promise me this, Soarin. I need you to be a whole person and feel fulfilled, just like I need to be. Please."
  3626. >There's a moment of hesitation - of uncertainty and fear.
  3627. >He'll agree, you know he will. Soarin is too kind and gentle to say no. He would do anything to make you happy... and that thought is terrifying.
  3628. >How far would you ask him to go?
  3629. >How many lines would he cross...?
  3630. >Soarin will promise to rejoin the Wonderbolts, of that you have no doubt. He'll even do it.
  3631. >But will he mean it?
  3632. >Will it be anything more than another sacrifice on his part? Another attempt to make you happy?
  3633. >You don't know.
  3634. >Neither does he.
  3635. >The moment goes on longer than you can stand.
  3636. >You shouldn't have brought it up - brought *any* of it up.
  3637. >Shouldn't have asked him to rejoin the team; you ask too much of him already.
  3638. >Shouldn't have revealed how insane you really are; he'll leave you.
  3639. >Shouldn't have told him about what you had done; those scars are only on the inside.
  3640. >They're only for you.
  3641. >Soarin is trying so hard to make this perfect and you... you...
  3642. "You're trying so hard, Soarin, to make this perfect for me. The restaurant, the ring..."
  3643. >A sigh escapes your lips.
  3644. "... let me try to make this perfect for you. Please, help *me* be perfect for you."
  3645. >Still he hesitates.
  3646. >It fills your heart with fear as much as it warms it.
  3647. >He doesn't want to lie to you. He -
  3648. >"Who was the Soarin you fell in love with?"
  3649. >He's searching his soul so he can answer truthfully and all he found were more questions.
  3650. "The Soarin who was kind and gentle and was worried about me. The Soarin that would sacrifice anything for me."
  3651. >"Not the one who has nothing left to give," he sighs softly.
  3652. "No."
  3653. >You smile sadly, though he cannot see it.
  3654. "Sorry, I'm greedy."
  3655. >"Do you know who I fell in love with?"
  3656. "A little girl who would do anything for you?"
  3657. >"No," he laughs. "The shy girl. The one who slowly opened up. The one that I shared pancakes with."
  3658. >You turn and look down at him in surprise as he pushes the ring onto your finger.
  3659. >"I'll rejoin the team, Silver. *If* they'll take me back."
  3660.  
  3661. >You are Soarin and you hope this isn't a mistake.
  3662. >"I'm sure they will," Silver responds, smiling down at you oh so softly.
  3663. "Yeah, hopefully."
  3664. >You push yourself up off the floor and - with legs numb from kneeling so long - shuffle back to your chair.
  3665. >Silver clings on to your hand, never letting go. Your arm stretches across the table, fingers interlocked with hers.
  3666. >She'll never let go unless you make her.
  3667. >You're okay with that and - for now at least - it seems she is too.
  3668. >"Pancakes, huh?"
  3669. "Um... yeah."
  3670. >"Maybe you should have taken me there," your girlf- *fiancé* says with a giggle.
  3671. "Yeaaaah."
  3672. >You look around the small room, taking it all in for the first time.
  3673. >Though you had been here early, you had been too nervous to study your surroundings, something for which you are glad.
  3674. >The fancy drapes and other decor statues make you feel out of place in your rented suit.
  3675. "Maybe I should have. I mean, the service here isn't that great, is it?"
  3676. >Silver covers her mouth as she lets out a giggle, all but hiding her grin.
  3677. >"They know when not to interrupt."
  3678. "Oh."
  3679. >Well, now you feel stupid.
  3680. >Silver laughs again.
  3681. >Okay, *now* you feel stupid. Stupider.
  3682. >You're so out of your zone here, in every way.
  3683. >"What I meant was, well... you don't seem exactly comfortable here..."
  3684. "I just proposed to my fourteen-year-old girlfriend. I don't think I *should* feel comfortable."
  3685. >It's her turn to blush and awkwardly look away.
  3686. "I mean -"
  3687. >"I get it," she responds, squeezing your hand. "But this isn't your kind of place. And... well... it's not *exactly* cheap..."
  3688. >She looks back at you, her violet eyes gazing lovingly over the aqua rim of her glasses.
  3689. >"Things are already weird enough. You didn't have to push yourself."
  3690. "I did."
  3691. >"I can pay -"
  3692. "I'm paying."
  3693. >She sits silently a moment before bowing her head ever so slightly.
  3694. >"Thank you, Soarin. Everything is lovely."
  3695. >Time passes, lost in her eyes.
  3696. >A waiter appears, followed by wine.
  3697. >No attempt to card either you or Silver is ever made.
  3698. >Your hands only part - reluctantly - when your food arrives.
  3699.  
  3700. >Dinner is over, the plates long cleared away.
  3701. >Silver toys with her wine glass, swirling the liquid around.
  3702. >More than half of it remains.
  3703. "Wasn't to your liking?"
  3704. >Silver had frowned momentarily when you ordered the second-cheapest they had, but said nothing.
  3705. >"No, it's perfectly fine. I'm just taking my time."
  3706. >She raises the glass to her lips, but does not drink. She lets out a little sigh and sets the glass down.
  3707. >"Actually, I think I've had enough."
  3708. >Suddenly self-conscious, you set down your glass too - your second glass.
  3709. "Sorry I didn't order something better."
  3710. >"No, really, it was fine. I just..."
  3711. >Silver pauses, visibly searching for the right thing to say.
  3712. >You can tell from the way she bites her lower lip, the way her eyes drift up and to the right.
  3713. >"I'm happy, Soarin," she says after a moment's thought. "I don't need any more."
  3714. >Her gaze snaps back to you with a smile.
  3715. >"Besides, I'm starting to feel it," Silver adds with an embarrassed giggle, "and I don't want to. I want to remember everything about tonight as clearly as I can."
  3716. "Fair enough, I guess."
  3717. >You push your nearly empty glass away from you.
  3718. "Ready to go?"
  3719. >"Go where?"
  3720. "You'll see."
  3721. >Silver hesitates, she glances over at the bill - and the stack of cash you had stuffed inside.
  3722. >It's a quick look; she doesn't mean for you to notice and you might have dismissed it as meaningless but for the slight frown that crosses her face at that moment.
  3723. >"Soarin... I..."
  3724. "Don't worry about it."
  3725. >"I'm happy. You don't have to do any more."
  3726. "I want to and I'm paying."
  3727. >"But..."
  3728. >You stand and hold out your hand to her.
  3729. "Let's go, Silver."
  3730. >"I ask a lot of you," she says softly, "but never that you spend money on me."
  3731. "It's fine. I don't mind. It's about time I started looking for a job anyway."
  3732. >"No," Silver sighs. "You need to focus on other things."
  3733. >She bites her lip and glances away.
  3734. >"I mean, if it's something you *want* to do, but... I don't mean to argue, but I don't want to make your life harder unnecessarily. Any more than I already do. I *have* money and I don't mind spending it if it improves my life – or yours."
  3735. "I'll think about it. But not for tonight."
  3736. >"This is something you need to do? For yourself?"
  3737. "Yes."
  3738. >She takes your hand.
  3739. "Thanks for not arguing."
  3740. >"If it's something you feel you need to do, then I need to let you," Silver answers, tugging gently on your hand as she pulls herself up. "I can't take your pride from you, along with everything else."
  3741. >You take a step towards the door, Silver doesn't follow until a second later.
  3742. >The unexpected resistance catches you by surprise and you turn your head back to see her pick up -
  3743. > - oh, you are an *idiot* -
  3744. > - something she tucks behind her back before you can identify it.
  3745. >Something she had tried to hand you earlier, but you had brushed it aside like it was nothing.
  3746. >Something you had completely forgotten about, lost in the moment and her eyes, despite it never being more than a few inches away.
  3747. >Silver takes a quick half-step to catch up before you notice, her heel clicking loudly against the floor.
  3748. >Too late, too slow.
  3749. >Her eyes meet yours and she blushes.
  3750. "Sorry, I -"
  3751. >Silver shakes her head quickly - too quickly, because she stops almost before she starts.
  3752. >"I... um..."
  3753. >She pulls a familiar book from behind her back and holds it out to you.
  3754. "What?"
  3755. >"Here," says, the glow on her cheeks growing brighter by the second.
  3756. >You reach for the book, but can't quite bring yourself to touch it.
  3757. "I figured you would have finished this by now."
  3758. >"I did," she mumbles, "but... uh..."
  3759. >Silver pushes it into your hand.
  3760. "So why did you bring it."
  3761. >"Because I... I thought you were breaking up with me," she answers, so quickly the words almost blend together.
  3762.  
  3763. >You are Silver Spoon and you can feel your cheeks burning.
  3764. "I was going to give it back to you because I... I didn't think I could handle having any reminders of you around."
  3765. >He looks down at the book, his brow furrowing, then holds it back out to you.
  3766. >"Well, we aren't. So -"
  3767. "No, take it."
  3768. >You gently push his hand - and the book - away.
  3769. "Read it. We should share some interests beyond... you know, each other.
  3770. "But... um... maybe start from the first one?"
  3771. >He looks down at book, examining the blue cover with its worn edges.
  3772. >That wasn't your doing; he had clearly bought it used, not that you minded.
  3773. >Everything deserves a loving home, even books.
  3774. >Even you, maybe.
  3775. "Please, Soarin?"
  3776. >"I don't really read much," he mumbles. "Would rather be out doing something, you know?"
  3777. "I... I assumed that, but I'm asking you to anyway."
  3778. >He lets his arm drop down to his side and sighs.
  3779. >You flinch instinctively, scared and -
  3780. >He's smiling.
  3781. >"I'll give it a shot."
  3782. "You don't have to."
  3783. >"No, I don't. But I'll try. No promises I'll make it through, though."
  3784. "I can't ask for more than that."
  3785.  
  3786. >Soarin leads you outside, out one of the *other* doors.
  3787. >Not the main one, not the one facing the street, not the one people will see you from.
  3788. >He chose well when he picked this restaurant - private rooms, discrete staff, and a perfect smoked apple risotto.
  3789. >Three of the main reasons you and Di -
  3790. >Oh.
  3791. >Soarin doesn't know these restaurants. He doesn't know where you like to eat.
  3792. >*She* picked it.
  3793. >You look askance at him as he leads you down the alley towards the rear parking lot, his every step uncertain and hesitant.
  3794. >It's clean, almost spotless. No debris or filth. Lit, if not well, then well enough.
  3795. >He's hesitant because he feels so out of place, because he *is* so out of place.
  3796. >Because he's trying not to scuff his unfamiliar shoes or dirty the hem of his rented pants.
  3797. >Di helped him.
  3798. "Soarin..."
  3799. >That's where he got the money.
  3800. >"Yeah?"
  3801. "... nevermind."
  3802. >If he wanted you to know, he would have told you.
  3803. >"No, what?"
  3804. >You can't take his dignity from him -
  3805. "Thank you for everything."
  3806. > - so you hug his arm tight and say nothing more, though you can't quite stifle your giggling when you see his car.
  3807. >It's not *that* old, nor is the paint particularly faded or scratched, but it does stand out from the others in the lot.
  3808. >Not quite sleek enough, not quite sporty enough.
  3809. >"Yeah, yeah, I know," Soarin laughs along with you, "but *that* I won't feel bad about. It's reliable and gets me where I need to go."
  3810. >He reaches out and runs a hand along the yellow hood as he walks you to the passenger door.
  3811. >"Besides, I like the color."
  3812. >That, more than anything else, sets it apart from its neighbors - a spot of brightness in the field of black and chrome.
  3813. >"Makes it easy to find if I forget where I parked," Soarin adds with a grin.
  3814. "It sure does."
  3815. >He holds your hand as you slide into the car, but his gaze travels down, towards the slit in side of your dress.
  3816. >It pulls apart as you settle back into your seat - not much, but enough that Soarin can see your black stocking, the arc of your calf, and - after another moment of unnecessary fidgeting - the curve of your thigh.
  3817. >"Speaking of shared interests," he mumbles distractedly, "how about taking up soccer? You've got the legs for it."
  3818. >You watch as his eyes travel the length of the exposed limb.
  3819. >Wearing stockings might have been a mistake.
  3820. "I'm really more of an indoor girl."
  3821. >Soarin shakes his head and lets out a weak laugh.
  3822. >"Yeah, I know, but..."
  3823. "I'll think about it."
  3824. >He shrugs.
  3825. >You shrug.
  3826. >The car rocks as he shuts the door. It may get him where he needs to go, but you think it could do with a better suspension.
  3827. >When he opens his side, it shudders again.
  3828. "Where are we going?"
  3829. >"You'll see," Soarin answers as he slides behind the wheel.
  3830. "Trying to tease me?"
  3831. >"No more than you are me."
  3832. >The engine roars to life.
  3833. >"Besides, I'm starting to think it's a stupid idea. I might change my mind before we get there."
  3834.  
  3835. >There are several times during the drive where Soarin hesitates: takes a little longer at a stop sign than usual before turning, changes lanes seemingly without reason and then back again.
  3836. >When he eventually pulls into a lot and puts the car in park, you're not quite sure if this was his original plan or not.
  3837. >"Well, we're here."
  3838. "A book store?"
  3839. >There are other shops scattered around, but none of them are still open.
  3840. >"Yeah. I couldn't think of anything better."
  3841. "I told you that you don't have to spend money on me."
  3842. >"That was my original idea," Soarin admits, "but now I just want to spend some time with you."
  3843. >You giggle as you reach for the door handle.
  3844. >Both the laughter and the motion stop as you see her.
  3845. >"What's wrong?"
  3846. >You point at the attached cafe - at the fellow Canterlot High students packing the tables clearly visible through the windows - keeping the gesture small and innocuous despite the distance.
  3847. "They'll recognize us."
  3848. >"So?"
  3849. >His eyes scan over the crowd.
  3850. >If he recognizes Blossomforth, he at least has the decency to hide it.
  3851. "We're overdressed and obviously together. They'll know."
  3852. >"I thought that would make you happy?" he asks tentatively.
  3853. >That he asks at all is evidence enough of his uncertanty.
  3854. >You look down at his ring - at *your* ring.
  3855. >It sits loosely on your finger, too large and yet too perfect to risk for fleeting happiness, for the small joy of openly being his.
  3856. >As nice as it would be, it would only last as long as it took for the news to reach your parents.
  3857. "It's enough that I know, Soarin. Let's go."
  3858. >He nods - but not quickly, not immediately, like he had to think it over.
  3859. >"Okay."
  3860. >And then he leans over and kisses you - withdrawing before you can react.
  3861. >"I'll be right back."
  3862.  
  3863.  
  3864. >You are Soarin and you are out of the car before she can stop you.
  3865. > - or before you can stop yourself.
  3866. >It was just a sudden flash of insight, a gamble that might not work out.
  3867. >Nothing that you had put a lot of thought into, just something that seems right.
  3868. >There's still a twenty and change in your pocket.
  3869. >More than enough.
  3870. >A few curious eyes turn your way as you walk into the bookstore.
  3871. >Some linger, with eyebrows raised or faint expressions of confusion.
  3872. >Some are obviously employees, just doing their jobs and seeing if you need help.
  3873. >The closest one frowns as you walk her way, though she only lets the expression linger a fraction of the second.
  3874. >"Something I can help you with?" she asks in a nasally whine.
  3875. "Yeah, I... uh..."
  3876. >You hold out the book you had given Silver.
  3877. "I need the first book in this series. And something else."
  3878. >"Something else? Like what?"
  3879. "No clue. Just something."
  3880. >"Um..."
  3881. "Just something good."
  3882. >"Well..."
  3883. "Your favorite book?"
  3884. >"Follow me!"
  3885. >She rushes off with a wild grin; you almost have to run to keep pace, but your longer stride quickly makes up the difference.
  3886. >Shouldn't have asked the one with glasses.
  3887. >Should have known she would be a huge nerd.
  3888. >"This way," she says sharply, gesturing for you to follow as she heads down a seemingly arbitrary stacks of books. "You'll love it!"
  3889. "It's not for me."
  3890. >She slams to a halt - only your superhuman reflexes save you from colliding with the girl.
  3891. >"Oh."
  3892. >She does a quarter turn and stares over her shoulder at you.
  3893. >"Hmmm."
  3894. "What?"
  3895. >"Different book. We're going left."
  3896. "What?"
  3897. >"Left," she repeats, turning at the end of the aisle. "Maybe something by... hmm..."
  3898. >You follow after the girl, waiting for her as she hesitates and runs her hand along one shelf.
  3899. >"It's not for some other stupid jock, is it?"
  3900. "Wait. What."
  3901. >"I mean... uh..."
  3902. >She doesn't even have the decency to look ashamed, just confused.
  3903. >"You're a jock, right?" she asks, tilting her head to one side and making the stupid little ponytail on top of her head flop over limply. "It's not like you'd even understand any *good* books, but if it's not for you or another -"
  3904. "It's not."
  3905. >"Kay then," she grunts, pulling a book off the shelf and holding it out to you. "How about this?"
  3906. "As good as anything."
  3907. >You have no idea if it's any good, if Silver already has it or what she thinks of the author.
  3908. >"I hope she likes it."
  3909. "She? What makes you think -"
  3910. >"You're dressed up. Either you're on a date or going to a party, and either way it's probably for a girl."
  3911. "Oh."
  3912. >"Yeah," she grunts. "Well, are you going to take it or not?"
  3913. >She shoves the book at you again.
  3914. "Well, thanks for the recommendation... but... uh... you know you're being kinda..."
  3915. >There's no gentle way to say it, not that you feel any particular need to be.
  3916. >"Bitchy?"
  3917. "Yeah."
  3918. >"*Thank you*," she sighs, giving you a relieved smile. "Could you tell my boss that? I *hate* working on the salesfloor."
  3919. "Um -"
  3920. >"Well, later then. I'll point her out to you if I see her, but, uh..."
  3921. >She takes a step back and looks left and right.
  3922. >"First that other book, right? This way! This way, right? Near the cafe? Yeah. This way."
  3923. >It is, because moments later you have both books in hand and she's waving as she disappears between the aisles.
  3924. >"Remember to tell my boss I suck!"
  3925. "Yeah, will do!"
  3926. >Probably not. That wouldn't turn out the way she expects it to.
  3927. >Besides...
  3928. >You look down at the books in your hand.
  3929. >At least one of them is the right one. The other is better than anything you would have picked - *and* cheaper than you expected.
  3930. >The faint smell of coffee tickles your nose.
  3931. >Fuck it, why not?
  3932. >You tuck the books under your arm and walk towards the smell.
  3933. >Silver likes coffee, right?
  3934. >Actually... you have no idea, but despite the crowded tables, no one is waiting at the counter. You know fate when you see it.
  3935. >The barista takes your order - one coffee, one tea, just in case - and turns away to make it.
  3936. >That's when you feel a hand on your arm.
  3937. >"Soarin?"
  3938. "Huh?"
  3939. >You turn.
  3940. >Blossom waves.
  3941. >"Hey," she laughs. "I wasn't sure that was you. I mean... you're *dressed up*."
  3942. >She giggles again and nervously looks back at her friend.
  3943. >"I heard you stormed out today," the girl says softly. "Everything okay?"
  3944. "Just pissed about -"
  3945. >"About that stupid rumor? Yeah..."
  3946. >She nods her head towards the others.
  3947. >"Don't worry, it's blown over. Everyone knows it's bullshit, but..."
  3948. >She's trembling.
  3949. >"... my friends still wanted me to come hang out with them."
  3950. >She's scared, but trying not to be.
  3951. >"Said it would be better if I actually got *out* once in a while."
  3952. >You recognize some of them from the gymnastics team.
  3953. >You recognize some of them from that night.
  3954. "You okay?"
  3955. >"Yeah, I will be."
  3956. >Blossom forces a smile onto her face.
  3957. >"Everything's going to be fine. I just have to... get over it."
  3958. >She shrugs, trying to dismiss your concerns and her own.
  3959. "You sure?"
  3960. >"I guess" Blossom answers with a sigh. "Anyway, what are you up to?"
  3961. "Just getting some coffee and books."
  3962. >"Uh-huuuuuh. Yeah, no. You're not getting off that easily. What are you all dressed up for?"
  3963. >She steps back, her eyes visibly - and pointedly - traveling the length of your body.
  3964. "Stuff."
  3965. >"Let me guess," she whispers, stepping back in so you can hear her soft voice, "Diamond Tiara got all pissy because of the rumors and made you take her out on a date?"
  3966. >Blossom's smile grows as she waits for your answer.
  3967. >In the end, you give her the only one you can.
  3968. "Yeah, something like that."
  3969. >"Figured," she laughs. "Well, try not too have too bad of a time."
  3970. "Well, you too. If you have any problems..."
  3971. >You nod towards the other girls, but Blossom shakes her head.
  3972. >"Actually, I think I'm done for tonight," she explains, patting your arm. "I got out and... well..."
  3973. >She shrugs, at a loss for words.
  3974. "Gonna head home now?"
  3975. >"Yeah," Blossom sighs. "I think I've had enough for now."
  3976. >"Soarin! We got a coffee and a tea for -"
  3977. >You raise your hand and half-turn back towards the counter.
  3978. >Blossom takes the opportunity to skip away and gather her things.
  3979. >"See you later, Soarin," she calls out as she heads for the door. "Good luck."
  3980. "Do you... um... need a ride? I can... uh..."
  3981. >What?
  3982. >Stuff her in the backseat?
  3983. >Just pretend Silver isn't there?
  3984. >Hope that somehow neither girl notices the other?
  3985. >"Thanks, but I drove here. My car's right outside."
  3986. >Inwardly, you sigh in relief. Outwardly, you smile and wave.
  3987. "Cool, see you tomorrow."
  3988. >"See you then!"
  3989.  
  3990. >You are Silver Spoon and you stopped watching when she touched him.
  3991. >It's nothing, you chant silently to yourself over and over.
  3992. >You trust him, you *do*, but for some reason your heart skipped a beat when she walked up to Soarin and you're not entire sure if it's started again.
  3993. >He had a reason for going in, and you trust him. It was a good reason. It had nothing to do with her.
  3994. >It's nothing.
  3995. >Don't freak out.
  3996. >Don't run inside.
  3997. >Don't push her away.
  3998. >The impulse is there, but you push it down.
  3999. >You do nothing.
  4000. >You sit. And you stare.
  4001. >You keep your eyes firmly fixed forward, out the front window.
  4002. >You stay still. If you don't move, no one will see you. If you don't move, you won't be tempted to do anything else.
  4003. >You -
  4004. >The car to your right beeps.
  4005. >You turn instinctively at the sudden noise.
  4006. >Footsteps.
  4007. >You turn away, trying to hide yourself in the shadows.
  4008. >A voice, indistinct but feminine.
  4009. >A laugh.
  4010. >A sudden silence louder than any noise.
  4011. >You're not sure why you turn back, or even aware that you had, until your eyes meet hers.
  4012. >She stares into you, through you.
  4013. >She sees you, she can't *not*, but she... doesn't...?
  4014. >You don't know what she sees, but it's not you.
  4015. >There's almost no reaction. Certainly not any of the ones you were expecting.
  4016. >One moment her eyes are curious... and then... they *aren't.*
  4017. >Her lips part, forming a tiny O.
  4018. >She looks away first - you're too frozen to breathe, let alone move - and the moment her eyes are off you...
  4019.  
  4020. >You are Soarin and you didn't really think this through.
  4021. >Should have paid for the books before getting the drinks - they're noticeably cooler by the time you're walking out to your car.
  4022. >Still pleasantly warm in the rapidly cooling air, though.
  4023. >It's not hard keeping hold of both cups and books, but reaching into your pocket for the keys is beyond you at the moment.
  4024. >Rather than setting anything down, you bump the passenger window with your elbow.
  4025. >Not hard, just enough to get Silver's attention, but she lets out a muffled shreak.
  4026. >You jump back in surprise.
  4027. >If there had been a car parked beside yours, you would have slammed right into it.
  4028. >As it is, it's a minor miracle you keep hold of everything.
  4029. >Silver's looks at you, her eyes wide and wild and scared, because *of course* they are. If she wasn't paying attention, she *would* be scared when something hits the window.
  4030. >You *really* didn't think this through.
  4031. >You can't help but chuckle at yourself as she timidly opens the door.
  4032. >"Sorry..."
  4033. "No, I'm not laughing at you. That was stupid of me."
  4034. >You let out another little chuckle.
  4035. "I'm just happy I didn't spill anything."
  4036. >Silver raises an eyebrow.
  4037. "What? I play soccer, not football. I'm not good with my hands."
  4038. >"Well... I wouldn't say *that*."
  4039. >You're not sure which of you blushes first.
  4040. >"Sorry," Silver mumbles, her head dropping like a puppet with its strings cut. "That was -"
  4041. "Coffee or tea?"
  4042. >Her head shoots back up.
  4043. >"What?"
  4044. "Coffee or tea? I wasn't sure which you'd prefer, so I got one of each."
  4045. >"Tea, please."
  4046. >She reaches out to accept the cup with a smile.
  4047. >"But why didn't you just call me?"
  4048. >Shit.
  4049. "I *really* did not think this through."
  4050. >"Don't worry about it," Silver laughs. "Tonight has been great."
  4051. >Might just be you're still on edge from your little scare, but her giggling sounds forced and nervous.
  4052. "Really?"
  4053. >"Uh-huh."
  4054. >Her smile reminds you far too much of Blossom's: fake and hollow.
  4055. >It hurts to see her like this, trying so hard to pretend everything is okay.
  4056. "Silver, did something happen while I was in there?"
  4057. >Her laughter cuts off immediately.
  4058. "Silver?"
  4059. >Your girlfriend sighs and lifts her tea to her lips.
  4060. >She's stalling, clearly nothing more, but you don't press the issue. Yet.
  4061. "Here, hold this for me, will you?"
  4062. >Silver gladly takes your cup - and the change of topic - allowing you to get in your side without making a mess.
  4063. "Thanks, I probably would have spilled that everywhere."
  4064. >"You're not that clumsy," she responds with a smirk, passing the cup back to you once you're settled in your seat.
  4065. "So..."
  4066. >She lets out another sigh.
  4067. >"Someone saw me."
  4068. "And?"
  4069. >"Your car... it's not exactly nondescript. And - and -"
  4070. "Who?"
  4071. >"That girl."
  4072. "That's not exactly -"
  4073. >"The one everyone was talking about."
  4074. >Ah.
  4075. "She has a name, you know."
  4076. >"I know," Silver answers quickly. "I just don't want to say it. I don't want to think about it. I just want to pretend this morning never happened and -"
  4077. >Her panic builds as she speaks, until her words are jammed together and hard to understand.
  4078. >" - I don't want to worry about this, I just want to -"
  4079. >You brush your hand against Silver's cheek.
  4080. "I'll talk to her."
  4081. >"Now?"
  4082. "No. Now if for you."
  4083. >You place both books in her lap.
  4084. "Hold on to these while I drive."
  4085. >You throw your car into reverse and back out to the sound of Silver giggling nerviously.
  4086. >"I can't believe you got it," she murmurs happily as she looks at the books. "And the other...? Oh! I like this one."
  4087. "It's for you."
  4088. >"Soarin, you didn't have to. Go back. We can return it."
  4089. "You already have it?"
  4090. >"Well... yes, but -"
  4091. "That's fine. I didn't buy it for you, I bought it for me."
  4092. >"But -"
  4093. "But you can borrow it for tonight."
  4094. >"I... uh..."
  4095. >Silver hugs the books tight to her chest, her cup still clutched in one hand.
  4096. >"I'm okay with this."
  4097. >She looks like she wants to nuzzle them or something, more like an excited child with a new puppy than anything else.
  4098. "Good, because - shit!"
  4099. >Silver lets out an excited squeek as you turn a corner sharper than you had intended.
  4100. >"Careful," she chides a moment later, though with a grin on her face. "I almost spilled my tea all over."
  4101. "Sorry, got a little distracted for a moment."
  4102. >"By what?"
  4103. "How adorable you are."
  4104. >"Stop it," Silver giggles.
  4105. "Really?"
  4106. >"No. Never stop."
  4107. "Good. I don't think I could even if I wanted to."
  4108.  
  4109. >Silver eyes the park bench warily.
  4110. >It's not exactly clean. None of them have been.
  4111. >Clean enough by your normal standards, but tonight isn't normal.
  4112. >She's obviously worried about messing up her dress, just as you are your rented suit.
  4113. >At least this one has a lamp right behind it.
  4114. >"Shall we -"
  4115. >You sit down.
  4116. "I think we've walked long enough, Silver."
  4117. >"But -"
  4118. >She lets out a tiny shriek as you grab her waist and pull her onto your lap.
  4119. "There. That'll keep your dress clean, won't it?"
  4120. >"Mhm."
  4121. >Silver leans back against your chest.
  4122. >"Want your book now?"
  4123. "Yeah."
  4124.  
  4125. **** Chapter 8 ****
  4126.  
  4127. >You are Silver Spoon and you had spent an hour, maybe two, snuggled up to Soarin on that bench last night.
  4128. >He had kept his arm around your waist the whole time, holding his book and flipping the pages one-handed.
  4129. >Every bent page or crease on the spine made you cringe, but not enough to let him free his other hand.
  4130. >You hadn't wanted to leave.
  4131. >You certainly hadn't wanted him to take you back to your home, or take the long walk up the drive so that he wouldn't have to drop you off too close.
  4132. >Soarin hadn't wanted to either.
  4133. >He had asked if you wanted to stay at his place.
  4134. >You did.
  4135. >You wish you had.
  4136.  
  4137. >You are Soarin and as you force yourself out of bed you have to admit to that Silver had a point.
  4138. >It's hard enough getting up in the mornings even when she isn't snuggled up to you.
  4139. >Besides, you don't have anything here that would fit her and she couldn't have gone to school wearing the outfit she had worn last night, and she can't afford to miss any more classes.
  4140. >Diamond Tiara can't cover for her forever.
  4141. >With a groan, you roll out of your bed and begin fishing around for some clean - or clean *enough* clothes for yourself.
  4142. >No time to waste.
  4143. >Today is going to be a busy day.
  4144.  
  4145. >You are Diamond Tiara and you are checking your phone for something like the twentieth time.
  4146. >Still nothing.
  4147. >Ungrateful assholes.
  4148. >You sling your backpack over your shoulder and tromp loudly down the stairs, drawing a nasty glare from your mother.
  4149. >Great, she's home.
  4150. >"Do you always have to be so loud?"
  4151. "No."
  4152. >She stares a moment longer before her mouth curls into a disgusted sneer.
  4153. "What?"
  4154. >"Go back upstairs and put on something with long sleeves," she snaps back. "Cover up those bruises. I swear, the last thing I need is someone wondering if I beat you."
  4155. "Don't you even..."
  4156. >There's no point. Her attention has already drifted back to the morning news.
  4157. >With a sigh, you turn around and head back upstairs.
  4158.  
  4159. >You are Soarin and you finally found her.
  4160. "Hey, Spitfire!"
  4161. >The girl looks up from her locker with a grin.
  4162. >"Hey, faggot."
  4163. >She takes a swing at your arm - and drops half her books in the process.
  4164. >*And* misses.
  4165. >You raise an eyebrow.
  4166. >"I meant to do that."
  4167. "Then you're an idiot."
  4168. >"Yeah, probably, but at least I'm not fucking -"
  4169. >She takes your punch like a champ.
  4170. >Hell, she does better than that.
  4171. >Spitfire takes it with a fucking *smile*.
  4172. >" - weak as a pussy-assed bitch."
  4173. "You were going to say something else, weren't you?"
  4174. >"Maybe, but you're too much of a pussy to hear it."
  4175. "I'll hit you again."
  4176. >"I still won't feel it. Pussy."
  4177. "Woman. I will beat you like you were my wife."
  4178. >She throws her hands up in surrender, dropping the few books that hadn't fallen already.
  4179. >"Fine, fine. Shit, if you're going to pull that card, I'm worried about how you're treating your little girl-"
  4180. >Spitfire doesn't flinch as you raise your hand again.
  4181. "You're intentionally fucking with me, aren't you?"
  4182. >"What gave it away?"
  4183. "You missed."
  4184. >She laughs as your fist connects with her arm.
  4185. "So about my spot on the team -"
  4186. >"We tried to fill it," Spitfire cuts in, "but we couldn't find anyone who was a big enough pussy to take your place."
  4187. "Not surprised, considering the two biggest cunts I know are already on the team."
  4188. >"Don't talk about Rainbow Dash and Cloudy Kicks that way."
  4189. "Oh, right. Sorry. Three biggest cunts I know."
  4190. >She mocks outrage - poorly - for a second, then shrugs and kneels down to collect her spilled textbooks.
  4191. >"Fair enough," she mumbles, trying - and failing - to hide her smile.
  4192. >It's almost embarrassing seeing her like this.
  4193. >Dudes aren't supposed to let other dudes know they have emotions, and she's fucked enough girls to count as an honorary bro.
  4194. >You sigh and rub the back of your neck.
  4195. "So how about it, Spitfire?"
  4196. >"Are you going to cause any trouble for the team?" she asks as she straightens, arms full with textbooks.
  4197. >Reminds you of Silver and how she was clutching those two novels to her chest last night.
  4198. "No. Nothing will go wrong."
  4199. >"You swear?"
  4200. "Yeah."
  4201. >Spitfire looks around cautiously and edges closer.
  4202. >"What happened?" she whispers. "Did you two break up over that shit yesterday or something?"
  4203. "No. The opposite."
  4204. >"Huh?"
  4205. "Silver made me promise to rejoin the team."
  4206. >"Why? And how is that 'the opposite'? Dude, you're not making any sense."
  4207. "There are a lot of reasons. One of which is -"
  4208. >You hold up your right hand.
  4209. "- I gotta win me a new ring."
  4210. >Spitfire's eyes narrow.
  4211. >"Waaaaait..."
  4212. >She slaps her palm against her face.
  4213. "Yeah."
  4214. >"Shit."
  4215.  
  4216. >You are Diamond Tiara and you're caught off guard by the sudden hug.
  4217. "What the hell, Sil!?"
  4218. >She responds by hugging you even tighter.
  4219. "Seriously, what the -"
  4220. >"Thank you!"
  4221. >Finally.
  4222. "For what?"
  4223. >You know for what, but you still want her to say it.
  4224. >Everyone's entitled to a little appreciation from time to time, right?
  4225. >"For last night," Silver answers, laying her head on your shoulder with a happy sigh. "I know you helped him, so thank you."
  4226. "Yeah, well..."
  4227. >She purrs as you return her hug.
  4228. >"Thankyouthankyouthankyou."
  4229. "Alright, enough."
  4230. >You push Silver - not hard enough to *actually* push her away, but she takes the hint.
  4231. >And hugs you tighter.
  4232. >You don't want her to let go.
  4233. >Silver nuzzles your cheek and the scent of her hair fills your nose, bland and sweet, yet fragrant.
  4234. >The smell you wish you could wake up to every morning.
  4235. "You didn't stay at his place?"
  4236. >The smell is too strong for anything else. She had washed her hair this morning using her regular shampoo.
  4237. >"No."
  4238. "I knew he'd fuck it up."
  4239. >"No, he didn't," Silver giggles, slipping her right arm from around you and raising her hand for you to see the plain silver band on her middle finger.
  4240. "He fucked it up."
  4241. >"No -"
  4242. "Fuck him. Getting the wrong size I could *almost* understand, but something *that* cheap? After everything that happened, he should at least have gotten -"
  4243. >"Di, it's not like that. It's... it's..."
  4244. >At a loss for words, she turns her hand, flashing the palm at you for a fraction of a second. Just long enough to see a glimpse of blue and yellow.
  4245. >"I'm wearing it backwards, Di."
  4246. "Why?"
  4247. >"Because that part is just for me."
  4248. >Silver seems happy enough, but that doesn't mean anything. She would be happy if Soarin spit in her face. Anything really, so long as he was paying attention to her.
  4249. >That's all that matters.
  4250. >It used to be *you*.
  4251. >Silver took every bit of your abuse with a *smile* and asked for more.
  4252. "Fine, if you're satisfied with it..."
  4253. >She deserves better. A better ring. A better boyfriend.
  4254. >"Mhm!"
  4255. >But Soarin is trying to be better.
  4256. "I guess he didn't screw everything up after all."
  4257. >You've never tried to be a better friend, have you?
  4258. >"No," Silver responds, hugging you tight again. "Thanks to you, Di."
  4259. >You hope she never lets go, but she will. Because of him. Because you let him take over her life.
  4260. "Yeah..."
  4261. >"It's all thanks to you."
  4262. >This is all your fault. You didn't just let Soarin take Silver away, you *gave* her away.
  4263. >You try to ignore the other students filling the hall, the sound of lockers slamming shut, of shoes scuffing against the tiled floor.
  4264. >Try to pretend it's just you and Silver.
  4265. >That your arms don't ache.
  4266. >A bitter laugh echoes in your ears.
  4267. >If Silver hadn't stiffened immediatly, you would have thought it was in your head.
  4268. >You bury your face in her hair to stiffle the sound.
  4269. >It doesn't work.
  4270. >You're not the one laughing.
  4271. >"Stupid dykes," the voice chuckles. "Are you going to do each other right here? Because I'd love to -"
  4272. >You wish you still at home.
  4273. >"Fuck off, Button Mash," Silver snarls back, lifting her head off your shoulder. "Seriously, no one likes you. Everyone would be happier if you just didn't exist, so go away."
  4274. >Just the two of you.
  4275. >"Why? Worried you won't be able to control yourself if I'm around? No, go ahead, you can give in and blow me. I won't mind."
  4276. >"Walk away."
  4277. >Curled up in bed.
  4278. >"Wha-"
  4279. >"No, don't walk," Silver corrects, squeezing you so tight it hurts. "Run. Before I buy that stupid arcade you like so much."
  4280. >"Huh?"
  4281. >"I'm happy right now and if you take that away, I will get it back. One way or another."
  4282. >"Like what?"
  4283. >"How about a lifetime ban? That would cheer me up a little. Di, what do you think? Should I -"
  4284. >He runs.
  4285. >You look up in surprise, trying to figure out who the person holding you really is.
  4286. >"What?" Silver giggles, seeing the undisguised shock in your expression. "I don't have to put up with a spoiled little shit like him."
  4287. >She stares down the hallway for a second, before returning her eyes to you.
  4288. >"I don't think he'll bother us again."
  4289. "That was..."
  4290. >"Was I overreacting?" Silver asks. "I just said what I thought you would, but..."
  4291. >She bites her lip, waiting for you to finish the thought for her.
  4292. "I just didn't think you had it in you."
  4293. >Your friend smiles and gives you a tight squeeze before relinquishing her hold on you.
  4294. >"I'm happy," Silver responds quietly. "For the first time in my life, I think I know what true happiness is. I won't allow anything to even *try* to take that away from me."
  4295.  
  4296. >You are Soarin and you give Spitfire a nod.
  4297. >Her grin makes you shudder.
  4298. >"I could stand to work out a little aggression," she rumbles as she stretches her arms, "and it's not like hitting you will do any good."
  4299. >But she does it anyway.
  4300. "Ow."
  4301. >"You're never going to learn, are you?"
  4302. "Probably not. After all, I'm still friends with you."
  4303. >"Yeah, you are such an idiot," Spitfire chuckles as she walks away. "See you at practice, Soarin."
  4304. >With a wave, she disappears into the crowd of other students.
  4305.  
  4306. >Classes pass by in a vague blur.
  4307. >You go to them and try to pay attention, but nothing seems to stick in your mind.
  4308. >At some point someone chews you out for skipping class yesterday, but when you think back you can't put a name or face to it.
  4309. >It all feels superficial, like none of it matters.
  4310. >You're back on the team. You have a fiance. You're happy.
  4311. >What more do you need?
  4312. >You let out a sigh and lean back in your chair.
  4313. >"Am I boring you, Soarin?" the teacher snaps at you, mid-lecture. "And don't tell me you don't need to know this stuff, because you'll need if you ever expect to get a job!"
  4314. >Except you don't need a job.
  4315. >You hate yourself for thinking it, but it's true - you don't just have a fiance, you have a *rich* fiance.
  4316. >But you don't say that.
  4317. "Nah, Mr. Doodle, I just didn't sleep well or something."
  4318. >He harrumphs like the old man he is and turns back to the blackboard.
  4319. >You try to pay more attention after that, though without much success.
  4320. >After all, what more do you need in life?
  4321. >An empty seat in the next classroom answers that question.
  4322. >You need to talk to Blossom.
  4323. >She never shows up.
  4324. >It can wait.
  4325. >You have a promise to fulfill.
  4326.  
  4327. >"Heya," Wave Chill greets you as you head into the locker room. "Welcome back."
  4328. >He nods your way before turning to his locker.
  4329. "Thanks, bro. Good to be back. But, uh..."
  4330. >You trail away as the other boy takes *off* his jersey.
  4331. "What's up?"
  4332. >"Huh?" he grunts. "Oh, right. Yeah. Practice is canceled for today. You're lucky, man, I got dressed and out there before I found out."
  4333. >Wave's grin is obscured by his shirt for a moment as he pulls it on over his head.
  4334. >"Not the best first day back, dude. If I was superstitious, I'd think you're bad luck or something."
  4335. "What happened?"
  4336. >"Spitfire got hauled in to Principle Celestia's office," he answers as he finishes dressing. "I guess some idiot thought it was a good idea to mouth off about lesbians in front of her and... well... you know the captain."
  4337. "Shiiiiit."
  4338. >He laughs as you slap your palm into your face.
  4339. >"Yeah man, and we got like half the team camping outside the office to protest whatever, so yeah. Canceled."
  4340. >Wave shoulders his backpack with a grunt.
  4341. >"Don't worry, I know it's not *really* your fault -"
  4342. "Sorry, bro, that *is* my fault. I... uh... yeah. Told her to go for it."
  4343. >"Meh."
  4344. >He slaps a hand on your shoulder as he walks past.
  4345. >"She would have done it whatever you said."
  4346. >Would she?
  4347. >Yeah, she probably would have.
  4348. >It's not your fault.
  4349. >"Besides, it's nice to have a day where Dash isn't trying kneecap me or kick my nuts off. See you tomorrow?"
  4350. "Yeah, bro. See you tomorrow."
  4351. >It's really not your fault. You aren't bad luck.
  4352. >Just a coincidence.
  4353. >Yeah.
  4354. >You're still trying to dismiss the thought when you swing by the empty practice field.
  4355. >It stands abandoned, totally empty. No one even kicking a ball around for fun or killing time in the bleachers. Not even the neighboring gymnastics equipment is in use.
  4356. >Shit. You had hoped this would be easy.
  4357. >There was no chance of that, but you were still hoping.
  4358. >The girls are simple enough to find. They're in their usual practice spot in the auxiliary gym, but no Blossom.
  4359. >You duck back out before anyone notices you.
  4360.  
  4361. >You are Silver Spoon and you can't stay focused on your book.
  4362. >With a sigh, you let it go.
  4363. >The book teeters for a moment, trying valiantly to stand upright on the table, before giving in to gravity and falling over.
  4364. >You raise your head from the table and check the clock on the far wall - it's something to something.
  4365. >Glasses. Right.
  4366. >You had taken them off.
  4367. >Tables and glasses don't mix, not when you're laying your head on the former and the latter is pushed askew.
  4368. >You slip them back on and try reading the time again.
  4369. >It goes about as well as the last half-hour of "reading" has gone, which is to say stare at the clock until you decide he should probably be at practice now.
  4370. >Hopefully.
  4371. >It might have been more than half an hour. Your brain can't seem to make heads or tails of the clock right now, but it feels like it's been forever.
  4372. >No one is going to show up for your stupid little book club. No one ever does.
  4373. >And if you're not going to get any reading done...
  4374. >You push yourself out of your seat.
  4375. >Might as well watch him play.
  4376. >No one will know you're there just for him.
  4377. >You walk out of the library, practically sprinting past Miss Cheerilee's desk.
  4378. >It's just too awkward around her, and you're pretty sure she feels the same from the way she averts her eyes and doesn't say a thing about you running.
  4379. >... or anything at all.
  4380. >Not even a greeting when you came in.
  4381. >Of course, you hadn't waved either, just speedwalked past her and the impossibly huge boy she had been talking to.
  4382. >Maybe things will be back to normal with her eventually. One day. Probably long after you graduate.
  4383. >From college.
  4384. >With your masters.
  4385. >But for now, awkward silence is the best you can hope for.
  4386. >It doesn't bother you at all as you slam open the library doors and break into a jog.
  4387. >That pace doesn't last long. Before you're halfway down the hall, a teacher pokes her head out of her classroom and glares.
  4388. >You take the rest of the way at a more appropriate gait.
  4389.  
  4390. >You find the practice field empty.
  4391. >No Soarin or any of the other members of the team.
  4392. >Just close-cropped grass swaying in the soft breeze.
  4393. >"Hey. Up here."
  4394. >You look around before finally finding - and joining - your boyfriend in the bleachers.
  4395. "No practice?"
  4396. >"No practice," he sighs.
  4397. "But you talked to her, right...?"
  4398. >"Blossom?"
  4399. >You shudder at the name.
  4400. "No. Spitfire. But..."
  4401. >"Yeah, I talked to her. It's official, I'm back on the team."
  4402. >He chuckles and rubs the back of his neck.
  4403. >"Actually, I never officially quit, I guess. But practice was canceled today because of... uh... reasons."
  4404. "And... the other girl?"
  4405. >"I'm about to," he answers with a frown. "Just trying to figure out what to say."
  4406. >He pauses and looks at you in a way you're suddenly uncomfortable with.
  4407. >"Want to come with me?"
  4408. "What? Where?"
  4409. >"To her place."
  4410. >Soarin answers your disbelief with a shrug.
  4411. >"Yeah... great idea. What could possibly go wrong?"
  4412. >He locks his hands behind his head and leans against the backrest to stare up at the sky.
  4413. >"Nevermind."
  4414. "Couldn't you just... you know... *call* her?"
  4415. >"I tried, but she's not picking up," he sighs. "She didn't come to school today either."
  4416. "Oh."
  4417. >"I'll swing by her place on my way home, I guess."
  4418. "What are you going to tell her...?"
  4419. >"I'm still trying to figure that out, but it really depends."
  4420. "On?"
  4421. >Soarin's chest rises and falls four times before he lets out a long sigh and sits up.
  4422. >"Do you just want her to keep quiet..."
  4423. >He pauses, his brow furrowed.
  4424. "Or?"
  4425. >" ...or... do you want her to understand?"
  4426. >You don't know what you were expecting, but it wasn't that.
  4427. "... don't know."
  4428. >"Neither do I," Soarin grins. "Even though we've only hung out a few times, I like to think she's a friend and I want her to understand. Just don't know if she will. She's said a few things that make me worry."
  4429. >He lets out another sigh and leans forward, resting his forearms on his knees.
  4430. >"I'd like to tell her. Don't know about you, but this is starting to getting hard for me. It would be nice to have someone I didn't have to hide it from besides Spitfire."
  4431. "Spitfire?"
  4432. >You didn't mean to say anything, it just caught you by surprise.
  4433. >"Yeah," Soarin grunts. "She knows. She's known since always. Really. She knew before I met you and Diamond under here."
  4434. >He raps his hand on the bleacher bench.
  4435. "Oh..."
  4436. >"Sorry."
  4437. "No, it's... fine."
  4438. >It almost is.
  4439. >No, it is.
  4440. >He trusts her. Besides...
  4441. "You have her and I have Di. Really, Soarin, it's fine."
  4442. >He waits, like he's expecting you to change your mind. Or for your facade to crack.
  4443. "It's fine."
  4444. >It is. You won't let it not be.
  4445. >Not this soon.
  4446. >Not another argument right now.
  4447. >You couldn't take it.
  4448. >"So, yeah," Soarin continues after a moment that lasts forever, "It's getting harder to hide this. I mean, we're sitting together up here where anyone could see us."
  4449. >He's right.
  4450. >He's always right.
  4451. >You grab your bag and start to rise, but his arm is around your shoulder before you can.
  4452. >"Don't. No one's around."
  4453. "But -"
  4454. >"Everyone's gone home or in their clubs right now. We have at least fifteen minutes before anyone will come through here and, well, that means there's no one to see if you get into my car."
  4455. >He pulls you tight against his side with a worried sigh.
  4456. >"I would like to tell Blossom everything. I just don't know how to explain it. That's why I asked if you wanted to come with me. Maybe you'll know what to say? Maybe seeing us together...? I don't know. Maybe. That's all I can think.
  4457. >"That and... I don't know if I should trust you to trust me alone with her."
  4458. >He should.
  4459. >He can't.
  4460. >You know why he can't.
  4461. "I... I can!"
  4462. >You hold out your hand, flashing his - your - ring.
  4463. "I have this!"
  4464. >You squeeze your hand shut and the edges of the ring dig into your palm.
  4465. >Not quite painful, but close enough.
  4466. >"I'd still feel better if you were with me," Soarin murmurs, squeezing your shoulder. "I know it's stupid, but it's how I feel."
  4467. >You're pretty sure you've said the exact same thing at least once in the past few days.
  4468. "It's not stupid."
  4469. >Not when it's him.
  4470. >"Sure it is," he mumbles as lay your head on his shoulder. "Besides, you couldn't come with me anyway."
  4471. "Why not?"
  4472. >"Because your dad is picking you up, right? What time is he going to be here?"
  4473.  
  4474. >You are Soarin and you can worry about Blossom later.
  4475. >Time with your girlfriend is short. Best make the most of it.
  4476. >"He's not," Silver answers. "I'm supposed to go home with Di."
  4477. "Oh?"
  4478. >Impossible things suddenly become possible.
  4479. >"She asked if I wanted to come over today, and I called and it's fine with him, so..."
  4480. >You rest your head on hers.
  4481. "Well, shit. That complicates things."
  4482. >"What!? Why!?"
  4483. "Because taking you with me to talk to Blossom just became a real option."
  4484. >"So did taking me to your place," Silver whispers. "You don't have to see her at all."
  4485. "We need to. Well, I need to."
  4486. >"I know."
  4487. "And the sooner, the better."
  4488. >"I know."
  4489. "One person saw me at her place, just one, and you know how that turned out."
  4490. >"I know, Soarin," she whimpers. "Let's go."
  4491. "Where?"
  4492. >"To talk to her."
  4493.  
  4494. >You are Diamond Tiara and - somehow - you aren't surprised.
  4495. >Really not.
  4496. >Should have seen this coming.
  4497. >You text back a short message. Just a few words blandly wishing her luck.
  4498. >It's fine.
  4499. >Really.
  4500. >You didn't need her anyway.
  4501.  
  4502. >You are Silver Spoon and you are regretting your choices.
  4503. >Not all of them, just the ones leading to you being in Soarin's car right now. Specifically the ones that led to you being in his car as he pulls into that girl's driveway.
  4504. >He wants you here and Di seems to think it's a good idea, so why do your legs tremble as you get out of the car?
  4505. >"You can leave your backpack."
  4506. "O-oh, right."
  4507. >You're not spending the night or anything.
  4508. "Just reflex, I guess."
  4509. >You let it fall back to the floorboards with a giggle.
  4510. "Too nervous to think about it."
  4511. >You shut the door - and stop when you realize you're standing alone.
  4512. >Soarin is still in the car, just as lost in thought as you were.
  4513. >He drums his fingers along the rim of the steering wheel - a quick four-beat rhythm he repeats several times before getting out.
  4514. >"Silver..."
  4515. "Hmm?"
  4516. >"You don't have to do this," he says as he walks towards the house.
  4517. "Neither do you."
  4518. >You jump forward a few steps to catch up with him.
  4519. >"That's a lie and you know it."
  4520. >His hand finds yours as the pair of you reach the porch.
  4521. "I do."
  4522. >You squeeze his hand.
  4523. "... but... I was willing to pretend."
  4524. >"I think you've done that enough," Soarin says softly as you step up onto the porch.
  4525. >He doesn't follow you.
  4526. >The extra six inches brings you closer to his height, close enough that when he spins you around and embraces you, his head isn't resting on yours.
  4527. >"Sure about doing this?"
  4528. >You can feel the rush of his voice in your ear, running down your neck.
  4529. "I'm not."
  4530. >He relaxes as you hug him back, his arms only loosely trapping you in the prison of his warmth.
  4531. "But neither are you."
  4532. >"No," he sighs. "We can -"
  4533. >You slip free and ring the doorbell before he can finish that thought.
  4534. >It would be too tempting.
  4535. >"- we can leave," Soarin continues. "I can come back later. Alone."
  4536. >Alone.
  4537. >You wish so much you could be alone with him right now.
  4538. >Soarin reaches for you again, his hand closing around yours possessively, his fingers slipping between yours seductively.
  4539. >You nearly melt.
  4540. >It's impossible not to give in, to leave, to go to his place - or anywhere. Anywhere but here. Anywhere you can be alone.
  4541. >Anywhere you can feel the warmth of his body against yours.
  4542. >Anywhere you can be *his*.
  4543. >Without worry, without fear.
  4544. >Without thought to the future.
  4545. >You can hide this relationship, forever if need be.
  4546. >He can keep her quiet.
  4547. >No one else ever has to find out.
  4548. >You just have to be careful.
  4549. >Staying away from crowded places isn't enough to avoid chance encounters.
  4550. >No, stay at home. At *his* home.
  4551. >Certainly not your own.
  4552. >Stay at his home.
  4553. >When his parents aren't around.
  4554. >It's what you want to do anyway.
  4555. >You never have to go out.
  4556. >You never have to take a walk in a park with him.
  4557. >You never have to go shopping with him.
  4558. >You never have to go out to dinner with him.
  4559. >You can stay at his place.
  4560. >Alone with him.
  4561. >No one will ever find out if you never have go out.
  4562. >You can do this.
  4563. >Just being with him is enough.
  4564. >You never have to go out.
  4565. >You can be satisfied.
  4566. >With him.
  4567. >Alone.
  4568. >Just him.
  4569. >Never going out.
  4570. >Never being seen.
  4571. >Never letting others know.
  4572. >Never leaving.
  4573. >Never having to choose where to go, where to eat, where to shop.
  4574. >Trapped in yet another prison, albeit one of your own making.
  4575. >One you chose, not like your parents.
  4576. >Not like your friend.
  4577. >You can give up your freedom, what little you have, to be with him.
  4578. >You *can*.
  4579. >You won't.
  4580. >It's stupid.
  4581. >You know it's stupid, but you want it anyway.
  4582. >You want both.
  4583. >You're greedy and selfish, but it's what you want.
  4584. "I want to stop hiding. I want us to be able to go wherever we want, when we want, so let me pretend a little longer, Soarin.
  4585. "Please, let me pretend to be brave."
  4586. >You can't do this.
  4587. >You *know* you can't.
  4588. "Please."
  4589. >You can't believe in yourself. After fourteen years, you know yourself well enough to know that... but him? You can believe in him.
  4590. >And if he thinks you can...
  4591. >Soarin lets out a sigh and steps up beside you.
  4592. >"Take a deep breath," he whispers, "and calm down."
  4593. >... then maybe you can pretend.
  4594. >Maybe you can get through this.
  4595. >Together.
  4596. >You breathe in, taking in as much as you can.
  4597. >"Now let it out. Slowly."
  4598. >Soarin squeezes your hand as you let the air trickle out.
  4599. >The door opens before the last of it has escaped.
  4600. >She looks out from the narrow gap.
  4601. >Her hollow eyes drop first, to where your hand meets his.
  4602. >There might be a slight smile on her face as her head droops, but her wild hair falls forward, obscuring the view before you can be sure, *if* you ever could be.
  4603. >Your heart is still racing and your vision narrowed.
  4604. >If you couldn't feel him, you wouldn't even be sure that Soarin was still standing beside you.
  4605. >With a weary nod, the girl turns and walks away without a word, leaving Soarin to push the door aside and follow, dragging you forward.
  4606. >"Still not sleeping well?" he calls out to her, pausing in the entry until you've caught up.
  4607. >She shakes her head before stumbling into the living room.
  4608. >Soarin lets out a low growl, more a sigh but for the rumble that shakes your soul.
  4609. >You move to follow her, but Soarin stops you.
  4610. >"One sec."
  4611. >He shuts the door and locks it, even sets the deadbolt, but still does not lead you forwards.
  4612. >"This is why I came over here, Silver," Soarin explains quietly. "She needed help. Still does."
  4613. "Why?"
  4614. >He shakes his head.
  4615. >"I can't say," he says, bringing his hand up to cradle your face. "I don't think she wants anyone to know. That's up to her to decide."
  4616. "Like... us...?"
  4617. >"Yeah."
  4618. "I... I understand."
  4619. >You nod once, the movement dragging the rough tips of his thumb across your cheek.
  4620. "I won't mention it."
  4621. >"Thanks. I think it would be good for her to get it out, but..."
  4622. "But it's her choice."
  4623. >His head dips until his forhead is pressed against yours.
  4624. >"Thanks."
  4625. >Soarin's hand comes around until it's pressing on the base of your neck, tipping your head back.
  4626. >His lips meet yours for a brief moment, but even when he pulls away, he holds you there, locked in place, tighter than he had before. Tight enough you can't escape, not that you want to.
  4627. >Not now, when he's holding you tight enough to remind you that you are his.
  4628. >*You*.
  4629. >Not her.
  4630. >Not Blossomforth.
  4631. >The welcome reminder brings a smile to your face, one that is echoed a heartbeat later in his.
  4632. >"Any idea what to say?"
  4633. "Not a clue."
  4634. >"I guess we'll just have to wing it."
  4635. >Blossomforth barely raises her head when you walk into the room.
  4636. >If it weren't for the effort, you would have thought her asleep from the way she was curled in her chair, a blanket thrown over herself.
  4637. >She makes another effort when Soarin pulls you down into the adjacent sofa, but it's only on the third that she can meet your eyes.
  4638. >There's a warmth there you hadn't expected, but it dies away in mere moments.
  4639. >"Sorry," the girl groans. "I know m'being a shitty host, but... uh... if you need anything to drink..."
  4640. >A hand snakes free of her cocoon to gesture towards a hallway.
  4641. >"Y'know where, Soarin. Feel free."
  4642. >Her head falls back down to the arm of the chair.
  4643. >"Thanks, but..."
  4644. >Soarin looks over, but you shake your head.
  4645. "We're fine."
  4646. >"Kay," the girl grunts as she shifts back and forth, trying to get comfortable again. "So, why're you here? Somehow, don't think you're just comin' by t'check on me."
  4647. >You wait for Soarin to start talking, until you just can't any longer.
  4648. >Unbidden words bubble up, bursting out of your mouth without thought.
  4649. "We decided we had to -"
  4650. >Soarin puts a finger to your lips.
  4651. >"Wait," he murmurs. "Blossom, what time are your parents going to be home?"
  4652. >"Dunno. Late. Both working mid shifts..."
  4653. >Her head dips forward suddenly, coming up only with visible effort.
  4654. >"Affer dark," she yawns. "Plenny time to talk, so -"
  4655. >"Blossom, go to sleep," Soarin says gently. "We'll watch over you."
  4656. >"Dunno," she responds hesitantly. "Can I trust you anymore?"
  4657. >"Only you know the answer to that."
  4658. >Blossomforth nods slowly, her eyes closed. You don't know if she's agreeing or saying that she does trust Soarin.
  4659. >It doesn't matter much.
  4660. >The fourth time her head dips forward, it's not a conscious gesture; she's already asleep.
  4661. >A minute passes, then another.
  4662. "What now?"
  4663. >Your voice is low - barely audible, really - not because you're worried about waking the other girl, but simply because you are at a complete loss.
  4664. >Should you be angry?
  4665. >Happy?
  4666. >Jealous?
  4667. >You're effectively alone with Soarin, but...
  4668. >You don't know. You just don't know.
  4669. "Soarin."
  4670. >You squeeze his hand to get his attention.
  4671. "What do we do *now*?"
  4672. >"We wait," he says, tacking on a weary sigh at the end. "I said we'd watch over her, so what else can we do?"
  4673. >You shake your head, hoping he'll... you don't know what you're hoping for, just that you know you can't sit here without doing anything.
  4674. >An idle mind wanders in dark places.
  4675. >You know how you'll feel if you let yourself dwell on what just happened, and you know you don't want to feel that way. You don't want to feel helpless and hopeless and worthless, to feel jealousy and despair gnawing at your heart.
  4676. >You can't take it.
  4677. >You refuse to. You won't let *anything* take away your happiness, even yourself.
  4678. "Soarin?"
  4679. >"Hmm?"
  4680. "I'm going to get something out of the car."
  4681. >You pull your hand from his and reach into his pocket.
  4682. >It's more awkward than you thought it would be, but you don't give up.
  4683. >Not until he pulls his keys from his other pocket and holds them out to you with a chuckle.
  4684. "Oh."
  4685. >"Keys go in the left pocket," he says, smiling. "Wallet in the right."
  4686. "Sorry."
  4687. >"Don't be."
  4688. >Once you've pulled your hand free - and *that* takes long enough that you start to wonder if Soarin is purposefully making it hard on you - he leans over and gives you a quick peck.
  4689. >"Make sure you lock the door when you come back in."
  4690. "Don't worry, I'll lock your car up."
  4691. >You stick out your tongue at Soarin, but he shakes his head.
  4692. >"Front door," he corrects you. "It makes Blossom feel safer."
  4693. >He looks back to the other girl with pity and sadness.
  4694. "What happened...?"
  4695. >"I can't say."
  4696. >You don't push him. You hadn't even expected an answer, hadn't even really been asking him so much as wondering to yourself.
  4697. >Whatever it was, it must make your problems look pathetic in comparison.
  4698. >Not enough to make you *not* feel jealous about every spec of attention Soarin gives her, but enough to feel *somewhat* guilty about feeling that way.
  4699. "I'll be right back, Soarin."
  4700.  
  4701. >Your book is right where you left it, tucked into the top of your backpack.
  4702. >His is harder to find - for a minute you start to worry that he didn't bring it.
  4703. >He told you he doesn't read much, so you're starting to worry that he had left it at home when you finally find it - after emptying his entire backpack onto the backseat.
  4704. >Still the one he was reading last night, and from the dogeared pages he hasn't gotten much further.
  4705. >The sight makes you shudder.
  4706. >You'll have to buy him a bookmark, because there is no way you're lending him any of your books if he doesn't lose that filthy habit.
  4707. >Assuming he actually wants to borrow any. Assuming he's not just reading it to humor you. Assuming... assuming many things.
  4708. >You sigh and begin stuffing textbooks and loose papers into Soarin's backpack, not in any kind of orderly manner.
  4709. >If he likes his things being a disorganized mess, that's how he can have them.
  4710. >Things may even be a bit messier than when you started. Well, if that's how he likes it...
  4711. >You're just picking up the last stray pencil when you sigh again and let it fall back to the floorboards, quickly followed by the rest of the bag's contents.
  4712. >Such pettiness is unbecoming.
  4713. >You are better than this.
  4714. >With more care, you begin again, straightening out crumpled papers and putting pencils and pens in their separate compartments.
  4715.  
  4716. >Soarin is nervously eyeing you when you return.
  4717. "I locked the door."
  4718. >"I heard," he responds quickly. "What took so long?"
  4719. >You tell yourself that's concern and not irritation you hear in his voice.
  4720. "I just needed a moment, Soarin."
  4721. >You sink down beside him, nesting yourself in his arm.
  4722. >"I was starting to worry."
  4723. "Sorry."
  4724. >You snuggle closer, until you finally give up and pull his arm around your waist. Nothing else felt right.
  4725. >"Finally comfortable?" he asks with a chuckle once your squirming stops.
  4726. "Mhm."
  4727. >"So..."
  4728. "Let's read, Soarin. I brought your book."
  4729. >"Ah. Well, that explains why you were gone so long."
  4730. "No..."
  4731. >You pass him the battered novel - and almost immediately regret it as he cracks it open and sharply creases the spine.
  4732. "... I... I just needed some time to settle my thoughts."
  4733. >Soarin shifts slightly, pulling you tighter against his side.
  4734. >"Sorry," he murmurs. "I know this is a pretty crappy thing to do to you. I mean, you didn't come over here just to watch someone sleep."
  4735. >He pauses for a moment before his face puckers like he'd just bitten into... something worse than a lemon.
  4736. >"Wow, that sounds creepy when I say it out loud. Pretend I didn't say that."
  4737. "Nope. Can't do that."
  4738. >"But -"
  4739. "I'm going to hold it against you forever. The only girl you're allowed to watch sleep is me."
  4740. >"Well..."
  4741. >His face is so flat and serious, you realize your mistake immediately.
  4742. >You stick out your tongue at Soarin and a second later he is chuckling in relief.
  4743. >"...I... uh... guess I'll have to find a new hobby?"
  4744. "Mhm."
  4745. >Soarin groans and claws at his face in mock horror, drawing out sharp and sudden laughter you hadn't known you were holding back.
  4746. >It was too close to the truth, a truth you were trying to pretend you were okay with it by making a joke of it. But you weren't, because it as much as you were trying, it wasn't a joke.
  4747. >Not until he went there.
  4748. >And now... it isn't the truth, but a joke. Simple teasing, not a warning.
  4749. >Something that you can laugh at.
  4750. >Soarin laughs along. Pressed up against his chest as you are, his rumbling chuckle shaking your very essence.
  4751. >You can't stop.
  4752. >What begain as a lie becomes a truth as tears run down your cheeks.
  4753. >It's okay.
  4754. >You're gasping for breath, struggling to draw in air before your body's convulsions expel it in a non-stop stream of giggling and crying.
  4755. >You're okay with it.
  4756. >A low groan brings a sudden halt to the moment, Soarin's hand covering your mouth as the other girl - as Blossomforth - stirs.
  4757. >Your lungs burn, your throat is raw, your face wet.
  4758. >But you're okay.
  4759. >There's no jealousy in your heart at the concern he shows for her at this very moment, just an overwhelming need for air.
  4760. >"Careful," Soarin whispers, a slight giggle breaking up his warning, "we don't want to wake her."
  4761. >You nod, but his hand remains clasped over your mouth. You need it.
  4762. >Without him stiffling your laughter, you wouldn't be able to stop yourself.
  4763. >Beyond emotional reaction, it's a simple, physical fact. Your chest spasms with silent laughter.
  4764. >You can hear the sound dying in your throat before it can take physical form.
  4765. >It makes you laugh all the harder, practically doubling over but for his arms holding you.
  4766. >Soarin holds you - *you* - until the shaking stops, until the tears stop to flow, until your body is just too exhausted to continue.
  4767. >"Feeling better?" he asks softly, the breath of his words tickling your ear.
  4768. "Mhm."
  4769. >Your body can't manage more, not even a single true word, but that's fine.
  4770. >It's okay. It's all okay.
  4771. >"Good."
  4772. >Soarin’s hand slips from your mouth, fingers trailing along your curve of your jaw before dropping away.
  4773. “Laughter… laughter always helps.”
  4774. >”Yeah, I guess so,” he says, distractedly running his hand down your braid, until it covers yours.
  4775. >You hadn’t even realized you had been fidgeting with it until his palm encases yours.
  4776. “S-sorry. Nervous habit.”
  4777. >”So I’ve noticed.”
  4778. “But I’m better now. Really!”
  4779. >”I know,” Soarin smiles down at you. “After all, it’s just like Ponka is always saying. Giggle at the ghosties.”
  4780. “Who?”
  4781. >The name is familiar, but only vaguely. Nothing you can put a face to.
  4782. >”Ponk… ah… right. Pinkie Pie.”
  4783. >He frowns slightly, squeezing your hand tight.
  4784. >”Sorry, it’s just a nickname.”
  4785. >You want to be jealous, you want to feel betrayed or hurt or anything, but you can’t be.
  4786. >Body still struggling to draw in breath, you’re too exhausted to give in to the urge, too tired to feel anything but comforted by his touch.
  4787. >It’s better this way.
  4788. “I… I didn’t know you were friends.”
  4789. >”She’s friends with everyone,” Soarin answers, so very dismissively that all your dark desires flutter away like scraps of paper caught in the wind. “Honestly, I wouldn’t even call her a friend, except… you know… Pinkie Pie.”
  4790. >You nod wordlessly, because you do. Everyone does.
  4791. >”Between you and me, she’s a little weird.”
  4792. “Understatement of the year.”
  4793. >“Decade.”
  4794. “Maybe longer.”
  4795. >”Maybe longer,” he repeats back, smiling gently. “She’s always trying to set me up with people because we’re pie-compatible… or something. Though…”
  4796. >Too worn out to feel envy or hate, you barely catch the questioning tone in his voice.
  4797. “What?”
  4798. >”She hasn’t for a while,” Soarin adds after a moment’s thought
  4799. “That’s good, right?”
  4800. >It’s good. It has to be good. Because everything feels good.
  4801. >”Yeah. She hasn’t even spoken to me in a few weeks.”
  4802. >You’re trying to count back the days, but Soarin beats you to it.
  4803. >”Not since that night.”
  4804. >His lips brush against your hair as he plants a kiss on the top of your head.
  4805. “What night…?”
  4806. >”You know what night. She hasn’t tried to set me up with anyone since I met you.”
  4807. >Coincidence?
  4808. >”Of course…”
  4809. >Soarin chuckles, the rush tickling your hair.
  4810. >”… that also means she hasn’t been giving me free pie. I miss free pie.”
  4811. “I can buy you pie.”
  4812. >The words are out before you realize how it sounds, before you can understand what you just said.
  4813. >Before you can stop yourself from offering to buy his love.
  4814. >Not that you wouldn’t.
  4815. >You would. In a heartbeat. But he just laughs it off and holds you tighter.
  4816. >Makes it all a joke.
  4817. >Makes it okay.
  4818. “Or… or I can make you some?”
  4819. >That’s better, isn’t it?
  4820. “But I’m not a very good cook!”
  4821. >It’s the thought that counts, not the results, right?
  4822. “I don’t –“
  4823. >”It’s okay,” he whispers. “I’ll love it anyway.”
  4824. “Because… because I made it…?”
  4825. >”That and because I’m… as Ponka says… a total pieslut. I’ll eat anything.”
  4826. >You laugh.
  4827. >He laughs.
  4828. >It’s all okay.
  4829. >Everything is okay. And it always will be.
  4830. “Soarin?”
  4831. >”Hmm?”
  4832. >He doesn’t stop you from pulling yourself onto his lap.
  4833. “Let’s read.”
  4834. >Quietly.
  4835. >Together.
  4836. >Before he can say something else.
  4837. >Before your strength can recover.
  4838. >Before your mind can drift away to darker places yet again.
  4839. "Let's read."
  4840. >And think happy thoughts.
  4841. >You are Soarin and your girlfriend is sleeping, snuggled against your chest.
  4842. >Her book had slipped from her hands some time back. You hadn't noticed she had fallen asleep until it had hit the floor.
  4843. >It's still there - to pick it up would have woken Silver, and the soft, contented smile on her face put an end to that thought before you even begin to move.
  4844. >You know well enough not to disturb the little kitten curled up on your lap.
  4845. >And so you read.
  4846. >Page by page, you grind through the book.
  4847. >This is not a great novel, nor a complicated one. Worst of all, you're enjoying it.
  4848. >In itself, that's not bad, but it *does* makes you wonder.
  4849. >The sequel - the one you had bought her from the used book store - couldn't have been much better, but Silver loved it anyway.
  4850. >Why? It's not good enough.
  4851. >You should have put more thought into the gift and chosen something that didn't have a cover that looked like some nerd's airbrushed van.
  4852. >The thought runs through your head twice more before you set aside the book with a sigh.
  4853. >That's why you don't read much.
  4854. >It gives your mind time to wander - and worry.
  4855. >Silver liked it. She said so.
  4856. >Anything else is nothing more than you overthinking things.
  4857. >"So..."
  4858. >Your head jerks up in surprise, drawing a disoriented giggle from Blossom.
  4859. >The girl is awake - mostly. Her eyes are open at least, even if her head is draped over the chair's arm, one exposed leg limply hanging out from under the blanket.
  4860. >"So," she repeats, struggling with the word and those that follow, "she's your... girlfriend?"
  4861. "Close."
  4862. >You stroke your hand along Silver's braid. She lets out a happy, if tiny, purr; you can't think of the sound as anything but that.
  4863. >"Then what is she?" Blossom asks as she jerks awkwardly this way and that, trying to get herself upright and cocooned.
  4864. "She's my... um..."
  4865. >Every time she tugs the blanket to cover one part of her, it falls away from another.
  4866. "We're engaged."
  4867. >The blanket falls away completely, falling from limp hands.
  4868. >"What."
  4869. "She's my fiancé."
  4870. >Blossom leans forward in her seat, until she's nearly pitching over the edge. You don't know what minor miracle keeps her from falling, or keeps the low neck of her loose-fitting t-shirt from hanging *too* low.
  4871. >"Seriously. What. Are you shitting me?"
  4872. >One arm hangs nearly as loose as her shirt, almost but not quite reaching for the dropped blanket.
  4873. "No."
  4874. >"Wow. That's... uh... wow."
  4875. "Yeah, I know."
  4876. >"Fiance, huh? Not... wow. That's not what I expected to hear."
  4877. >Not a word you ever expected to say, either. Not for a long time.
  4878. "I figured you deserved the truth."
  4879. >You look at the girl in your arms, happily snoring with her glasses smushed against your shirt.
  4880. "And she deserves for someone to know the truth. I think it'll make things more real for both of us."
  4881. >"Huh."
  4882. >Blossom stretches the last inch and snatches up her blanket, covering herself before saying anything more.
  4883. >When she does, it's only one word.
  4884. >"Why?"
  4885. >Short and to the point, yet so hard to answer.
  4886. >Blossom frowns at your silence.
  4887. >"Well, what is it?" she asks. "Why are you with Silver Spoon? Is it the glasses? Is that what it is, because I hope it's not the fact she's a little girl and -"
  4888. "No."
  4889. >The girl's head drops, hiding her face behind the folds of the blanket.
  4890. >"I know," she says softly. "Hoped, anyway. I'm just being a bitch."
  4891. "You're..."
  4892. >She looks so vulnerable, huddled in her chair, using her blanket as a shield.
  4893. >It makes you want to protect her, to say she wasn't being a bitch.
  4894. "No..."
  4895. >You can't bring yourself to say it.
  4896. "... it's not any of that."
  4897. >You squeeze the little ball of warmth nestled in your arms.
  4898. "I wish she was older. Then things wouldn't be so complicated. And it's not the glasses. Or her figure. It's not any of that, Blossom."
  4899. >"Money?" Blossom asks, following it with mocking laughter, "or are you going to say it's true love?"
  4900. >She laughs again, hollow and frail, as you let your gaze drop down to stare at Silver.
  4901. >Her chest rises and falls with the slow, steady rhythm of sleep.
  4902. "I don't know. I'm willing to believe it is, for her sake if nothing else."
  4903. >You wait for the biting comment or bitter laughter, but all that comes is an honest, genuine question.
  4904. >One you've asked yourself repeatedly.
  4905. >"So, you're doing this for her?"
  4906. "Yes."
  4907. >"Because she wants it?"
  4908. "Yeah."
  4909. >You run a hand along Silver's braid.
  4910. "I think she needs it. Someone to care about and love her."
  4911. >Blossom stares at you over the protective barrier of her blanket. No, not you. Silver.
  4912. >You realize your mistake when Blossom's eyes dark up to meet yours.
  4913. >"And you?"
  4914. "What do you mean?"
  4915. >"Is this what you want?"
  4916. "I want to help her."
  4917. >After a moment, Blossom shakes her head incredulously.
  4918. >"And that's it? You bought her a ring - I assume you gave her a ring? -"
  4919. >You nod. The details aren't important.
  4920. >"You got her a ring and swore your life away because you want to *help* her? That's it?"
  4921. "No, but..."
  4922. >Her head falls back to stare up at the ceiling - or perhaps to avoid looking at you and your fiance.
  4923. >"You make it sound like a job," she sighs, though you get the feeling she's talking more to herself than you.
  4924. "It... hasn't always been easy."
  4925. >Blossom lets out a short burst of laughter, wild and loud.
  4926. >The sudden noise doesn't wake Silver, but she does let out a tiny moan. Her eyes flicker half-open for a moment as she comes to the edge of wakefulness, but slips back after squirming into a more comfortable position.
  4927. >Your girlfriend ends with the side of her head pressing against your chest. Her glasses are caught between you and her, bent awkwardly. She gives another happy moan as you carefully pull them free, then snuggles up to you even tighter than before.
  4928. "It may look it right now..."
  4929. >You sigh and set Silver's glasses on the sofa's arm.
  4930. "... but it really hasn't been easy."
  4931. >"What relationship is?" Blossom asks, sounding like she smiling behind her blanket.
  4932. >Between the ragged fringe of her bangs and that blanket, all you can see is a narrow strip of her face. Just enough to see the laughter in the eyes that she rolls with almost painful exaggeration.
  4933. "Well, *some* are."
  4934. >"Have you ever had any?"
  4935. "Yeah. Plenty."
  4936. >"But...?" Blossom prompts.
  4937. "But they never worked out."
  4938. >The girl shakes her head, letting the blanket slip and allowing you to see the hint of the sad smile she's wearing.
  4939. >"You never cared about someone enough before to *make* it work out, did you?"
  4940. "I... I guess not."
  4941. >She sighs and stretches, practically kicking the blanket to the floor. The tail end of it dangles from the one long, slender leg she holds out extended as the rest of the cloth slides free to pool beneath it.
  4942. >"I was worried," Blossom admits as the last of the blanket pulls away. "You're a nice guy, Soarin, so I was pretty sure you weren't a creepy pedophile or something -"
  4943. "Hey!"
  4944. >"Well, it's a valid concern!"
  4945. "Not really."
  4946. >"It - it doesn't matter. Because I was pretty sure you weren't, but she looked so scared when I saw her in your car last night..."
  4947. >Her head drops with a groan.
  4948. >"Shit, that's why you're here, isn't it? Because I saw her?"
  4949. "Yeah."
  4950. >"Shit. That took way too long to figure out. I need more sleep."
  4951. >Despite that, she forces herself up, almost slipping as the blanket slides out from under her feet.
  4952. "Blossom, go back to sleep. I don't mind watching over you a bit longer."
  4953. >"I also need something to drink."
  4954. "I can get it for -"
  4955. >"And to go to the bathroom," she adds, cutting you off. "Don't really want your help with that. Thanks, though."
  4956. >She flashes a sarcastic smile at you as she stumbles past.
  4957. >"Besides..."
  4958. >She pauses and leans over, staring at Silver intently for a moment.
  4959. >"... the hero already has his princess, and she looks way too happy for you to wake her up right now."
  4960. >Blossom brushes aside her hair as she straightens and lets out a weary sigh.
  4961. >"So did Sweetie."
  4962. "Yeah."
  4963. >You nod in agreement.
  4964. "She did."
  4965. >"Were you..." the girl mumbles softly, gesturing towards Silver when words fail her. "Back then, I mean? She's why you turned me down, isn't it?"
  4966. "I'm afraid so. I didn't want to say anything because... well..."
  4967. >"Sorry," Blossom sighs. "I went off on a rant about Anon. I guess I didn't make this easy on you."
  4968. "You were drunk."
  4969. >"That's no excuse."
  4970. >Her face contorts suddenly.
  4971. >"I have to go."
  4972. >She takes a few hesitant steps.
  4973. "You look like you need a hug..."
  4974. >Blossom looks at askance at you and frowns.
  4975. >"Only if you want me to pee on you."
  4976. "Nevermind. Not my fetish."
  4977. >"Nor mine," she responds, chuckling nervously. "I just... uh... shut up."
  4978. >She hobbles off slowly, walking the awkward walk of someone who suddenly realized that rapid movement jostles things that would really rather not be jostled at this very moment.
  4979. >You pointedly don't watch, focusing your every speck of attention on the girl that really matters.
  4980. >She's smiling even wider than before.
  4981. "That... went well, I guess."
  4982. >"It did," Silver answers, her eyes still shut.
  4983. "So just how long were you pretending to be asleep?"
  4984. >Silver giggles and squeezes her eyes shut even tighter.
  4985. >"Long enough I'm glad *that* isn't your fetish. Of course, now I want to know what it is..."
  4986. >She bites her lip, giving you a lewd grin.
  4987. "I'm sure you'll find out someday soon."
  4988. >"But..."
  4989. >A low whine escapes her clenched lips.
  4990. >"... okay. I can wait."
  4991. "What happened to being brave?"
  4992. >"I came in with you," Silver answers, opening those wide, purple eyes of hers to gaze up at you through her lashes, "besides, I was only pretending, remember?"
  4993. >She flutters those long lashes at you demurely.
  4994. >"Surely that was good enough? Besides..."
  4995. >Her arms reach up, wrapping around the back of your neck in a loose embrace.
  4996. >"... you did pretty well on your own," Silver whispers breathlessly, her lips scant inches from yours.
  4997. "I guess..."
  4998. >You glance quickly towards the hall Blossom had disappeared down, your eyes leaving Silver's for the briefest of moments.
  4999. "... but there's no guarantee she didn't go to call the cops."
  5000. >You smile for your princess as she lets out a tiny giggle.
  5001. >"Do you really think she would do that?"
  5002. "Probably not, but..."
  5003. >No, she wouldn't.
  5004. >Those things she said at the party, she didn't mean them.
  5005. >Maybe.
  5006. >"Well, even if she does, what's the worst than can happen?"
  5007. "I spend the next five to ten in jail and never see you again?"
  5008. >"Ooooor... I pay them off and we all pretend nothing happened."
  5009. >She bites her lip again as she waits for you to respond, her cheeks reddening more and more every second that passes.
  5010. >At first you just don't know what to say, but that gives way to the simple desire to watch your princess be adorable.
  5011. >You can imagine you feel the heat radiating off her face as she lets out a low, teakettle whine.
  5012. >"Sorry, I shouldn't have -"
  5013. >You silence her with your lips. Just a brief kiss, but enough to stop her panic.
  5014. "It should be me apologizing, Silver. Sorry. It's hard to tell when you're joking sometimes."
  5015. >"I... I wasn't."
  5016. "You'd really bribe the cops to look the other way?"
  5017. >"I..."
  5018. >Silver dips her head and chuckles darkly.
  5019. >"... I'm friends with Diamond Tiara. What makes you think I haven't done that before?"
  5020. "Seriously!?"
  5021. >Her blush grows impossibly bright.
  5022. >"Just a few times," Silver insist, "and not for anything serious! Just... you know... underage drinking and... well... that one time... in the alley..."
  5023. >The last of her explanation is lost as she buries her face in your collarbone.
  5024. "Why do you still hang out with her!?"
  5025. >"Because she's my friend," Silver murmurs into your chest.
  5026. >Because of course.
  5027. >This is a conversation you've had before and it won't end any differently this time.
  5028. >You sigh and run your hand along your fiance's back, gently massaging out the tension that had suddenly appeared.
  5029. "I know she is, Silver. Sorry."
  5030. >"N-no, it's okay."
  5031. >Your hand travels the curve of her back until it reaches the small of her back.
  5032. >"I know she's a bad influence," Silver says softly, tilting her head so you can see her guilty grin. "I'm pretty sure some people would say the same about you."
  5033. "Nah. I'm perfect."
  5034. >The arms looped around your neck tighten, Silver hugging you tightly as she laughs again.
  5035. "So... uh... that alley thing...?"
  5036. >"Don't ask."
  5037. "Umm..."
  5038.  
  5039. >You are Silver Spoon and you probably shouldn't have brought that up.
  5040. >The regret melts away the longer Soarin doesn't say anything and the more uncomfortable he looks.
  5041. "And don't mention it to Di."
  5042. >His eyes shift nervously back and forth.
  5043. "We just call it the Noodle Incident."
  5044. >"Um..."
  5045. >You try not to giggle, but to try is to fail.
  5046. >It's so much fun teasing him.
  5047. >"... did it involve some ramen or something?"
  5048. "Didn't I say not to ask?"
  5049. >You can't stop yourself from breaking out in wild giggling.
  5050. >"Well, all I can imagine is... um..."
  5051. >Nooooooo! He pulls his hand away from your waist to rub the back of his neck!
  5052. >Teasing backfired!
  5053. >"... well, her robbing a ramen shop or something. At gunpoint. With, like... a diamond-encrusted gun worth more than the entire shop."
  5054. "What!? No! But I... uh...
  5055. >You're a bad person.
  5056. "I would pay to see that."
  5057. >You totally would.
  5058. >"Me too," Soarin agrees with a deep chuckle. "I bet that wouldn't be too hard to arrange."
  5059. >You stare up at him out of the corner of your eyes. Without your glasses, if you were any further away, his face would be little more than a blur.
  5060. >At this range, with you resting the side of your head against his collar, you can see every twitch in his expression.
  5061. "Probably. She *does* have anger issues sometimes."
  5062. >"Should we...?"
  5063. "Probably not."
  5064. >"Yeah, that's what I was thinking. But..."
  5065. "Maybe for your birthday."
  5066. >Except you don't even know when that is.
  5067. >You're the worst girlfriend ever.
  5068. >Soarin pretends to consider your offer - you appreciate him humoring you - but shakes his head.
  5069. >"I can think of a hundred other things I'd rather have," he says, smiling happily, "and none of them have anything to do with her."
  5070. >And you don't have a clue what any of them are. Aside from soccer, what does he like? What is *his* favorite color?
  5071. >Soarin lets out a contented sigh and his hand leaves your back again, only to begin stroking your head with it before you can even begin to panic over the sudden lack of contact.
  5072. >"But don't worry about it. You've got a few months before it's an issue."
  5073. "Oh."
  5074. >"Shit, you don't even know when it is, do you?"
  5075. "N-no -"
  5076. >You are the worst girlfriend ever.
  5077. " - I'm... I'm sorry..."
  5078. >"Don't be," he says, raising an eyebrow. "I'm the one that didn't tell you. I swear, you must think I'm the worst boyfriend ever."
  5079. "No! I... um... the opposite, actually."
  5080. >"That I'm the best?"
  5081. >He says it with such bravado that it automatically brings a smile to your face.
  5082. "No, silly. That I'm the worst girlfriend ever."
  5083. >"Because I didn't tell you when my birthday is?"
  5084. "Well, when you put it that way..."
  5085. >You tilt your head back and stretch, planting a kiss on his lips.
  5086. "It's okay, Soarin. You're still the best boyfriend ever."
  5087. >"Good, I was starting to worry there."
  5088. "Don't. You always know the right things to say to calm me down."
  5089. >"Not... always..."
  5090. "Close enough."
  5091. >"But -"
  5092. >You hug him tightly.
  5093. "Just let your crazy girlfriend be happy."
  5094. >"Okay," Soarin answers with a laugh. "I can do that."
  5095. >And yet he frowns.
  5096. "I'm sorry! I shouldn't -"
  5097. >"This is actually really uncomfortable," he says suddenly. "Hold on a minute."
  5098. >His grip around your waist tightens and his other hand... it... slides under your thighs.
  5099. >Your body squeaks in surprise as he picks you up.
  5100. >But not far, and not for long.
  5101. >You clutch even tighter to Soarin's neck as he swings your legs up onto the sofa.
  5102. >A squeak turns into a shriek - you body can't help itself, reminded of nothing so much as that feeling of terror and joy that runs through your veins when plunging down a rollercoaster.
  5103. >Completley out of control, yet completely safe.
  5104. >Moments later, Soarin is laying down, with you stretched out on top of him.
  5105. >"Now that's better," your boyfriend grins, even as he's making the final adjustments: tugging you into the perfect spot, pulling his shirt back down with a quick yank, flipping your...
  5106. >You can feel the heat rising in your cheeks as he flips your skirt into place with a twitch of his hand.
  5107. >"Sorry."
  5108. >Under your body, Soarin twists and bends until he finally finds the perfect balance, with his head resting on the sofa's arm and your legs entertwined with his.
  5109. >For your part, every moment he's holding you is good enough.
  5110. >"I probably should have given you some kind of warning."
  5111. "It's... okay."
  5112. >More than okay.
  5113. >The way he simply picked you up and *moved* you...
  5114. >A shiver runs down your spine, chasing any lingering doubts you might have had before it.
  5115. >If Soarin had ever wanted something from you that you hadn't offered, he could have taken it.
  5116. >If he hadn't wanted something you had offered, he could have stopped you.
  5117. "So..."
  5118. >You kiss him.
  5119. >From this position, it's easy. No stretching, no awkward bending. All you have to do is let gravity take control.
  5120. "... Soarin..."
  5121. >He doesn't stop you; he holds you tighter, both arms wrapped around your narrow waist.
  5122. "... when *is* your birthday?"
  5123.  
  5124. >You lose track of the time as you talk, the topic bouncing from birthdays to holidays to stories of the past and hopes for the future.
  5125. >The birthday Soarin got his car and the party had to be cut short so he could go joyriding.
  5126. >The one you spent alone with a book in your room and no one at the party had noticed.
  5127. >How you would include him in your next.
  5128. >Perhaps spend the entire party alone with *him* in your room.
  5129. >Di would enjoy being the center of attention again, and you and he would enjoy...
  5130. >You leave the thought at that tiny little tease.
  5131. >But as for Hearthswarming...
  5132. >The rambling coversation makes it easy to forget you're in a strangers house.
  5133. >The teasing makes you want to.
  5134. >It wouldn't be the first time you and he -
  5135. >"Please tell me you two aren't fucking on my sofa."
  5136. >You bolt upright at Blossomforth's voice.
  5137. "WHAT. NOT YE- NO! I MEAN NO!"
  5138. >Overly theatrical to the point of silliness - as *is* the point - it wouldn't have convinced even you, but still it gets a rise out of Soarin.
  5139. >Two.
  5140. >The first is the flush on his cheeks and the hasty denial the stammers out. The second you can feel pressing against your inner thigh.
  5141. >He *is* fun to tease.
  5142. >The other girl's groan undercuts your hushed giggling and she rolls her eyes.
  5143. >"I know Soarin wouldn't do anything like that," she sighs. "Sorry I was gone so long. I... um... I realized I need to shower at least once this week."
  5144. >Indeed, you can smell the floral fragrance of shampoo and bodywash as she saunters past the sofa, her blue, overly-long t-shirt - a clean one, you presume - hugging the wet curves of her body.
  5145. >If you envied others their... assets, there is no way you could have remained friends with Di this long. Still, you can't help but feel a twinge of annoyance as Soarin's eyes follow her.
  5146. >A slight shift of your weight is all it takes to bring his attention back to you.
  5147. >A little movement to remind him of you, of the weight pressed down against that bulge pushing into your thigh.
  5148. >Subtle, but enough to make his face glow bright red as it swings back towards you.
  5149. >And just in time - Blossomforth bends down to pick up her dropped blanket and her shirt rides up, the fabric clinging to her body and revealing things you would rather Soarin not see from other girls.
  5150. >You might be getting the hang of this girlfriend stuff - or so you think until the other girl flops down with a sigh and a grin.
  5151. >"Don't worry," she laughs as she covers her legs with the blanket once again, "I'm not trying to steal him from you. Besides..."
  5152. >That grin of hers spreads devilishly wide.
  5153. >"... he's seen me wearing less."
  5154. >Pure bravado, if not lies.
  5155. >That smile is too wide to be real, too forced to be genuine.
  5156. >You know the signs; you've seen it often enough when you've looked in a mirror.
  5157. >"Uh... Blossom? Care to explain that before...uhhhh...?"
  5158. >But the way your boyfriends squirms underneith you makes it hard to mind.
  5159. "What's to explain, Soarin?"
  5160. >"Well, she -"
  5161. >"You're fun to mess with," Blossom giggles, kicking out her feet in amusement and making her blanket dance. "That's all."
  5162. >"Yeah, but -"
  5163. >You put your finger on his lips - a gesture he has done often enough to you - and an effective one.
  5164. "She's right. You're fun to mess with."
  5165. >You let yourself slump forward until your lips are pressed against his.
  5166. >Seconds pass - and as they do, his hesitance to return your kiss melts away.
  5167. >If he didn't want you to, he could have stopped you at any moment.
  5168. >In fact, he does when you try to sit up, holding you down for another second - or two. Possibly three.
  5169. >You gleefully surrender to his strength.
  5170. >"Um... guys..."
  5171. >You ignore the girl.
  5172. >"Uh..."
  5173. >As does he.
  5174. >"Soarin? Point made. You can stop now."
  5175. >He doesn't.
  5176. >"Seriously guys."
  5177. >Her voice takes on a plantive tone, an uncomfortable whine that sets you on edge.
  5178. >But Soarin doesn't stop. He doesn't let you stop.
  5179. >"Come on..."
  5180. >You can't believe you're doing this in front of someone.
  5181. >"I won't mess with you like that again," she begs, "so you can stop making out, okay?."
  5182. >His lips part with yours slowly. Reluctantly.
  5183. >"And Silver?" Soarin asks. "You won't do that to her again, right?"
  5184. >But... you were only playing!
  5185. >Reminding him who his fiance was!
  5186. "I -"
  5187. >"I was talking to her," Soarin says, silencing you with his finger.
  5188. >That is so very effective.
  5189. >*Too* effective.
  5190. >He smiles as you lightly bite the tip.
  5191. >"Blossom? Please, you can mess with me all you want, but not with her."
  5192. >You glance over at the girl, who is once again hiding behind her blanket like a child afraid of the dark.
  5193. >"Fine," she moans, "I promise. You're her toy and -"
  5194. >"Wow. When you put it that way -"
  5195. >" - and I'm not allowed to -"
  5196. >" Seriously, right in the ego."
  5197. >" - mess with your relationship with your future child bride."
  5198. >Soarin face glows bright red and he lets out a groan.
  5199. >It's... cute.
  5200. >Endearing even.
  5201. "You can mess with him a little."
  5202. >His finger is still within biting distance.
  5203. "But only a little."
  5204. >You nip at it.
  5205. >Harder this time.
  5206. "Mine."
  5207. >Soarin's hand jerks back.
  5208. >"OKAY, YOU KNOW WHAT? I'M HUNGRY. ARE YOU HUNGRY? I BET YOU ARE."
  5209. >He sits up suddenly. His hands are around your waist, lifting you off of his lap - and the noticeable tent has been pitched there.
  5210. >You let him - as if you had any choice - move you aside so he can stand.
  5211. >"HOW ABOUT CHINESE?" he booms over the laughter you share with Blossomforth. "YEAH, I'LL GO GET -"
  5212. "With what money?"
  5213. >His head drops immediately.
  5214. >"Shit. I... uh... well..."
  5215. "Besides, after that last experience..."
  5216. >"Pizza?" Blossomforth suggests.
  5217. >You nod.
  5218. "Pizza. My purse is still in your car. Take what you need."
  5219. >He frowns.
  5220. >You *think* he frowns.
  5221. >"There's not really any place close except..."
  5222. >Ah, there are your glasses!
  5223. >You think.
  5224. >Probably.
  5225. >"... nevermind."
  5226. >Yep, you can see now and he is definitely frowning.
  5227. >"I'll go," Soarin sighs, "Might be a while, though."
  5228. "That's fine."
  5229. >You nod your head towards Blossomforth.
  5230. "It'll give us some time to talk."
  5231. >"Suddenly, I'm thinking this is a *really* bad idea and not just a regular bad idea."
  5232. >Even your best smile isn't enough to get him to leave.
  5233. >He lingers, every step towards the door matched by an equal one back towards you.
  5234. "Just go, Soarin. Everything will be okay."
  5235. >"Fine, fine," he groans. "But..."
  5236. >Not even a light slap on the ass makes him budge.
  5237. "Go."
  5238. >He somehow manages to frown even more, the expression digging deep crevaces in his face.
  5239. >"I don't normally like bossy women..."
  5240. >"But you're friends with Spitfire."
  5241. >"Yeah, but I don't *like* her."
  5242. >Soarin's head drops and he lets out a theatrical sigh.
  5243. >"Aaaaand she's still my closest friend. That's depressing."
  5244. "No, it's not."
  5245. >"No, not really," he responds, smiling gently at you. "I'll be back as soon as I can."
  5246. >He takes one step then hesitates yet again.
  5247. >"You'll lock the door behind me?"
  5248. >His eyes dart towards Blossomforth, an unneeded hint of what he's really getting at.
  5249. "Mhm."
  5250. >You follow after him, pausing just shy of the threshhold for a brief kiss.
  5251. >"I mean it," he whispers. "I won't be gone long."
  5252. "You don't trust us alone together?"
  5253. >"It's not that..."
  5254. "You can't bear to be parted from me for even a second?"
  5255. >"Of course."
  5256. "Well, *now* that just sounds flippant."
  5257. >Hands grip your shoulders, firmly but gently.
  5258. >"Enough teasing, Silver," Soarin sighs. "Are you really going to be okay with her?"
  5259. "I..."
  5260. >You glance back down the entryway towards the living room.
  5261. "I have to be, don't I?"
  5262. >"It would be nice, but -"
  5263. >That finger to the lips thing works so well, stopping him mid-thought.
  5264. "Everything will be fine, Soarin. Go."
  5265. >He nods after a moment.
  5266. >"Okay. I'll be back soon."
  5267. "Take your time. There are things I want to ask Blossomforth."
  5268. >He trembles slightly, but nods.
  5269. >Another kiss and he leaves.
  5270. >You lock the door after him and retrace your steps.
  5271. >Blossomforth watches you closely as you seat yourself primly on the sofa, brushing your skirt straight and sitting up even straighter.
  5272. "So..."
  5273. >"Hmm?"
  5274. "You *are* wearing panties, aren't you?"
  5275. >"Wow. That's... uh..."
  5276. "Look, I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt and asking instead of assuming you aren't."
  5277. >"Of course I am!" she snaps back, one eyebrow raised. "Why the hell would you even ask that!?"
  5278. >You gesture towards her lap - and the blanket hiding it - with an open palm.
  5279. "Because when you bent to pick that up..."
  5280. >"Wet cloth rides up, or are you so sheltered you don't even know that?"
  5281. "I know to kneel at the knees and not the hips, so as not to expose myself to the world - or others' boyfriends."
  5282. >With a snarl, the girl kicks off her blanket and lifts her shirt.
  5283. >Not high, but enough to expose the tan undergarment for you to see.
  5284. >"There! Happy now?" she barks. "I'm trying to be pleasant for Soarin's sake, so can you please be not such a little bitch?"
  5285. >Oh.
  5286. >You are, aren't you?
  5287. >"Shit, if I was flashing my pussy at Soarin, then how come you couldn't tell? It's not like this is a thong or something!"
  5288. >You tap the frame of your glasses.
  5289. "I'm... uhm... almost blind without these. Sorry."
  5290. >You told Soarin you would get along with her, but the very first words out of your turned that into a lie.
  5291. "Sorry."
  5292. >"Yeah, I'm sure you are."
  5293. "No. Really."
  5294. >You take in a deep breath and slowly let it out, just like Soarin had guided you through at the diner. His voice echoes in you memory.
  5295. "I'm..."
  5296. >"A bitch?"
  5297. "Possessive. And... maybe... a little insecure."
  5298. >You wish it was only a little.
  5299. >"Yeah, whatever," Blossomforth grumbles, dismissing your attempt to explain yourself. "So any more questions or are you happy sitting quietly until Soarin gets back?"
  5300. "I... I have many questions."
  5301. >You fumble for your phone as the other girl sighs.
  5302. >"Well, what are they?" she demands, reaching down to grab her blanket.
  5303. "The first one is..."
  5304. >You smile for her, trying to show your non-hostile intentions, but it's too little, too late.
  5305. >Instead of returning your peaceful gesture, Blossomforth rolls her eyes.
  5306. "... what... um..."
  5307. >"What?"
  5308. "... what do you want on the pizza?"
  5309. >"Huh?"
  5310. >You raise your phone for her to see.
  5311. "We... uh... we forgot to tell Soarin what we wanted."
  5312. >"Whatever."
  5313. "Um..."
  5314. >Another deep breath and close your eyes.
  5315. >You're trying!
  5316. >Why isn't this working out?
  5317. >You can almost feel Soarin's hand on your back as the air slowly escapes through your mouth.
  5318. >A comforting memory, but only a memory.
  5319. "Please? I'm trying to start over?"
  5320. >"Fine," Blossomforth groans. "Shit. Um... pineapple, pepperoni, and mushrooms."
  5321. >Ew.
  5322. >You hide your disgust behind a smile - a more convincing one than any she has given you, and only partially because you've had so much more practice than her.
  5323. "Okay, I'll let him know."
  5324. >You fire off a quick text - and a second, asking for a plain cheese pizza for yourself, because you wouldn't *ever* touch the combination she asked for.
  5325. >"So is everything magically okay now that you've bought my friendship with a pizza?"
  5326. "No! I... I..."
  5327. >You look back at your phone as it dances in your hands - a simple acknowledgement from Soarin.
  5328. "... why..."
  5329. >Your fingers move on their own.
  5330. >Why is she such a BITCH?
  5331. >Soarin's response is immediate, asking you what happened, telling you she isn't...
  5332. >The phone hits the sofa's cushion before he can answer your next querry, before he can tell you if you're the bitch.
  5333. >It vibrates again, but you ignore it.
  5334. >You already know the answer - both the one he'll give you and the one that is true.
  5335. >"Look, Silver," Blossomforth sighs, "can we please just sit quietly or something? I'm not going to steal Soarin from you."
  5336. "I... I know that..."
  5337. >Not that the knowledge stops you from feeling jealous or angry or hurt or suspicious.
  5338. >The girl rolls her eyes, her head echoing the gesture.
  5339. >She looks so tired - and not just physically.
  5340. >Even her off-putting giggling sounds worn and thin.
  5341. >"Not that I could."
  5342. "I -"
  5343. >"Not even if I wanted to," she quickly continues, then giggles again. "Not that I didn't try."
  5344. >Something snaps.
  5345. >A sudden pain in your hand jerks your eyes away from that girl.
  5346. >"I mean, I didn't *know* he was dating you - or anyone really."
  5347. >Your phone.
  5348. >"He just..."
  5349. >The screen is shattered.
  5350. >"He said no, okay? From the beginning, he said no. He's not interested."
  5351. >When did you pick it up?
  5352. >"Even if he was - and I do mean *was* - he cares about you too much."
  5353. >Why?
  5354. >"Besides -"
  5355. >Were you going to throw it at her?
  5356. >She trails off into a silence that grows physically awkward, far more uncomfortable than the pain in your hand.
  5357. >You glance at it again, at the sharp fragments digging into the ball of your thumb.
  5358. >" - I'm not in any shape to be in a relationship right now."
  5359. >A single, bright bead of red rolls down your hand.
  5360. >You're bleeding?
  5361. >"So yeah, don't worry."
  5362. >It reaches the edge of your palm and hesitates, trembling. Or is that your hand that is shaking?
  5363. >"I thought maybe..."
  5364. >It falls.
  5365. >"... maybe I could just pretend everything was fine, but... "
  5366. >Your blood stains the sofa's cushion.
  5367. >"... well..."
  5368. "I'm sorry!"
  5369. >He's going to be angry.
  5370. >"Huh?"
  5371. "I'm so sorry! I... I..."
  5372. >Another drop falls.
  5373. "I -"
  5374. >A tiny constellation begins to form.
  5375. >He's going to be so angry with you.
  5376. " - I think I cut myself."
  5377. >You cup your other hand below, trying to catch the falling stars.
  5378. >"What?"
  5379. >She sits up.
  5380. >"WHAT!?"
  5381. "I'm sorry. I messed up your sofa. I... I need to clean this..."
  5382. >"What the HELL."
  5383. "I'm sorry!"
  5384. >She throws aside her blanket and grabs wad of tissues.
  5385. >"Let me see that," she demands, coming over to your side and grabbing your wrist. "Shit... how did you even...?"
  5386. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I didn't mean to -"
  5387. >"Let go of it!"
  5388. >She's angry.
  5389. >You've messed everything up.
  5390. " - I'm just... I'm just..."
  5391. >He's going to be furious.
  5392. >"Shit! Let go! You're just cutting yourself more!"
  5393. "I - I -"
  5394. >You can't.
  5395. >"Let! Go!"
  5396. "I'M TRYING!"
  5397. >She jerks back, eyes narrowed and furious.
  5398. >"What is your problem!?" she demands, throwing bloodied tissues at a trash can and grabbing fresh ones. "Seriously, what is wrong with you!?"
  5399. "E-everything."
  5400. >"Shit, now I get what Soarin sees in you."
  5401. >Any explanation is lost in a wordless sigh as a phone rings.
  5402. >Not your phone.
  5403. >The girl sighs and thrusts the tissues at you.
  5404. >"Here," she growls. "Take care of it yourself."
  5405. "W-wait! What did you..."
  5406. >She snatches her phone from a sidetable and raises it to her ear.
  5407. "... did you..."
  5408. >"Hey, Soarin," she says loudly - and cheerfully. "What's up?"
  5409. >Her eyes stray over to you.
  5410. >"Silver?"
  5411. >You shake your head frantically.
  5412. >"Oh, uhm."
  5413. >He can't know.
  5414. "Please..."
  5415. >"Yeah, her battery died."
  5416. >You mouth a silent thanks, but she's already swinging away from you.
  5417. >"No... uh... nothing's wrong. Why?"
  5418. >She laughs, the sound totally at odds with the strained expression on her face.
  5419. >"Things started off a bit rocky, but it's okay. Everything's fine. Really.
  5420. >"No, she's in the bathroom right now, but she can use my phone to call you back when -"
  5421. >"Oh! Cool! Fifteen minutes?"
  5422. >She looks over her shoulder at you, glaring until you nod.
  5423. >You understand.
  5424. >Fifteen minutes to clean this up.
  5425. >"See you then," she practically sings into the phone, before letting her hand drop with a weary sigh. "Great."
  5426. >She tosses the phone at the table and steps back over to you.
  5427. >"Look, we don't have long, so how about you stop screwing around so we can get this cleaned up?"
  5428. "I'm trying!"
  5429. >She sighs and crosses her arms, staring down her nose at you.
  5430. >"Are you seriously this crazy or are you just pretending to get his attention? Because if you are -"
  5431. "I'm... I'm not pretending. I have problems."
  5432. >"Why the hell are you so fucked up?" she mutters, grabbing another handful of tissues. "You're just a little kid."
  5433. "Funny you should say that. I wasn't the one hiding behind a security blanket like a toddler!"
  5434. >"You aren't the only one with issues, okay? At least I have mine for a reason."
  5435. "And what's that? You were born a BITCH?"
  5436. >"I have to act like I'm okay around my friends," she sighs, taking a step forward, "but I don't have to do that for you."
  5437. "No, you don't. All you have to do is pretend for Soarin."
  5438. >She laughs, wild and despairing.
  5439. "What?"
  5440. >"He's not my friend either," she snorts, "thankfully."
  5441. "He isn't...?"
  5442. >"No. I trust him more than my friends."
  5443. "And me? I'm *just* his girlfriend? Because I'm fine with -"
  5444. >"You're just the girl he decided to rescue."
  5445. >There's a sadness in her face that contradicts the casual shrug she gives you, a sorrowful expression that finishes the thought for her.
  5446. >You're the girl he rescued instead of her.
  5447. >You're more messed up than she is.
  5448. >It's true.
  5449. "I'm trying not to be."
  5450. >The words come out as barely more than a whisper. Barely noticable, same as your efforts.
  5451. >She sighs and steps past you to sit on the far side, near the stains speckling the cushion.
  5452. >"You looked so scared last night," she says softly, reaching out for your hand. "I can't really blame him, but he's the only person I feel safe around."
  5453. >Her fingers hover above your wrist, as if she's afraid to touch you.
  5454. >"And you, I guess," she adds with brave, yet false laughter, gently grabbing your injured hand and pulling it into her lap. "You're too pathetic to scare me."
  5455. "Is that your shitty way of giving me a complement?"
  5456. >"Not really. Just the truth."
  5457. >She hooks her fingers around the edges of yours, pulling them away from the broken glass.
  5458. >"That's all he sees in us, you know. Why else would he start hanging out with us?"
  5459. "That's... that's not true."
  5460. >Your fingers peel away easily; the only thing holding them in place was *you*.
  5461. >"Sure it is," she chuckles. "What else do we have in common?"
  5462. "That doesn't -"
  5463. >"What do you think his fetish *is*? Being the hero, of course."
  5464. >She gingerly takes the phone -
  5465. >"We're just someone to -"
  5466. > - and pulls it from your open palm.
  5467. >Her eyes widen.
  5468. >She gasps.
  5469. >Not because of the shallow scratches covering your fingertips or because of the surprising amount of blood pooling in your cupped hand.
  5470. >"- protect..."
  5471. >She slowly looks up from your ring, from the ring Soarin gave you.
  5472. >Still turned inward, the brilliant blue and yellow sparkle brightly, standing out against the field of red.
  5473. >She's wrong.
  5474. "No, we're not."
  5475. >"... seriously...?"
  5476. "Certainly not me. Not you either, I think. I think you're his friend, as much as you want to deny it."
  5477. >"No..." she murmurs softly, shaking her head. "No. He's not my friend. My friends..."
  5478. "You don't feel safe around them?"
  5479. >"Do you always feel safe around yours?"
  5480. >You smile in silent amusement.
  5481. >"What?"
  5482. "I only have the one."
  5483. >"Then you're lucky. Mine..."
  5484. >She turns away with a tired sigh.
  5485. "What?"
  5486. >"Nothing," she murmurs. "Hey, let's go wash this off, okay?"
  5487. >She stands, her hand - still tight around your wrist - pulling you up with her.
  5488. "What did your friends do?"
  5489. >Why does she think you're lucky to only have a single friend?
  5490. >"Nothing. Doesn't matter."
  5491. >She pulls you onward, not forcefully, not angrily, but insistantly.
  5492. >Mindful of the time, perhaps. Or trying to distract herself from unwanted thoughts.
  5493. >You've seen the signs in yourself before; it's easy enough to see them in her.
  5494. >She's thinking of herself more than you at this moment.
  5495. >The calluses on her palm are noticable, rough against your slender wrist. Moreso than Soarin's ever were.
  5496. >But for all that, she's gentle.
  5497. >Even the door itself seems to let out a quiet sigh as she pushes it open.
  5498. >This isn't a guest bathroom.
  5499. >It isn't a bathroom at all.
  5500. >It's a bedroom.
  5501. >"This way," she mumbles, pulling you towards another door.
  5502. >Her bedroom.
  5503. >It's a mess.
  5504. >Picture frames smashed.
  5505. >Scrap books ripped to shreds.
  5506. >"Alright, just looks like some scratches," she mumbles as she shoves open the door to her bathroom. "A few deeper cuts, but nothing too bad."
  5507. "What did your friends do...?"
  5508. >"I've gotten worse on the parallel bars. Just have to wash it out and -"
  5509. "I don't think they're really your friends."
  5510. >"You don't know what you're talking about."
  5511. "Maybe not..."
  5512. >She pulls you into the bathroom, suddenly rough where she had been gentle before, harsh where she had been merely insistant.
  5513. >"You don't. You're just a kid."
  5514. >She lets go of your wrist to dig under her sink.
  5515. >One box is placed on the counter, followed by another and another.
  5516. >"You just don't get it. Doesn't matter what they did to me. They're still my friends."
  5517. "Y...yeah, but -"
  5518. >"You're in no position to talk shit to me, are you?" the girl snaps, still bent over looking for - "Just shut up. Shut up!"
  5519. >No, she's not looking for anything else, at least not at the moment.
  5520. >Her arms are wrapped around herself, trying to provide a comforting touch that no one else will.
  5521. >You reach for her with your uninjured hand.
  5522. "Sorry..."
  5523. >"Shut up! It's not your problem!"
  5524. >She throws a box of bandaids at you without looking - the package open and spilling as it flies.
  5525. >It misses.
  5526. >Even if it hadn't, it was just a box of bandaids. Half-empty, and now completely empty.
  5527. >"You're just lucky your only friend is Diamond Tiara," she sobs as you begin to pick them up.
  5528. >The bandaid slips from your fingers.
  5529. "Yes, I am."
  5530. >"So -"
  5531. "I'm lucky my only friend has a crush on me."
  5532. >You know. You've known. Not forever, but long enough.
  5533. "I'm lucky she's stopped anyone else from ever getting close to me."
  5534. >It kept you safe.
  5535. "And I'm SO very lucky I'm her only friend."
  5536. >It kept you hers.
  5537. "So, yeah, I'm lucky, right?"
  5538. >"My friends tried to rape me, okay!?" she screams at out. "Are you finally fucking happy?! They pinned me down when I was drunk and ripped all my clothes off and if it wasn't for Soarin -"
  5539. >She chokes, the words catching in her throat.
  5540. "I..."
  5541. >"Don't you *dare* tell me -"
  5542. "I let Di..."
  5543. >"Let her do what?" she asks, suddenly quiet.
  5544. "She... she makes me shower with her."
  5545. >It had been innocent.
  5546. "We..."
  5547. >You had forgotten to bring pajamas.
  5548. "... frequently..."
  5549. >Every night you stay at her place.
  5550. "... sleep together."
  5551. >It wasn't so bad.
  5552. "And I do mean sleep! But sometimes..."
  5553. >Always.
  5554. "... she..."
  5555. >It's more than a crush.
  5556. >"I don't want to hear this."
  5557. "My first time with Soarin, she was taking pictures... and not of him, really..."
  5558. >"Seriously, I don't want to know!"
  5559. "Our second time together, she..."
  5560. >"I don't need the details!"
  5561. "... she was... more involved. And not with him. I don't even know if she..."
  5562. >"And Soarin's okay with that?" she asks, turning to glare at you over her shoulder.
  5563. >You smile down sadly at the girl.
  5564. "I'm pretty sure he isn't."
  5565. >"But... you're okay with it? Do you enjoy that or something?"
  5566. >No.
  5567. "She's my friend."
  5568. >Her eyes soften.
  5569. "I'm sorry I said that about your friends."
  5570. >She understands.
  5571. >"Why are you telling me this?"
  5572. "Because we're not so different, are we?"
  5573. >The girl looks away.
  5574. >"You seem pretty calm about it," she sighs.
  5575. >As opposed to her, she means.
  5576. "It's been happening since I was eight."
  5577. >You hear her gasp in shock, an intake of breath sharper than any blade.
  5578. "Before either of us knew it was wrong, I think. I've had time to deal with it."
  5579. >"I don't know which one of us is more fucked up."
  5580. "That doesn't matter."
  5581. >You reach out to Blossomforth.
  5582. "It's not a competition. And if it is, it's one we've both lost."
  5583. >"Except... you..."
  5584.  
  5585. >You are Soarin and you are more than a little worried about what you'll find on the other side of this door.
  5586. >Blossom had sounded upbeat, but that doesn't mean anything.
  5587. >That girl is trying too damn hard sometimes.
  5588. >"Dude, just knock!"
  5589. >And then there's that.
  5590. "Well, *you* try juggling three pizzas and... uh... nevermind."
  5591. >She doesn't say anything. She doesn't have to - her looks says it all.
  5592. "I'll just knock now."
  5593. >"Good plan."
  5594. "Yup."
  5595. >"Want me to hold those for you?"
  5596. "Please."
  5597. >"Done stalling?"
  5598. "Just about."
  5599. >She leans over, eyes darting between you and the door expectantly, somehow balancing the pizzas in one hand without even trying.
  5600. >"Well?"
  5601. "Shit like this is -"
  5602. >"You know it isn't."
  5603. "Yeah, well, just -"
  5604. >She pushes past and knocks on the door.
  5605. " - or just do that. That works."
  5606. >"Yep, it does! That's why I told you to do it."
  5607. >Your glaring has no effect.
  5608. >Maybe you should punch her again.
  5609. >You settle for grabbing her and moving her aside.
  5610. "Just, let me do the talking."
  5611. >"Fine, fine, so long as you actually *do* the talking instead of standing around with your hand on your - oh, hi!"
  5612. >She waves with far too much enthusiasm as the door opens.
  5613. >"Hi! I came by to... uh... um..."
  5614. >Cloudy shoves the pizzas at Blossom, ducking her head in a weeaboo bow.
  5615. >"I'm sorry!" she shouts. "I wasn't trying to start any shit or anything!"
  5616. >"Where did... um... Cloudy, where..."
  5617. >"SORRY!"
  5618. >"Soarin, where did she come from?"
  5619. "I ran into her at pizza shop and... well..."
  5620. >You shrug. There's really nothing else you *can* do.
  5621. >Punching her didn't solve anything.
  5622. >Well, it had, but it won't solve this.
  5623. "If I hadn't told her she could come along, she would have just followed me."
  5624. >"I *did* just follow you," Cloudy adds, her head still bowed.
  5625. "Yeah, but I *said* you could, so... yeah."
  5626. >"So -"
  5627. "But I didn't say she could come in."
  5628. >"Look," the girl sighs, straightening. "I just wanted to say I was sorry. I know we aren't really friends or anything, but -"
  5629. >"Come on in," Blossom cuts her off, stepping aside and motioning with her head for you and Cloudy to enter. "I'm not the one you should be apologizing to."
  5630. >"Oh. Oh? OH!"
  5631. >Cloudy skips down the hallway before you can stop her.
  5632. >Damn those speedy legs of hers.
  5633. >Blossom pointedly raises one eyebrow when stop mid-reach and look at her.
  5634. >"What?"
  5635. "Do you really think it was a good idea to invite her in?"
  5636. >"I've hung out with her a few times," the girl answers with a shrug. "She's... nice. I think she means well. And I'm *pretty* sure she's not a vampire, so..."
  5637. "Probably, but -"
  5638. >"HOLY CRAP! SILVER SPOON IS YOUR NEW GIRLFRIEND!?"
  5639. " - she is physically incapable of keeping her mouth shut."
  5640. >"You look like you're in pain."
  5641. >"SHE'S SO TINY AND ADORABLE!"
  5642. >"Stop petting me!"
  5643. "I think I'm dying."
  5644. >"OW! OWOWOWOWOW OKAY I DESERVED THAT BUT OW!"
  5645. >"Sounds like you're not the only one," Blossom laughs. "Shall we?"
  5646. "Yeah, I guess so. Someone has to stop Silver from killing Cloudy, might as well be me."
  5647. >You take the pizzas from Blossom and head to the living room, leaving her to lock up.
  5648. "So, everything really went fine?"
  5649. >"Yeah," she calls out, coming up behind you. "Everything was great."
  5650. "Then... uh..."
  5651. >You tilt your head towards your wildly flailing fiancé.
  5652. "... could you please explain why her hand is all bandaged up like that?"
  5653. >"Nope. I'll go get some plates!"
  5654. "Seriously, Blossom -"
  5655. >"Seriously, Soarin," the girl sighs, spinning off towards the kitchen, "ask her. If she wants to tell you, then she will."
  5656. "Silver...?"
  5657. >She shakes her head - with considerable effort, considering she's still trying to fight off Cloudy.
  5658. "Why is everyone teaming up against me!?"
  5659. >"Because she's super adorable," Cloudy laughs, "and all you have is a nice dick."
  5660. >You shuffle over to the coffee table and drop the boxes.
  5661. "And pizza. I also have pizza."
  5662. >"*I* bought the pizza," Cloudy corrects, making a token grab for Silver that is easily slapped away by your girlfriend's frantic flailing.
  5663. "Yeah, but you owe me."
  5664. >"Owed. We're even now."
  5665. "Nope. Owe. You're harassing my fiancé."
  5666. >"Then... uh..."
  5667. >She points towards Silver.
  5668. >"... don't I owe her?"
  5669. "Nope. You owe me."
  5670. >"Shit. Fine."
  5671. >She steps back from Silver and rolls up her right - no, after a second's thought, she rolls up her left sleeve.
  5672. >"Yeah, better not go with the same one," she explains sheepishly, slapping her bared upper arm. "I don't want to be crippled or anything. Go on. Hit me."
  5673. >"Wait."
  5674.  
  5675. >You are Silver Spoon and you are confused.
  5676. >Even your body is confused, one arm still feebly pawing away to fend off hands that are no longer trying to tickle you.
  5677. "*You* paid for the pizzas?"
  5678. >"Uh, yeah," the girl grunts. "I owed him. Besides, employee discount."
  5679. >Her eyes are squeezed shut, her mouth gritted. It almost looks like -
  5680. >"Come on, Soarin. Do it!"
  5681. >Like she wants Soarin to...
  5682. >You look askance at him, a quick, subtle glance.
  5683. >His fist is balled up tight.
  5684. >Is he...?
  5685. >"Shit like this is why we..."
  5686. >His voice trails off and he lurches away from the girl to sink down into the sofa beside you.
  5687. >"You know it's not," she responds, risking opening her eyes and sighing when she sees Soarin sitting beside you. "You're going to make me wait? Dick fucking move, dude."
  5688. >"Could you *try* to not be quite so -"
  5689. "Wait."
  5690. >She said something else, didn't she?
  5691. "Soarin has a nice dick?"
  5692. >"Well, *yeah*. You should know, right?"
  5693. "Um..."
  5694. >"Dangit, Cloudy!" Soarin snaps, bouncing a wadded up paper napkin off the girl's forehead. "She's only fourteen!"
  5695. >"Oh. So. Uh. Okay. Cool."
  5696. >She shrugs and flips open the top pizza box.
  5697. >Ew.
  5698. >Undaunted by the disgusting toppings, she tears a slice free and begins eating, still standing.
  5699. >No plate. No napkin - unless you count the crumpled one at her feet. Grease... okay, not much grease dripping down her hand.
  5700. >Apparently there are some advantages to that particular topping combo.
  5701. >Soarin glances towards you and shakes his head.
  5702. >"Clouldy, could you be any more crude?"
  5703. >"Probably. Want me to try?"
  5704. "I'll pass."
  5705. >"Anyway," she continues, talking through a full mouth - apparently she *can* be more crude - and shrugging "I guess it's good you two aren't fucking yet. Would be a shame if you got thrown in jail for... uh, why are you blushing?
  5706. >You can't help it.
  5707. >"Soarin, why is she blushing?"
  5708. >"Because -"
  5709. >You could die.
  5710. >"AH-HA! YOU WANT THE DICK, DON'T YOU?" she shouts, laughter booming like thunder. "I bet Soarin's been holding off, hasn't he? Dude, don't be a goody two-shoes cunt! Give her a good -"
  5711.  
  5712. >You are Diamond Tiara and you could swear the ground just shook.
  5713. "What the fuck...?"
  5714.  
  5715. >You are Silver Spoon and you can't believe she's laughing.
  5716. >"Cloudy, stop being such a raging cunt," Blossomforth sighs, stepping over the crumpled girl. "Go sit down."
  5717. >She bends down - at the knees, you notice - to pick up the roll of paper towels she had hit her victim with.
  5718. >"Nah, think'm good here," Cloudy mumbles, still giggling. "Yeah, floor's good. Floor's my friend."
  5719. >"At least sit up."
  5720. >"Yeah... inna a minute. Can't reach t'pizza from here."
  5721. >To illustrate her point, she slaps at the table, coming closer and closer to the boxes with every attempt.
  5722. >"Orrrrr mebbe I -"
  5723. >Blossom raises the paper towels again.
  5724. >"Okay! I sit! I sit!"
  5725. >She says as much, but it takes Blossom's assistance for the girl to get upright.
  5726. "Is she okay...?"
  5727. >"She's taken a lot worse than that," Soarin answers, sinking back into the cushions.
  5728. >You hadn't even noticed him rise, but you see the tension seep from his shoulders and neck, his fists slowly unclench.
  5729. >"Cloudy has a bit of a problem keeping her mouth shut when -"
  5730. >"Seriously though," she interrupts, flashing a lopsided smile as she takes a plate from Blossom and sets it on the table, "you probably have the right idea holding off."
  5731. >She holds her hands apart, widening the gap until she finally seems satisfied and nods.
  5732. >"Yeah... uh... seems about right..."
  5733. >Her gaze bounces between you and that gap several times before she nods again with a sense of certainty.
  5734. >"Definitely wait until she's a little bigger or you might break her."
  5735. "Actually..."
  5736. >Soarin hand grips your knee, but loosens from a warning to a reassuring touch when you shake your head.
  5737. >"If you're sure," he sighs. "Just remember that she can't keep her mouth shut."
  5738. >"Huh?" Cloudy grunts, her eyes flaring open. "What?"
  5739. "... we, um..."
  5740. >That's as far as you get before your courage runs out, drained by the girl's wide-eyed stare.
  5741. >It's enough to get the point across.
  5742. >Eventually.
  5743. >After an eternity of awkward silence.
  5744. >"What!?" Cloudy screams, slamming her hands on the table. "Seriously? But... HOW!?"
  5745. >She tilts her head to the right at an impossible angle.
  5746. >"Did it like..."
  5747. >"Well, she's broken now," Soarin sighs, reaching forward and grabbing a plate. "She's not going to stop talking, but at least she'll be quieter."
  5748. >"... just the tip...?"
  5749. >He loads it up and passes it to you.
  5750. >Yay.
  5751. >Cheese.
  5752. >"Finally," Blossom mumbles. "Is she always like this? I just kind of assumed she was drunk every time we hung out."
  5753. >"... all the way through or something or...?"
  5754. >"Actually, Cloudy is a quiet drunk."
  5755. >"... like... huh... maybe...?"
  5756. >The girl's head flips over to rest on her left shoulder.
  5757. >"... maaaaybe..."
  5758. >"She looks like she's starting to snap out of it, Soarin. Should I go get some beer for her?"
  5759. >"Oh hell no. She's also a cuddly drunk and... well..."
  5760. >Soarin grabs your hand gently.
  5761. >The bandaged one.
  5762. >"I don't know what *this* is, but..."
  5763. >"You think a cuddly Cloudy would be pushing your luck?" Blossom asks, flashing a smile your way. "Yeah, probably."
  5764. >"... but... why was she surprised...?"
  5765. >"Yeah."
  5766. "Don't worry, Soarin."
  5767. >You squeeze his hand until the cuts on your palm sting.
  5768. "I wouldn't kill her for cuddling with you."
  5769. >"I didn't mean -"
  5770. "I'd pay someone else to do it."
  5771. >Soarin and Blossom share a worried look.
  5772. >How could you be so stupid?
  5773. >"Silver..." Soarin starts, slipping his hand from yours.
  5774. >He can't tell when you're joking.
  5775. >"...um..." Blossom hums.
  5776. >Neither can she.
  5777. >You're so stupid.
  5778. >You're too crazy for -
  5779. >"... no you wouldn't," the two say in unison.
  5780. >Soarin gently brushes his hand along the top of your he -
  5781. >Hey!
  5782. "HEY! STOP PETTING ME!"
  5783. >"Sorry," he laughs, but doesn't stop! "Cloudy was right; you are adorable."
  5784. >Blossom nods quickly.
  5785. >"Can you imagine -"
  5786. >" - I totally can," Soarin answers. "She would totally kill Cloudy herself."
  5787. >"Mhm."
  5788. >"And it would be adorable."
  5789. >"Totally."
  5790. >"I GOT IT!" your apparently future murder victim screams out. "SHE'S BIGGER ON THE INSIDE!"
  5791. >You're going to kill her.
  5792. >If you don't die of embarrassment first.
  5793. >"Cloudy..."
  5794. >"I'm right, aren't I!?"
  5795. >"... yes. You're very smart. Now shut up."
  5796. >"But I have one question."
  5797. >Soarin sighs short and quick, like his temper.
  5798. >A warning.
  5799. >"What I want to know is -"
  5800. >One she ignores, but it still warms your heart.
  5801. >He used to date her.
  5802. >Presumably he can get along with her.
  5803. >Perhaps even enjoy talking with her.
  5804. >If she was talking about anyone else, you suspect he wouldn't be acting so volatile.
  5805. >"Cloudy," he rumbles, sending a pleasurable shiver up your back. "I think -"
  5806. "What is it?"
  5807. >"- well," Cloudy continues, ignoring Soarin - and perhaps even you. "Anyway, if you two've fucked..."
  5808. >She turns her head to stare at you, even gesturing towards you with a flip of the pizza in her hand.
  5809. >"... how come you don't know how awesome Soarin's dick is? Were you just pretending so Blossom wouldn't be jealous?"
  5810. >Cloudy asks it with such innocence that you can't bring yourself to be angry at her - even if you wanted to. Even if you cared.
  5811. >There's only one person in this room that truly matters and it's not her. Or Blossom.
  5812. >Or even you.
  5813. >Soarin starts to rise, but a hand to his chest is enough to push him back into his seat.
  5814. >He *lets* you push him back.
  5815. >You wonder just how far the other girl can go before he stops letting you.
  5816. "Well..."
  5817. >What's his snapping point?
  5818. "... it's not like I have anything else to compare it to."
  5819. >You smile. Sweetly. Without malice.
  5820. >"But -"
  5821. >There isn't any anger in your heart, only love further reinforced by Soarin possessively leaping to your defense.
  5822. >"Not everyone is as huge a slut as you," he growls, quickly and to the point.
  5823. >And she... accepts it with a nod?
  5824. >"True," Cloudy admits, following up with a shrug. "But hey, once you've had a taste of paradise, it's only... uh... SHUTTING UP NOW."
  5825. >Why?
  5826. >Soarin isn't -
  5827. >"Hey," he whispers, leaning over so you can hear him, "you were only joking about killing her, right...? Because right now you kinda look like -"
  5828. "Oh! Sorry!"
  5829. >It's harder to put the smile on this time.
  5830. >"Hey, I'll take something!" Cloudy shouts, her mouth once again full of pizza. "Don't care what. Soda or something."
  5831. >"Soarin?"
  5832. >"Whatever you have."
  5833. >You nod once Blossom stops frown at the other girl to look back your direction.
  5834. >"You changed your mind?"
  5835. >You nod again.
  5836. >"Cool. I'll be right back with that knife."
  5837.  
  5838. >You are Diamond Tiara and you sigh.
  5839. >This isn't any fun.
  5840. >Without Sil, this is just *pointless*.
  5841. >None of these people are fun to play with.
  5842. >Lily puts up a half-hearted attempt to stop you from leaving, but that's all.
  5843. >They don't want you here, but that's fine. Just fucking fine.
  5844. >*You* don't want to be here.
  5845. >Particularly after the last time you were here.
  5846. >The Entertainment Complex isn't exactly your favorite place right now.
  5847. >Caramel raises an eyebrow when he sees you stand.
  5848. >Yeah.
  5849. >Him.
  5850. >*That* fuckup.
  5851. >"Leaving already?" he asks as you draw near.
  5852. "*Yeah*. There's nothing to do here."
  5853. >"Really?"
  5854. >His eyes do an exaggerated circuit of the building - what little of it he can see from behind the bar.
  5855. >"Well, okaaaay then. If you say so."
  5856. "I *do*."
  5857. >"Tired of playing video games? Karaoke? Skee ball? Skating? Rock climbing? That... uh... that new thing? Whatever it is?"
  5858. "Yes!"
  5859. >"Oh. Okay."
  5860. >You make it to the end of the bar when he calls out to you again.
  5861. >"Where are you going?"
  5862. "Home."
  5863. >"How are you going to get there?"
  5864. >Shit.
  5865. "I'll..."
  5866. >Make Lily give you a ride?
  5867. >No, she didn't drive herself. She came here with... with... someone?
  5868. >You weren't really paying attention.
  5869. >Whatever. That'll work. Whoever it was.
  5870. >You do a u-turn and start walking back.
  5871. "I can -"
  5872. >They're gone. Before you'd gone twenty feet, your friends - ha, friends! - are gone.
  5873. >Some friends they are.
  5874. >"Look," Caramel says, smiling, "I'm off in a couple hours. I can give you a ride after my shift."
  5875. "What am I supposed to do until then!?"
  5876. >Idiot.
  5877. >"Well... you can always drink."
  5878. "But..."
  5879. >You've got a few bucks in your purse. Maybe enough for a cab. Maybe.
  5880. >Probably not.
  5881. >Definitely not.
  5882. >Not even enough for a few drinks.
  5883. >"On the house," Caramel adds, already pouring the first daiquiri. "Come on, what'll it hurt?"
  5884.  
  5885. >You are Silver Spoon and you take another sip of your lemonade.
  5886. >It's what Blossom brought you instead of a knife.
  5887. >That was a relief.
  5888. >She was joking. She thought you were joking.
  5889. >Everything is fine. Everyone is having fun.
  5890. >Even you.
  5891. >" - and that's why he'll never fuck me again."
  5892. >You laugh.
  5893. >You're also still sipping from your glass.
  5894. >The results are not pretty.
  5895. >"Yeah..." Cloudy sighs theatrically as you and Soarin dab at the spilled liquid with napkins, "Yeaaaaaah, pretty much my reaction, too. Except, you know, to the first part of that story. And from the other end. I still think he's overreacting, but -"
  5896. >"Did you *really* need to tell her that story?" your boyfriend grumbles, wiping at the splotches on your skirt.
  5897. >"Kinda."
  5898. >"Seriously?"
  5899. "I... didn't mind..."
  5900. >Much.
  5901. >"Uh-huh," the other girl grunts. "Now she knows I'm not a threat or anything."
  5902. "Mhm."
  5903. >"And that if she breaks up with you, that Spitfire -"
  5904. >"I'm not going to break up with her."
  5905. >"Well, if she breaks up with you then."
  5906. "I won't."
  5907. >"Anyway,” Soarin mutters, “Spitfire wouldn't do anything like that."
  5908. >"Oh, right. I guess. She does prefer her girls a little more... um..."
  5909. "O-older...?"
  5910. >"Curvier," she corrects, running a hand along her bust. "I've *barely* got what she's interested in."
  5911. >Still more than you, both above and below.
  5912. >But your waist is narrower.
  5913. >Small victories.
  5914. >"And Blossom is probably safe -"
  5915. >"Thank goodness," the other girl giggles. "I never thought I'd be happy to be so... uh..."
  5916. >"Athletic?" Cloudy suggests, glancing at Blossom and grinning. "But yeah, older too probably. Not you, Blossom, but Silver... yeah. Definitely. I mean, you'll probably fill out, right?"
  5917. >You hope so.
  5918. >Honestly, you think you might be curvier than her. Right now. Just... her curves are... *bigger*. In ratio to everything else - waist, shoulders - you have more contrast! There's more curve!
  5919. >It's just... small.
  5920. >If these are the kinds of women Soarin finds physically attractive -
  5921. >"Still," the girl continues, the distraction derailing your delusional train of thought, "she might make an exception for Soarin's ex -"
  5922. >She cuts abruptly short when Soarin chuckles.
  5923. >"That only happened twice, Cloudy," he says, shaking his head.
  5924. >He's blushing.
  5925. >Embarrassed that it happened?
  5926. >Or that you now know?
  5927. >Must be the former. You've know all along that you could never be his first.
  5928. >You’ve *always* known.
  5929. >"Um..." Cloudy hums, "I guess you haven't heard...?"
  5930. >She glances over at Blossom, who gives a slight shrug.
  5931. >Cloudy shrugs.
  5932. >Blossom shrugs again.
  5933. >Soarin groans.
  5934. >"You're just fucking with me, aren't you?"
  5935. >"Nope. It's now three."
  5936. >"What?"
  5937. >What.
  5938. >He's had *three* other girlfriends...?
  5939. >That...
  5940. >That doesn't matter.
  5941. >"Who? Wait, no. I don't -"
  5942. >You don't want to know.
  5943. >"Pinkie."
  5944. >Soarin quickly shakes his head.
  5945. >"We never dated."
  5946. >"True, but you two *did* -"
  5947.  
  5948. >You are Diamond Tiara and you aren't drunks.
  5949. >Drunk.
  5950. >You aren't drunk.
  5951. >Only had... like... three drinks?
  5952. >And not even!
  5953. >You didn't finish any of them. So, like... one and a half drinks...?
  5954. >"Another?"
  5955. >You look at the half-finished drink in your hands.
  5956. >It's... still half full?
  5957. >Only half empty?
  5958. "Uuuuh..."
  5959. >It tastes pretty good.
  5960. >"You sure?" Caramel asks.
  5961. >Oh, there's another drink.
  5962. >It's blue.
  5963. >Blue is nice.
  5964. >But you still have half of *this* drink.
  5965. >"Another hour until I'm off," he says, pushing it closer.
  5966. >This drink won't last you an hour.
  5967. >"After that, I'll take you straight home, so -"
  5968. "'kay."
  5969. >You take one last deep sip and push your current glass away.
  5970. >The new one...
  5971. >Oh.
  5972. >It tastes different.
  5973. >Better?
  5974. >Yeah.
  5975. >Better.
  5976. >Like coconut.
  5977. >You like coconut.
  5978.  
  5979. >You are Silver Spoon and you’re almost sad to see Cloudy go.
  5980. >Almost.
  5981. >*This* is pushing that feeling back towards ambivalent the more she talks, verging on happy. Perhaps even joyous.
  5982. >"But seriously," the girl continues as she stands, completely oblivious – or uncaring – of the blush you know is blazing across your cheeks. "I bet you two want some time alone, don’t you?"
  5983. >Even if you couldn’t feel the heat in your cheeks, you know you couldn’t help but be embarrassed. Who *could*?
  5984. >”Shit, I can’t even imagine a date ending without a little action, but getting *engaged*!?”
  5985. >Aside from her, that is.
  5986. >"That's like... top-tier restraint from you, Soarin."
  5987. >"You can’t tell anyone, Cloudy. You *do* know that, right?"
  5988. >"And *you* –" she points at Soarin " – know you can’t let another night pass without giving her a taste of heaven. Girl deserves it for putting up with your temper. Look at her. You know she wants it."
  5989. >Yes. Even you know you want it.
  5990. >But you wouldn't admit it.
  5991. >You don't know how she can.
  5992. >Does she have *no* manners?
  5993. >Even Blossom is looking more than a little taken aback by Cloudy’s openness.
  5994. >Again, who wouldn’t be?
  5995. >"Maybe do something a little special…?" the girl hints, eyebrows wiggling "A little light bondage…? Her or you? Probably you, Soarin. It would be weird on –"
  5996. >So there *are* things that can make Cloudy feel something akin to shame.
  5997. >You can see it burning on her face.
  5998. >But…
  5999. "If… if he wants to…"
  6000. >Anything.
  6001. >Soarin shakes his head.
  6002. >"No."
  6003. >But you would.
  6004. >"Yeah, no. Definitely not," she agrees, faking a laugh. "I mean… heh… it’d be a little too weird. Kinda rapey, considering... well... it's not like you can say you're both consenting adults if someone walks in or... uh... yeah..."
  6005. >Soarin and Blossom nod, but not you.
  6006. >You don't see how it would matter.
  6007. >It wouldn't make much of a difference.
  6008. >Bound or not, he can do with you as he wishes.
  6009. >"Just... uh... yeah..." Cloudy mumbles on, like she's literally incapable of stopping her mouth from running without nonverbal death threats you are too embarrassed to make at this moment. "Make tonight special for her, 'kay? Do something different. Just... um..."
  6010. >She holds her hands out - the same gesture as earlier, if slightly further apart.
  6011. >To you, it looks a little more accurate than before.
  6012. >"Don't... well..."
  6013. >Her head wavers, her gaze bouncing between the gap between her hands and... not *quite* your direction. Almost, but it stops just short every time.
  6014. >And every time, her cheeks grow brighter and brighter.
  6015. >"Just... um..."
  6016. >"Cloudy," Soarin sighs, waving his hand loosely in the direction of the door, "I never thought I'd say this and honestly mean it, because I didn't think it was possible, but you're only embarrassing yourself. Just get out of here."
  6017. >"She's embarrassing me, too," Blossom giggles. "This is painful to watch."
  6018. >Indeed.
  6019. >Cloudy twists back and forth nervously as she tries to force out the thought.
  6020. >You almost feel sorry for her.
  6021. >"... it'd probably kill her, so... um..."
  6022. >"Go!" Soarin laughs
  6023. >"... well... DON'T PUT IT IN HER BUTT!"
  6024.  
  6025. >You are Diamond Tiara and you nod.
  6026. >Oh.
  6027. >*This* one's pink.
  6028.  
  6029. >You are Silver Spoon and you glance Soarin's way, only to find him looking yours.
  6030. >"Seriously, dude," Cloudy rushes without pause. "I'm pretty sure that'd kill her."
  6031. >For the first time, he's at a complete loss for words.
  6032. >"I'm not joking, Soarin."
  6033. >No dismissive laughter or warning rumble. No barked order or reluctant agreement.
  6034. >No calming touch on your leg. No warm palm on your back. No fingers interlocked with yours. No gentle squeeze on your shoulder.
  6035. >Only awkward shame.
  6036. >"Soarin. Promise me you... uh... Soarin? Why aren't you saying anythooooooh shit."
  6037. >She blinks, the movement slow and exaggerated.
  6038. >Her head flops first one way, then the other.
  6039. >"Um... you okay?" Blossom mumbles, watching the girl with an expression of horror. "Is you neck broken or -"
  6040. >"LITERAL FUCKING SHIT!" Cloudy screeches, throwing her hands up into the air. "SERIOUSLY? YOU STUCK THAT MONSTER IN HER BUTT!?"
  6041. >Blossom shakes her head sadly and smirks.
  6042. >"Cloudy, you're overreacting," she sighs. "They didn't say -"
  6043. >Her eyes briefly meet yours before she jumps to her feet.
  6044. >"I didn't need to know that," she amends. "Did *not* need to know that. Plates. Give me your plates. I'm going to go wash them and my brain until everything is spotless."
  6045. >Blossom doesn't even wait for you to hold yours out, snatching it right out of your hands in an instant and gone only a moment later.
  6046. >"I'll just... uh... I'll just go," Cloudy mumbles, unable to look either you or Soarin in the eyes. "Yeah. But... yeah. Seeya."
  6047. >Soarin barely acknowledges it - a miniscule nod of his head, a brief raise of his hand. Trying to wave goodbye, you think.
  6048. >He doesn't stand, even as Cloudy begins to shuffle away.
  6049. "I'll see her out."
  6050. >Someone has to lock the door behind her.
  6051. >Blossom doesn't feel safe if it isn't locked.
  6052. >Again, Soarin gives a tiny nod. If not permission, then at least awareness, and that is enough for you to pull yourself to your feet and follow.
  6053. >Either he trusts you not to kill Cloudy - or doesn't mind.
  6054. >You keep that little thought to yourself, amusing as it is.
  6055. >Now's not the time to tease him like that.
  6056. >You catch up quickly, finding Cloudy standing in the entryway with both hands balled up into tense fists, her knuckles white - and eyes shut almost as tight.
  6057. >"I'm so stupid," she's whispering softly. "I'm so stupid. I'm so stupid."
  6058. >Over and over.
  6059. >You don't know how long she repeats that until she finally draws in a deep breath, pushing out her chest.
  6060. >Slowly, she lets it out.
  6061. >Is she imagining Soarin's hand on her back as she does so?
  6062. >More importantly... why doesn't that doesn't bother you?
  6063. >You're still smiling when she opens her eyes.
  6064. "Hi."
  6065. >"Hey," Cloudy grunts, her cheeks freshly aglow. "I'm... going. Sorry, I just talk before I think and... yeah, sorry about all that. I'm going. Bye."
  6066. "Wait."
  6067. >You grab her sleeve. It won't stop her from leaving - she could pull free from you on a whim - but maybe, maybe shows that you mean it.
  6068. >"Don't worry. I won't tell anyone about you and Soarin."
  6069. >She shrugs with just one shoulder, with only her free arm.
  6070. >"Who'd believe me anyway?" the girl sighs. "Everyone knows I talk to much, and after that thing about Blossomforth... well, I'm just some stupid, jealous ex, right?"
  6071. >The laughter that follows is forced and hollow.
  6072. "But you aren't, are you?"
  6073. >"Stupid?" Cloudy giggles. "Really? You have to ask that?"
  6074. "I... won't touch that."
  6075. >"Thanks."
  6076. "But I meant you aren't jealous."
  6077. >"No, not really."
  6078. >She sighs again, ending with a faint smile.
  6079. >"I have happy memories, but we didn't work out. Soarin and I weren't even really dating, I think. Just... um... yeah."
  6080. >Cloudy's eyes look somewhere beyond you, unfocused and lost in the past.
  6081. "So... um..."
  6082. >She blinks away the memories and, with a sad smile, puts her hand on your shoulder.
  6083. >"Anyway, I won't hang out with him anymore. See you a-"
  6084. "I wouldn't mind if you did."
  6085. >"Huh?"
  6086. "If you hung out with us. It was... fun."
  6087. >"You didn't talk much," Cloudy responds, her head flopping over in what you're coming to realize is how she expresses confusion.
  6088. >Still looks painful, though.
  6089. "I *don't* talk much. Kind of gotten out of the habit."
  6090. >"Huh."
  6091. "Yeah..."
  6092. >"Well, okay. If you're sure."
  6093. >You nod.
  6094. >GAH.
  6095. >SHE'S PATTING YOU!
  6096. "I've changed my mind!"
  6097. >Cloudy jerks back, but you're still holding on to her sleeve.
  6098. >She doesn't retreat far.
  6099. >"Really?" the girl asks, smirking.
  6100. "N-no."
  6101. >"You actually like being the center of attention, don't you?"
  6102. >Yes.
  6103. "No."
  6104. >"Uh-huh. Gotcha."
  6105. >From her wide smile, you think she really does.
  6106. >You don't mind.
  6107. >"So, I do have a question for you," Cloudy asks, coming closer. "I'm not jealous, but I *am* curious."
  6108. >She leans forward, until she's practically cheek to cheek with you.
  6109. >You can feel the heat radiating off her as she whispers into your ear.
  6110. >"So, did he really do you in the butt?"
  6111. "Y-yes."
  6112. >"How was it?"
  6113. "It..."
  6114. >"I mean, you don't have to tell me if you don't want to, but -"
  6115. "It hurt."
  6116. >Cloudy pulls back just far enough for you to get a hint of her sympathetic expression and see the movement as she nods.
  6117. >"You don't regret it?"
  6118. "Never."
  6119. >"Then have fun tonight, 'kay? And don't do anything stupid."
  6120. >She waits expectantly until you nod.
  6121. >"Cool. See you around, Silver."
  6122.  
  6123. >You... you gotta pee.
  6124. >Like, *now*.
  6125. >"Hey, Diamond! Where are you going?"
  6126. "Gotta pee."
  6127. >"Want a new drink when you get back?"
  6128. "Yeah."
  6129.  
  6130. >You are Silver Spoon and you giggle as you flounce down beside your boyfriend.
  6131. >"Sorry about all that," he mumbles without looking up, head held between his hands. "I know she's an annoying cunt. I shouldn't have let her in."
  6132. "I kind of like her."
  6133. >"But she's a cunt."
  6134. >He says it *so* flat and serious that you giggle again.
  6135. "That's why I only *kind* of like her."
  6136. >"She talks too much."
  6137. "But you like that, don't you?"
  6138. >"Not when it's about *you*. She's just so... *blunt*."
  6139. "Yeah, but..."
  6140. >You flop - there's really no other way to describe it - against his side, resting your head on his shoulder and sighing contently.
  6141. "... honesty is nice change of pace."
  6142. >"She's not being honest, Silver. She's being stupid."
  6143. "Maybe, but she doesn't hide anything. I don't have to wonder what she *really* means or is *really* trying to do."
  6144. >"Like... me?" Soarin mutters. "Are you talking about me?"
  6145. "No. Well, yes, I guess."
  6146. >Curling up your legs underneath you gives you enough of a boost to nuzzle his neck.
  6147. >You don't even mind that it knocks your glasses askew, or that you hadn't thought to remove them first.
  6148. "But not really, Soarin, because you don't mean to do it. Neither do I. It just... happens."
  6149. >"But not with her."
  6150. "No, not with her."
  6151. >"Sorry."
  6152. "Don't be, Soarin. Really. I wasn't thinking of you when I said that."
  6153. >"If not me, then who?"
  6154. "Di."
  6155.  
  6156. >You... you can't find your phone.
  6157. >"Hey, Diamond? Are you okay?"
  6158. "Yeah. Fine."
  6159. >"You look like -"
  6160. "Said I'm fine."
  6161.  
  6162. >You are Silver Spoon and you feel guilty.
  6163. >It's true and it's not like it's a secret or anything. Soarin knows what she's like.
  6164. >That doesn't seem to matter, though. Not now.
  6165. >You still feel bad for thinking it, let alone *saying* it.
  6166. >After all, the manipulation hasn't been purely one-sided.
  6167. >You've gotten things you've wanted out of Di, same as she has from you.
  6168. >Soarin is living proof of that.
  6169. >"You don't really feel that way, do you?" he asks, sliding his arm past you and around your shoulders.
  6170. >Despite knowing what's coming next - hoping for it, even - you squeal as Soarin pulls you tight against him.
  6171. >"If you did, then..."
  6172. >He looks at your face, at your glasses that are still twisted at an implausible angle, and sighs.
  6173. >"You would still be friends with her anyway, wouldn't you?"
  6174. >Soarin looks so resigned to the fact. He knows the answer, but you give it to him anyway.
  6175. "I am."
  6176. >No qualifiers, no past or future tense, no hypothetical answer to a hypothetical question. It simply is, and it bears saying.
  6177. >"Why?" he asks, if only because he doesn't want to accept it. He knows why.
  6178. >You can see it in his eyes.
  6179. "Soarin, we only met because of her."
  6180. >"I know," he mumbles unhappily. "We've had this conversation before, haven't we?"
  6181. "Basically."
  6182. >Your boyfriend nods solemnly.
  6183. >"I know," he repeats, "but I still don't get it."
  6184. "Does it matter?"
  6185. >"I guess not."
  6186. >With a long, drawn out sigh, he -
  6187. "Eeeeeeeeeeeep!"
  6188. > - suddenly pulls you onto his lap.
  6189. >"So, what now?" Soarin asks, squeezing you tight in his arms. "Want to go back to my place? Maybe spend the night?"
  6190. "I... I *was* going to spend the night with Di."
  6191. >Ages ago.
  6192. >"O-oh."
  6193. "So I *could*. My parents don't expect me home tonight."
  6194. >"Oh! Right!"
  6195. "Just... let me give her a call."
  6196. >Soarin loosens his grip - more from you struggling to free yourself than from what you said.
  6197. >Your phone is broken.
  6198. "Can I... um..."
  6199. >He looks down at you blankly.
  6200. "... can I use your phone?"
  6201. >"Oh, yeah," he chuckles. "Sorry."
  6202. >He leans to one side as he pulls it from his back pocket, tilting you precariously.
  6203. >It happens with such casual ease, as if Soarin doesn't feeling your weight at all.
  6204. >Not that he isn't aware of you, though. If it weren't for his arm around your waist, you would have slipped from his lap, but he holds you tight.
  6205. >"Here," Soarin mumbles as he hands you his phone and settles back down, never letting go of you. "You have her number memorized? Because if not -"
  6206. "I do."
  6207. >You quickly punch in the number and hold the phone up to your ear.
  6208. "I just want to make sure she's okay."
  6209. >"She's fine," Soarin responds with a slight frown. "Why wouldn't she be?"
  6210. >It's ringing.
  6211. >"Really, Silver -"
  6212. "She's not as tough as she acts, Soarin."
  6213. >"But you're still going to spend the night with me?"
  6214. >It's still ringing.
  6215. >You're not surprised.
  6216. >She's probably angry with you.
  6217. >"Silver?"
  6218. "Oh. Yes. If everything is fine, she doesn't need me. And if things aren't..."
  6219. >Voice mail.
  6220. >You hang up and redial.
  6221. "... if things aren't, I'd rather spend the night with someone that wants to be with me than someone who's angry."
  6222. >"So why are you calling at all?"
  6223. "Because I'd feel bad if I didn't."
  6224. >"I guess I get that," Soarin sighs, the rush of air ruffling loose strands of your hair.
  6225. >Voicemail.
  6226. >You redial. She'll answer eventually, once she thinks she's made you wait long enough.
  6227. >"I know there've been times I called Spitfire," he continues, "and hoped she wouldn't pick up."
  6228. "She will."
  6229. >He waits patiently as the phone rings. Over and over until it his voicemail again.
  6230. >"Silver..."
  6231. "She'll answer when she wants to."
  6232.  
  6233. >You are... busy.
  6234. >"Hey, Diamond? You sure you're okay?"
  6235. "Yeah. Fine."
  6236. >Whatever.
  6237. >It's not important.
  6238. >You throw your purse on the seat next to you and turn back to the bar.
  6239. >"Still can't find your phone?"
  6240. "Doesn't matter."
  6241. >You'll just buy a new one.
  6242. "Gimme another, Carmy."
  6243.  
  6244. >You are Silver Spoon and you're starting to worry.
  6245. "It's on, I know it's on."
  6246. >Otherwise, it would have gone straight to voicemail.
  6247. >"Like you said, she'll answer when she wants to. If she doesn't want to -"
  6248. "But five times?"
  6249. >"Six, but you know her better than me."
  6250. >Not what he means, but the thought strikes you.
  6251. >Is that resignation or amusement tinging his voice?
  6252. >You don't know him well enough to tell.
  6253. >If it was Di speaking...
  6254. >"Go ahead and call her again," Soarin murmurs as he wraps his other arm around your waist, hugging you lovingly.
  6255. >If it was Di, she would have said to give up long ago.
  6256. >Sometimes she doesn't hide what she wants.
  6257. "No, I think..."
  6258. >Then why did she help Soarin?
  6259. >"Give it one more try, Silver," he whispers into your ear. "You'll worry all night if you don't get hold of her."
  6260. >You look at the phone in your hand and sigh.
  6261. "You're right."
  6262. >"Then call her."
  6263. "It won't do any good. She won't answer."
  6264.  
  6265. >You are Soarin and you're not sure what to tell your girlfriend.
  6266. >One one hand, you don't want her worrying. On the other...
  6267. >The less said about the other, the better.
  6268. >"Can I... can I put something on your phone?" Silver asks, still staring at the screen.
  6269. "Sure. What?"
  6270. >"A phone finder app."
  6271. >Her fingers are already dancing away.
  6272. >"You know," she adds softly, "for when we get separated."
  6273. "... really?"
  6274. >"Uh-huh."
  6275. >That's all the explanation she gives.
  6276. "... and... um... can she track yours?"
  6277. >"No," Silver mumbles, more focused on your phone than the conversation. "She doesn't know about it."
  6278. >Suddenly, you're paying much closer attention to what's being done to your phone.
  6279. >Not that you have anything to hide.
  6280. >"I told you, Soarin," your girlfriend giggles softly. "I'm crazy, remember?"
  6281. >She says it so bluntly, you're left wondering if it -
  6282. >"I'm joking."
  6283. "Oh."
  6284. >"Mostly."
  6285.  
  6286. >You are Diamond Tiara and -
  6287. >"You're drunk."
  6288. "Bullshit. M'fine."
  6289. >"Look, I'll be off soon. Just another hour and -"
  6290. >You take another sip.
  6291. >Nothing.
  6292. "S'empty..."
  6293. >Huh.
  6294. >You can't remember his name.
  6295. >Whatever.
  6296. >Only like the second time you've talked to the guy.
  6297. >Not your fault he didn't make a lasting impression.
  6298. "Hey. Hey!"
  6299. >He turns back to you with a smile.
  6300. >Fucking right he better be smiling.
  6301. "Gimme 'nother."
  6302. >"If that's what you want."
  6303.  
  6304. >You are Silver Spoon and you know where Di is.
  6305. >"Where?" Soarin asks, the hesitation and wariness clear in the way he asks. A tentative pause before asking, a slight trailing of the word.
  6306. "The EIC. So..."
  6307. >He doesn't want to check on her and you don't blame him.
  6308. >You wouldn't either, if you didn't still feel guilty for what you said... if you didn't suddenly feel bad about skipping out on her tonight.
  6309. "... she's probably fine. With some other friends."
  6310. >"She doesn't have other friends."
  6311. "I... know."
  6312. >You stare at the phone in your hand, as the blinking icon on the screen.
  6313. "But everything is fine. I know it is."
  6314. >Soarin laughs, the sound sharp, sudden, and bitter.
  6315. >It stops as suddenly as it starts.
  6316. "What?"
  6317. >"You say everything is fine, but you sure don't act like it."
  6318. "Because I'm being crazy."
  6319. >His arms tighten around you, until you can hardly breathe.
  6320. >Not from the constriction driving the air from your body, but from the simple pleasure of being loved.
  6321. >All other needs slip away.
  6322. >Except one.
  6323. >Try as you might, you can't quite shake.
  6324. "Di's fine. She's not answering because she's angry at me."
  6325. >"You sound like you're trying to convince yourself, not me."
  6326. "Both."
  6327. "I... *am* being crazy. I obsess. I didn't even think of her at all until a minute ago... and now..."
  6328. >Soarin sighs.
  6329. >He doesn't want to check on her.
  6330. >He doesn't want to listen to your whining.
  6331. >He doesn't want to deal with -
  6332. >"It's not crazy to worry about your friends."
  6333. >"No, it isn't," Blossom agrees. You don't jump in surprise at her sudden reappearance - Soarin is holding you down, after all - but *he* does.
  6334. >Not much and he hides it well, but you're in his lap. You can feel it.
  6335. >If Blossom noticed - and you doubt she did - she hides it well, walking into the room with a sigh, more focused on drying her hands and arms with the dish towel than anything else.
  6336. >Or so you think.
  6337. >"This isn't the first time you've brought your friend up," the girl continues as she sinks into her chair. "You talked about her earlier, remember?"
  6338. >Oh.
  6339. >You nod weakly.
  6340. >That's right. You had. And none of it had been good.
  6341. "Soarin...? Let's go home."
  6342. >"Soarin," Blossom hisses, as close as she can to a threatening rumble, "don't listen to her."
  6343. "Di is fine. And even if she isn't -"
  6344. >"She's still your friend."
  6345. >Your head drops.
  6346. >She is.
  6347. >There's nothing you can say against that.
  6348. >"You're going to worry about her all night and Soarin's not going to have any fun."
  6349. >"Thaaaat makes sense."
  6350. >He stands suddenly, still holding you - your feet floating clear of the ground by at least six inches. At least.
  6351. >"Let's go check on your friend, Silver. And then we're going home."
  6352. "But... I'd... I'd rather be with you -"
  6353. >"If you're still worrying about Diamond, you *won't* be. Not in any way that counts."
  6354. >Soarin's right.
  6355. >That's why you don't kick and struggle as he carries you out like a doll.
  6356. >Well, that and being carried like this is actually surprisingly comforting - if not remotely *comfortable*.
  6357. >"Talk to you tomorrow!" Blossom calls out.
  6358. >Your... ride(?) stops suddenly.
  6359. >"Um... Silver?"
  6360. "You can. She's your friend. I don't -"
  6361. >"She's talking to you."
  6362. "Oh. Oh! Right!"
  6363. >You raise your arm - hopefully over Soarin's shoulder, you can't see, so *hopefully* - and wave frantically.
  6364. "Yeah! Tomorrow!"
  6365. >They both laugh.
  6366. >At you.
  6367. >So do you.
  6368. >"Until tomorrow!"
  6369.  
  6370. >You are Diamond Tiara and you do NOT want to go home.
  6371. >Whats for you there anyway?
  6372. >Fucking. Nothing.
  6373. >Why'd you let him drag you all the way out here for?
  6374. >"My car's right there, Diamond. I'll -"
  6375. "No! I said'n't wanna go!"
  6376. >It's more fun here. Drinking. Alone.
  6377. >Better'n bein' home alone.
  6378. >Or with *her*.
  6379. >Stupid bitch.
  6380. >"Diamond, please..."
  6381. "I SAID NO!"
  6382. >"... you're making a scene."
  6383. "I'M NOT GOING!"
  6384. >"Diamond -"
  6385. "OWW!"
  6386. >He's pulling your wrist!
  6387. >"- this is for your own good."
  6388. "Let go!"
  6389. >"I'm just trying to -"
  6390. >And then he's not touching you anymore.
  6391. >Huh.
  6392. >"Sorry," Caramel mumbles. "I'm just... look, my boss was noticing, okay? He'd be pretty pissed if he knew I was serving drinks to a minor."
  6393. "S'what? Fuck'm. I'll have'm fired!"
  6394. >You jab a finger into the boy's chest, sending him - or maybe you? - staggering back.
  6395. "I'll have *you* fired too! I'm tired of assholes thinking they can... can..."
  6396. >Woah.
  6397. >Everything is falling up.
  6398. >Weird.
  6399. >"HEY!"
  6400. >Why isn't he trying to reach for you?
  6401. >Asshole.
  6402. >He's an asshole, but you wouldn't let him fall like –
  6403. >... like... you?
  6404. >Oh.
  6405. >Shit.
  6406.  
  6407. >You are Soarin and you're looking for a parking place.
  6408. >"Over there!" Silver shouts, pointing to the right.
  6409. "Nah, that's always full. We won't find any empty -"
  6410. >"NO! SHE'S OVER THERE!"
  6411.  
  6412. >You are Silver Spoon and you know you saw Di.
  6413. >"Where? I don't see her."
  6414. >Just a flash of her hair, but it's her.
  6415. >You know it is.
  6416. "By him, Soarin. I think... I think he pushed her..."
  6417.  
  6418. >You are Diamond Tiara and your head hurts.
  6419. >Well, everyfuckingthing fucking hurts, but your head more than anything the fuck else.
  6420. >FUCK.
  6421. >Slowly, you open your eyes.
  6422. >The asshole is leaning over you.
  6423. >NOW he holds out his hand.
  6424. >Fucker.
  6425. >"Hey, are you okay?"
  6426. >You slap his hand away.
  6427. >"Leave me alone! I'm -"
  6428. >Huh.
  6429. >He's not standing over you anymore.
  6430. >"Soarin, wait!"
  6431. >You hear Silver Spoon, but she's not here.
  6432. >She's with *him*.
  6433. >"Don't -"
  6434. >You never should have helped *him.*
  6435.  
  6436. >You are Silver Spoon and you are furious.
  6437. " - wait!"
  6438. >He's already out of his seat.
  6439. "Don't -"
  6440. >Slamming the boy into the nearest car a second time.
  6441. "Soarin!"
  6442. >Rushing to protect Di.
  6443. >And that... make you furious.
  6444. >The feeling passes quickly, replaced by simmering jealousy, followed by shame.
  6445. "Soarin..."
  6446. >You're still fumbling with your seatbelt.
  6447. >No matter how you yank and tug, it remains stuck until finally - unexpectedly - it comes free with a click.
  6448. >Softer than the thump of the boy dropping to his knees, but louder than the quiet gasp as you tumble out of the seat.
  6449. >At least, he didn't hear it.
  6450. >Off balance and caught by surprise, you fall.
  6451. >In that split second, you reject your first instinct - to catch yourself with your hands.
  6452. >Your palm still stings.
  6453. >That's all the time you have.
  6454. >No chance to do anything else but fall.
  6455. >The impact knocks your glasses from your face.
  6456. >You hear them bounce. Twice.
  6457. >Funny, the things that catch your notice in moments of panic.
  6458. >Not the pain of the asphalt tearing into your bare forearms, nor the words that Soarin and the boy share as they shout at one another.
  6459. >You're vaguely aware of both, but only in the most academic of senses.
  6460. >They don't seem to matter.
  6461. >You're blind; you don't know where your glasses are now.
  6462. >You're hurt; you don't feel the pain, but you're aware enough to know not to look down.
  6463. >You're alone; you can't distinctly make out what Soarin is yelling, but you know he's too preoccupied to come to your rescue. If he even knows you need rescuing. Or cares.
  6464. >So you sit up. Slowly.
  6465. >And you try to not be crazy.
  6466. >It's not Soarin's fault.
  6467. >It's not Di's.
  6468. >It's your own.
  6469. >You were angry.
  6470. >You weren't paying attention to what you were doing.
  6471. >You try to not be crazy, to push down the jealous voice whispering in your ear.
  6472. >The one reminding you that Soarin wasn't paying attention to you either.
  6473.  
  6474. >You are Soarin and - on some level - you know you've lost control.
  6475. >Again.
  6476. >You also don't care this time.
  6477. >Silver is calling for you to stop, but she's on the other side of the car.
  6478. >She doesn't see what you see.
  6479. " -the fuck did you do to her!?"
  6480. >You slam him into the car a second time.
  6481. >"Soarin!"
  6482. >Silver's voice skirts the edge of awareness.
  6483. >Right now, there's only you, the guy in your hands, and the girl bleeding on the ground.
  6484. >"What the hell is your problem?" he shouts back, trying to push you away.
  6485. >He's about your size, but tired. Weak.
  6486. >Anger gives you a strength he can't fight back against.
  6487. >It's like swinging a child around.
  6488. >"I'm just helping her out!"
  6489. "Bullshit!"
  6490. >A child you want to hurt.
  6491. >You slam him into the car again. Hard.
  6492. >Too hard.
  6493. >The impact knocks the air from his lungs, leaving him wide eyed and desperately gasping for breath.
  6494. >Too hard.
  6495. >You pull him back, ready to smash him into the car again.
  6496. >Feebly, he tries to pull your hands off of his shoulders.
  6497. >All his panicked wheezing and futile struggling does is fan the flames of your anger to new heights.
  6498. >He can see it, too, just as you can see the fear in his eyes.
  6499. >You let go.
  6500. >Before you hurt him again, you let go.
  6501. >He's not going anywhere.
  6502. >Without you to hold him up, he falls to his knees.
  6503. >He'll be down for a while. That's why you let go.
  6504. >At least, that's what you're telling yourself as you turn towards Diamond.
  6505. >Not that his expression reminded you of her.
  6506. >Of how you hurt her.
  6507. >That you owe her.
  6508. >That she exists.
  6509. >She's hurt
  6510. >Diamond is sprawled on the ground, her head *almost* looking in your direction, her eyes *almost* focused on you.
  6511. >Her hair *almost* hiding the blood pooling on the asphalt.
  6512. >It almost looks natural - as natural as her hair ever looks.
  6513. >Intentional, then, with the pale lilac giving way to a rich burgundy at the tips.
  6514. >It *almost* looks pretty.
  6515. "Hey."
  6516. >Diamond's head twitches, like she's trying to look at you but can't quite make it happen.
  6517. "Hey!"
  6518. >"...m'fine. Fuck you. Go 'way..."
  6519. >The words are slurred almost to the point of illegibility.
  6520. >You've seen this before.
  6521. >On the field.
  6522. >But that was soft dirt and grass.
  6523. "Diamond. Diamond!"
  6524. >This is hard asphalt.
  6525. >Her head twitches again as you kneel down beside her.
  6526. "Hey, look at me!"
  6527. >You hold a finger in front of her face.
  6528. "Watch -"
  6529. >"M'fine!"
  6530. >She bats at your hand and misses by a mile.
  6531. >Shit.
  6532. >You close your eyes and take a deep breath.
  6533. >Just like you'd told Silver back at the diner.
  6534. >Breathe in. Hold it. Let it out slowly. Try to force your emotions out with the air.
  6535. >Push out the anger.
  6536. >Don't let it take over.
  6537. >He's still on the ground.
  6538. >It would be easy.
  6539. >Easier than an "accident" on the field.
  6540. >Those serve a purpose. Hurting him -
  6541. >"Go 'way!"
  6542. >Diamond's hand strikes yours.
  6543. >"Y'arn't even here, so go 'way. Lemme g'home with Carm... Carmy."
  6544. >She smiles like a drunken idiot.
  6545. >"We're gonna... we're gonna g'back t'his place an do it!"
  6546. >Her breath reeks of alcohol.
  6547. >"An' you can't stop us," Diamond giggles as she tries to sit up. "You aren't here. You're with Sil, an' she's not here!"
  6548. "Wait! Don't move!"
  6549. >You try to remember everything coach did with Fleetfoot, but it's all a blank.
  6550. >Did coach stop her from moving?
  6551. >You hesitate too long, but it doesn't matter.
  6552. >Diamond doesn't even make it an inch off the ground.
  6553. >"M'fine. Fuck you. Fuck... fuck Sil."
  6554. >Call someone. That's what you need to do. That's what coach did.
  6555. >Your phone - it's not in your pocket.
  6556. >Still in the car.
  6557. "Silver!?"
  6558. >She had been holding it, right?
  6559. "Silver!"
  6560. >You look up when there's no response.
  6561. >She's not in the car.
  6562. "Diamond, just... just wait here. You're hurt -"
  6563. >"Fuck you. Like y'care. N'one cares."
  6564. "We all care, Diamond. We all care, so just hold still and -"
  6565. >"Y'don't," she laughs again. "Y'don't care."
  6566. >Her head rolls to one side, staring past you at... something.
  6567. >With her eyes so unfocused, it's hard to tell if she's even seeing anything at all.
  6568. >"He's nice. Kinda. Nicer'n you, anyway."
  6569. >Briefly, you glance over your shoulder. She's looking at the boy still laying on the ground.
  6570. >Blinded by anger, you hadn't recognized him earlier.
  6571. >His name escapes you, but he goes to your school. You remember that much at least.
  6572. >"Was gon' take me home..."
  6573. >That, and he's always with a new girl every week.
  6574. >Like Flash Fucking Sentry.
  6575. >"... but then'e gam'me drinks."
  6576. >Just like Flash Fucking Sentry.
  6577. >"Was gon' take me t'*his* home," Diamond adds, giggling, "an' fuck me!"
  6578. >A second later, she squeezes her eyes shut.
  6579. >So do you.
  6580. >Breathe in.
  6581. >Hold it.
  6582. >Let it out. Slowly.
  6583. >"Fuck," Diamond moans. "Head hurts."
  6584. >Try not to snap.
  6585. "Diamond...?"
  6586. >Push the anger aside. Forget about him. He's not important right now.
  6587. >"Huh?"
  6588. >You open your eyes as the last of the air leaves your lungs.
  6589. >"Wha...?"
  6590. "I think you have a concussion. Just hold still."
  6591. >You say each word clearly and distinctly.
  6592. >Not so she can understand you, though; you doubt she can understand anything that's happening right now.
  6593. >It's to help you focus.
  6594. >Another trick.
  6595. >Another little, pathetic trick.
  6596. "Don't worry, Diamond. We're going to get you help."
  6597. >"Help...?"
  6598. "Yes. You're -"
  6599. >"M'fine," she groans. "Go 'way. M'bored. Car... Carmy...? CARMY! Les'go!"
  6600. "No, Diamond. This is serious. You're -"
  6601. >A short sigh from behind shorts out that thought.
  6602. "Silver! Can you call -"
  6603. >"Ignore her, Soarin," your girlfriend brusquely cuts you off.
  6604. "She's hurt."
  6605. >"She's drunk."
  6606. "But -"
  6607. >"She's *just* drunk."
  6608. "Silver -"
  6609. >"She's *just* drunk, Soarin. That's *all*."
  6610. "She's bleeding!"
  6611. >"*So*?"
  6612. >You turn at the question - more a whine than a word.
  6613. "Silver, what's -"
  6614. >"Di's only drunk," your girlfriend scoffs, her arms crossed in front of her narrow chest.
  6615. >She's holding herself tight, her left hand clasped firmly around her right forearm.
  6616. >Uncertain. Scared.
  6617. >You recognize the cues.
  6618. >Not that you couldn't tell. Not that it wouldn't be *obvious* to anyone.
  6619. >Her face looks gaunt and hollow, almost like she's gone into shock at the sight.
  6620. "She's going to be okay, Silver."
  6621. >Your reassurance falls on deaf ears, Silver shaking her head even as your mouth opens.
  6622. "Really. She'll be fine."
  6623. >"M'fine," Diamond murmurs, practically on command. "Go 'way."
  6624. >"You heard her, Soarin."
  6625. "We just need to get her to a hospital and everything will be fine."
  6626. >"She's... she's just drunk," Silver mumbles, looking down. "Let's go."
  6627. "This is serious. She's hurt."
  6628. >Silver draws in a deep breath, then lets it all out in a single, long sigh.
  6629. >Her shoulder's drop, followed by her head, leaving her visibly deflated. Defeated.
  6630. >"Fine," she murmurs, shuffling forward. "I'll take her inside and clean her up, okay?"
  6631. "No way. We need to call an ambulance or something."
  6632. >"F'r who?" Diamond asks, pushing herself up again - and making it as far as propping herself up on her elbows before you notice. "Car...? W'happened t'im?"
  6633. "Don't worry about him."
  6634. >"But he was gon' fuck me!"
  6635. >"N-no..." the boy wheezes. He's sitting with his back against the car, his legs splayed out. "I... wasn't..."
  6636. >"Was too," Diamond argues, shaking her head once - and only once - before slamming her eyes shut and moaning softly.
  6637. "Silver, call an ambulance. And -"
  6638. >You hesitate, looking at the boy still struggling to breath.
  6639. >"What...? Gonna call the cops?"
  6640. >That's the question, isn't it?
  6641. >"Just 'cause... I served her... alcohol?"
  6642. "Because you got her drunk and -"
  6643. >Silver lays a hand on your shoulder as she steps past you.
  6644. >"I'm not calling anyone, Soarin," she murmurs. "Whatever he was trying to do..."
  6645. "But -"
  6646. >"I don't think it would be a good idea."
  6647. "Okay, Diamond's drunk, but it wouldn't be the first time you -"
  6648. >"It's not because of her."
  6649. >Silver gives you a gentle squeeze before letting go and reaching for her friend.
  6650. >"Come on," she grunts as she struggles to lift Diamond's dead weight. "Let's get you inside and cleaned up."
  6651. >It's easier for her than you expected, probably because she has experience.
  6652. >That would also explain the annoyed scowl etched on her face.
  6653. "I really don't think..."
  6654. >"She's fine, Soarin," Silver... *snarls* at you. "She's *fine*. Just drunk. Stop worrying about her."
  6655. "But..."
  6656. >She's never spoken to you like that. *Never*.
  6657. "... her head. She's bleeding."
  6658. >Silver pauses - and sighs.
  6659. >"Fine. We can go to a clinic, okay?" she concedes. Grudgingly. "And then we'll leave her at her house."
  6660. >"But I dun'wanna go-"
  6661. >"Shut up and stand up, Di. I can't carry you all on my own."
  6662. "Need me to help?"
  6663. >"No. Stop worrying about her."
  6664. >With practiced ease, Silver pulls Diamond's arm across her shoulders until she can support the girl's weight.
  6665. >"She's my problem, Soarin," your girlfriend snaps. "Not yours."
  6666. >You watch her walk away.
  6667. >What else can you do?
  6668. >What else can you say?
  6669. >You honestly don't know.
  6670. >Something, probably. You just don't know what.
  6671. >You've never seen this side of her before.
  6672. >"So... what now?"
  6673. >The boy's voice shakes you out of the void of your thoughts.
  6674. >"Gonna hit me some more? Would that make you feel better?"
  6675. "Dude. Don't."
  6676. >He sneers as you turn your head his way.
  6677. "Seriously dude. Don't fucking tempt me."
  6678. >Right now, it's the furthest thing from your mind.
  6679. >"Ah, right. Gotcha," the guy snarls as he pushes himself to his feet. "There aren't any girls around to impress."
  6680. >Your body instinctively mirrors his, rising up from your low crouch.
  6681. "What are you saying?"
  6682. >"I'm saying here I am, trying to take a girl home, and you come out of fucking nowhere and hit me, just so... what?"
  6683. >He's leaning. Favoring his right side.
  6684. >Sore? Sprained?
  6685. >"So you can play the fucking hero?"
  6686. >Nothing broken, or he wouldn't be standing.
  6687. >Guy doesn't look like an adrenaline junkie.
  6688. >"I was just taking her home!"
  6689. >You can take him.
  6690. "Don't start this shit, bro."
  6691. >He adopts a loose fighting stance.
  6692. >"Fucking bring it."
  6693. >Still favoring his right side, keeping it turned away from you.
  6694. "Seriously. Don't. You're hurt."
  6695. >"And I bet you'd love to hurt me more."
  6696. "I don't want to hurt anyone, bro. It just happens. Don't make it happen."
  6697. >He straightens suddenly - as straight as he can, anyway.
  6698. >"Are you... are you *trying" to sound like a badass?"
  6699. "Just giving you a warning, dude. I have a temper."
  6700. >"Yeah," he laughs, shaking his head, "you're trying too hard. There's no one here to impress."
  6701. >He runs his hand through his shaggy brown hair.
  6702. >"Fuck this. And fuck you. I am sick and tired of being *shit* on for being a nice guy. So can we get this over with? If I'm going to get my ass kicked, I'd rather it not be while everyone's watching. I'm not going to help you get laid."
  6703. "Dude. Don't."
  6704. >He starts to move towards you, but freezes before making a single step. With a sigh, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out some keys.
  6705. >"Actually, yeah, you're right. Fuck it. I'm going home. I'm not getting into a fight to help a girl I barely know."
  6706. "Help? You think getting Diamond drunk so you can fuck her is *helping* her?"
  6707. >He snorts in stifled amusement.
  6708. >"Not my plan, but maybe it would be."
  6709. >The boy shrugs.
  6710. >"What does it matter anyway? You're not going to call the cops."
  6711. "I might."
  6712. >"And piss off those girls? Yeah, no. You're not calling them."
  6713. >No. You're not. For a number of reasons.
  6714. "Fine, bro. Go."
  6715. >You wave your hand dismissively - the gesture faltering as you realise you *are* trying too hard.
  6716. "Go, dude. I'm not going to hit you unless you come at Diamond again, but I *am* going to make sure everyone at school knows what kind of creepy rapist you are."
  6717. >"Really?" the boy sneers. "Is that what you're going to tell everyone?"
  6718. "Of course I am."
  6719. >It's the best you can do.
  6720. "You'll never hurt someone again."
  6721. >It's *all* you can do.
  6722. >Hopefully it's enough.
  6723. >"Cool," he shrugs, followed by a short burst of bitter laugh. "Probably for the best. I'm tired of girls causing me problems because they know I'll bend over for them. Thanks for the favor."
  6724. "The only favor I'm doing you is not calling the cops."
  6725. >"Not much of a favor," he smirks, pointing towards the top of the nearest light - towards the camera pointed right down at you. "How many times did you hit me?"
  6726. >Oh.
  6727. >Shit.
  6728. >Did you go overboard?
  6729. >Shit.
  6730. >"I'd call them myself," he chuckles, relishing the panic that must be playing across your face, "but the cameras in employee parking are just for show."
  6731. >He shrugs again and turns away, putting his hand on the car.
  6732. >From the way he's fumbling with his keys, it must be his.
  6733. >"But, yeah... even if they believed me, they'd probably let you go. So"
  6734. "Because I didn't!"
  6735. >He pauses, door halfway open.
  6736. >"Really, now?"
  6737. "I was just helping out Diamond! How does that make me the bad guy!?"
  6738. >"I was wondering that myself."
  6739. "She said -"
  6740. >"She's drunk," he sighs. "I'm sure you know what she's like when she's drunk."
  6741. "Well, *yeah*. But you're the one that got her that way, aren't you?"
  6742. >"Diamond was bored. I was just... doing what I thought she wanted."
  6743.  
  6744. >You are Silver Spoon and you hate her.
  6745. >HATE. HER.
  6746. >You should never have worried about her.
  6747. >Never should have even *thought* of her.
  6748. >The people at the door look at you and her in - whatever.
  6749. >They look away fast enough once you glare their direction.
  6750. >"Where're we going?" she asks, the alcohol stench carried on her breath practically driving you to gag. "Sil... Sil? Where're we going?"
  6751. "Bathroom."
  6752. >"I don't need to go."
  6753. "To wash your head."
  6754. >"Oh."
  6755. >You get another three steps before you're pulling against her suddenly dead weight.
  6756. "Di -"
  6757. >"I need to go."
  6758. >This is not how things are supposed to be.
  6759. >Everything is supposed to be fine.
  6760. >Di should be berating you for being worried.
  6761. >Soarin should be laughing and making excuses for you.
  6762. >You should be laughing with him.
  6763. >A tiny, embarrassed giggle.
  6764. >You should be gone by now.
  6765. >"Sil..." she whines, "... I gotta *go*..."
  6766. >You should be home with Soarin by now.
  6767. >"Silllll..."
  6768. "You said you didn't need to only a moment ago."
  6769. >"I didn't need t'go *theeeeeen*, but I gotta go *nooooow*."
  6770. >Why is she still your friend?
  6771. >You don't need this.
  6772. >"Silllllllll..."
  6773. "Then hurry up."
  6774. >She nods quickly, her feet shuffling along as you basically carry her to the closest bathroom.
  6775. >*Not* the one near the arcade cabinets, thankfully.
  6776. >It's empty - as soon as the girls tidying up their makeup in front of the mirror see you and her, that is.
  6777. >They rush out, hardly bothering to stuff their cheap cosmetics into their even cheaper bags.
  6778. >You're doing them a favor.
  6779. >No amount of that filth they were smearing on their faces would make them any prettier.
  6780. >"Silllll..."
  6781. >You steer her towards the recently vacated sinks.
  6782. >"I gotta goooooo..."
  6783. >The petty sadism brings a smile to your face.
  6784. "There's something more important we need to take care of first."
  6785. >"Wait!"
  6786. "No."
  6787. >You stiffle a giggle.
  6788. >This won't end well. You *know* it won't end well.
  6789. >In the long run, this is only going to cause more trouble.
  6790. >And yet you pull her towards the sink anyway.
  6791. >Petty and stupid.
  6792. >"I gotta... I gotta..."
  6793. >Is it worth it?
  6794. >No.
  6795. >She won't even remember this tomorrow.
  6796. >But you're going to do it anyway.
  6797. >"*Sil*... wait! I gotta -"
  6798. >You hiss sharply as she grabs you, her nails digging into your scraped forearm.
  6799. >Whatever.
  6800. >It doesn't hurt *that* badly.
  6801. >"I gotta..."
  6802. "This first."
  6803. >"But I... I..."
  6804. >Pathetic. You're pathetic.
  6805. >Willing to endure the pain simply to torment her.
  6806. >Knowingly making things worse for both of you, just for some minor revenge.
  6807. >That's... okay.
  6808. >Because you're not.
  6809. >You're *not* okay.
  6810. >You're crazy.
  6811. >The thought is comforting.
  6812. >It absolves you of all responsibility, doesn't it?
  6813. >That's why you're going to do it.
  6814. >"Sil... Sil?"
  6815. >That's why you're going to -
  6816. >"You're hurt?"
  6817. >She roughly pulls your arm up, examining the scrapes with suddenly focused eyes.
  6818. >"Sil, you're hurt?"
  6819. "No. I'm -"
  6820. >"You're hurt."
  6821. >Suddenly, *she's* the one pulling *you* toward the sink.
  6822.  
  6823. >You are Soarin and you're scared.
  6824. >The last thing he said before getting in his car and driving away keeps rolling around in your head.
  6825. >"Isn't it a little scary?" he had asked.
  6826. "What?"
  6827. >"What can happen without anyone ever seeing."
  6828. >It wasn't a threat. It didn't *sound* like a threat.
  6829. >He had been staring at the fake cameras when he said it, probably thinking about how there wasn't any footage of you attacking him.
  6830. >But that's not what has you terrified.
  6831. >It's the realization that no one gives a single, solitary shit about you and your point of view unless you're with Silver Spoon, and only then so they can enjoy her cute reactions without listening to the insanity rambling through her fucked up head.
  6832. >In fact, you wouldn't be surprised if suddenly -
  6833.  
  6834. >You are Silver Spoon and you, for just a second, felt like someone *wasn't* watching you.
  6835. >That's an odd feeling to have. Shouldn't it be the other way around? At least, that's how it is in all the horror stories you've read.
  6836. >Someone feels eyes on them, not *not* on them.
  6837. >But the feeling passes quickly.
  6838. >"Sil... Sil..." your drunken companion whines, trying to pull you towards the sinks, both her hands wrapped around your wrist. "You're'rt. Lemme... lemme help..."
  6839. "I'm *fine*."
  6840. >You jerk your arm away
  6841. >She stumbles and nearly falls when you yank your arm away.
  6842. >"Sil..."
  6843. "I'm *fine*!"
  6844. >Her face crinkles into a confused pout.
  6845. >"Why're you bein' a bitch?" she grumbles, reaching for your hand again. "Just tryin' take care've you."
  6846. "Don't -"
  6847. >Why is she suddenly caring about you *now*?
  6848. "Don't worry about it. Don't you have to go to the bathroom or something?"
  6849. >"I'll wait," she answers, grabbing you and pulling you forward - and... and you let her. "Stop bein' pissy."
  6850. >Easier said than done.
  6851. >"Why're you bein' so pissy?" Di mumbles as she turns on the tap and begins running cool water over your scrapes.
  6852. >It stings.
  6853. "Because..."
  6854. >Focuses you.
  6855. >You obsess.
  6856. >It's easy to focus on the pain. To let it build. To remember everything that's gone wrong.
  6857. "Because if you had answered your phone, this wouldn't have happened!"
  6858. >It's *her* fault.
  6859. >Not Soarin's. He wasn't ignoring you because he *wanted* to.
  6860. >It's because of *her*.
  6861. "If... if you had just answered your phone, I wouldn't even be here! I would be... be..."
  6862. >Even now, your cheeks pinken.
  6863. >You can see it in the mirror.
  6864. "... be *snuggling* with Soarin."
  6865. >"Fuckin'?"
  6866. >She said it, not you, yet the heat intensifies.
  6867. "Why didn't you just answer the fucking phone?"
  6868. >"N'my fault," Di slurs, pressing a wad of paper towels against your forearm. "Lossit."
  6869. "Likely story."
  6870. >She doesn't say anything, doesn't even *try* to refute your implications.
  6871. >Implication? No, *accusation*.
  6872. "We *tracked* you here. By your phone."
  6873. >You couldn't resist twisting the knife a little more, could you?
  6874. >No. You can't.
  6875. "I have a tracking app on your phone. It's here."
  6876. >Now she knows.
  6877. >"I don't've it, Sil," she mumbles, too drunk or stupid to grasp what you're saying. "Lost m'phone."
  6878. >No, she doesn't know anything.
  6879. "Your phone is here."
  6880. >She looks so puzzled.
  6881. >Did she really think her lies would work?
  6882. >She sets her purse on the counter and carelessly dumps it out.
  6883. >Things go everywhere.
  6884. >Cheap lipstick rolls off into the sink.
  6885. >Her thin wallet falls to the floor.
  6886. >Assorted trinkets and trash bounce and spin.
  6887. >No phone.
  6888. >"Lost it," she says softly, looking at the detritus sadly. "Tried t'call you, but I lost it."
  6889. >She's hiding it. Has to be.
  6890. "Where is it?"
  6891. >Tucked in her bra?
  6892. >She tries to shrug, but the gesture is hopelessly butchered by her drunken lurch as she begins to pick up her scattered possessions.
  6893. >"Toldja. Lost it," she mumbles. "Wannid t'call you, but I lost it."
  6894.  
  6895. >You are Diamond Tiara and you don't understand why *she* doesn't understand.
  6896. "Toldja. Lost it."
  6897. >You don't understand why her face is so hard or her eyes so cold.
  6898. "Wannid t'call you, but I lost it."
  6899. >You didn't want to go home. Not alone.
  6900. "Sil... *Sil*..."
  6901. >"Stop."
  6902. >You let the tube of lipstick in your hands fall to the floor.
  6903. >"Stop it," Sil snaps. "Just... stop! Stop lying to me!"
  6904. "But... I..."
  6905. >Why doesn't she understand?
  6906. >She pushes you.
  6907. >Why!?
  6908. >Shoves you against the counter.
  6909. "Sil!"
  6910. >It presses against your waist, bend>ing you backwards.
  6911. "S-stop!"
  6912. >"Where is it!?" Sil screams, yanking up your shirt. "Where are you hiding it!?"
  6913. >You don't understand.
  6914. "Tried t'call, Sil..."
  6915. >"Why?" she barks. "Why would you call me? You don't even care about me or you wouldn't..."
  6916. >Her hand is wrapped up?
  6917. >She's crying?
  6918. >Why?
  6919. >"... you wouldn't have... have made this scene! I should be with Soarin right now, but instead I have to take care of you!"
  6920. "N-no, I... I wanted -"
  6921. >"See? It's always about what *you* want!"
  6922. "- I just wanted t' spend the night with you n' Soarin! Issat so bad!?"
  6923. >"YES!"
  6924. >But... why...?
  6925. >Her hands yank and pull, grope and squeeze.
  6926. >You let her, so much as you're allowing anything.
  6927. >Arms aren't exactly doing what you want them to do, not that you see any point in stopping her.
  6928. >"Where's the phone, Di!?" Sil demands, searching your skit pockets, your socks... everywhere. "Where are you hiding it!?"
  6929. "I. Lost. It."
  6930. >You let her, because it's true.
  6931. >And when she can't find it... she'll feel bad. Right?
  6932. >Bad enough to let you spend the night with her, instead of at home.
  6933. >That'd be nicer'n staying with that guy anyway.
  6934. >You zone out - *zoned* out - only realizing it when Sil roughly jerks your bra back into place.
  6935. >Fucks that up, though.
  6936. >Not her fault she doesn't know how to put on a bra.
  6937. >Don't mention it, 'cause you're nice like that. Just tug on yours 'til it's comfortable.
  6938. >Hard to do like this.
  6939. >It'll never be comfortable.
  6940. >You give up.
  6941. >Doesn't feel as bad as the pain in your head.
  6942. >Drank too much.
  6943. >Weird, though.
  6944. >Don't usually getta hangover this fast.
  6945. >Aren't the only one to give up.
  6946. >Sil's starin' at you with her arms crossed below those tiny tits of hers.
  6947. "Believe me now?"
  6948. >Her lips tighten.
  6949. >She believes, but she doesn't wanna.
  6950. "I lost it, Sil."
  6951. >"Why do I put up with you!?"
  6952. "'cause... I'm your friend."
  6953. >"Di..."
  6954. >Uh-oh.
  6955. >You gotta pee.
  6956. >Bad.
  6957. "I gotta go."
  6958. >"Di... I..."
  6959. >*Now*.
  6960. >Feet have a little trouble working right.
  6961. >Fucking -
  6962. >Hands grab your elbow.
  6963. >You don't have time for this.
  6964. >Endulged her enough, right?
  6965. "Sil, I gotta pee. Just -"
  6966. >"Fine," she sighs. "I'll help you."
  6967.  
  6968. >You are Silver Spoon and you're still angry.
  6969. >Just... you're not entirely sure who to be angry *at*.
  6970. >Her for being selfish?
  6971. >You for worrying?
  6972. >Soarin for... for... you shouldn't even be angry at him, but you are. For paying attention to *her*, not you.
  6973. >He was supposed to bring you here so you would stop worrying, not to actually *do* anything. Not for *her*.
  6974. >Maybe you should be angry at yourself for being so selfish.
  6975. >Maybe that's why you help Di towards the closest stall, help her turn around in the narrow space, help her with her skirt and... luckily she can manage her panties by herself.
  6976. >You turn your back before she pulls them down.
  6977. >Not to give her privacy or anything. It's nothing you haven't seen before and it's not like she'll remember anything tomorrow.
  6978. >It's shame.
  6979. >The skirt was awkward enough, a reminder of what you'd almost done. What you *had* done, just seconds ago.
  6980. >You'd practically stripped her before being forced to admit - if only to yourself - that Di wasn't lying.
  6981. >She's manipulative, but she doesn't lie to you. Not in any way that counts, not in ways you don't *know* are lies.
  6982. >It doesn't count if you know it's false, right?
  6983. >The sounds of splashing liquid makes you feel sick, but a hand grabs onto your shirt when you try to step away.
  6984. >"Dun'go. Almost done."
  6985. >You stay.
  6986. >Shame demands it.
  6987. >One of you has to have some, after all.
  6988. >It won't be her. Never her.
  6989. >That's why she's such an important friend.
  6990. >For a brief moment, the trickling noise is covered up by your sigh.
  6991. >She's shameless. Bold. Impulsive.
  6992. >All reasons why you need her.
  6993. >And sometimes... sometimes she needs you to help her.
  6994. >"Sil... Sil... can y'help m -"
  6995. >That's why you care about her.
  6996. >"Wait, w'happened t'your hand...? Nevmind, Sil, I gottit."
  6997. >And sometimes - *sometimes* - she accidentally let it slips that she cares about you.
  6998.  
  6999. >You are Soarin and you're sitting in your car.
  7000. >Waiting.
  7001. >You can feel eyes on you, but surely that's just your imagination. Just worry.
  7002. >No one saw what happened. No one saw you arrive with Silver.
  7003. >It's scary what can happen without anyone noticing.
  7004.  
  7005. >You are Diamond Tiara and you managed to... uh... 'clean up' without Sil's help.
  7006. >Her hand's hurt.
  7007. >Actually hurt, or it wouldn't be bandaged up like it is. And her arm - shallow as the scrapes are, it's still an injury.
  7008. >Not like your head. You just drank too much.
  7009. >Gotta get your shit together. She needs you.
  7010. >You stand and get as far as straightening out your skirt before...
  7011. >Fuck, you head *hurts*!
  7012. >You're leaning against against Sil, hands gripping her shoulders.
  7013. >Gotta... gotta get your shit together.
  7014. >She needs you.
  7015. "Help me... um... to..."
  7016. >"Sink?"
  7017. >You nod - but the splitting headache the simple gesture brings ends the movement before it begins.
  7018. >"Di?"
  7019. >Oh. Couldn't see you anyway.
  7020. >Get your shit together, Di.
  7021. >S'only alcohol.
  7022. >"Di...?"
  7023. "Y... yeah..."
  7024. >You nearly fall, her slow shuffle too much for your feet to keep up.
  7025. >"Careful," Sil murmurs. "Just take one step at a time."
  7026. >Nuh.
  7027. >Gotta wash your hands.
  7028. >Gotta... clean up. So you can take care of her.
  7029. >She's hurt. Needs you.
  7030. >You don't know how long it takes to cross those few feet, but finally, eventually, Sil steps aside, guiding your hands to the counter.
  7031.  
  7032. >You are Silver Spoon and you breathe a sigh of relief as Di begins washing her hands.
  7033. >One at a time, using the other to hold herself up.
  7034. >Not the most *effective* method...
  7035. >Another sigh escapes your lips as you look back at the mess she left of the stall.
  7036. >The majority - you think and hope - made it inside the toilet, but there's still a slowly spreading puddle on the tile floor.
  7037. >Someone's going to have to clean that up.
  7038. >With a third, quiet sigh, you silently admit that it's you.
  7039. >You're always cleaning up after her mistakes. What is one more?
  7040. >You tuck your braid down the back of your shirt collar.
  7041. >Disgusting as it is, you were going to do worse to her, weren't you?
  7042. >And it's not the first time, you think as you bend - at the waist, to keep your skirt out of the liquid filth - with a wad of toilet paper bunched up in your hand.
  7043. >Most likely, it won't be the last time either.
  7044. >Not if she keeps drinking like -
  7045. >Her phone.
  7046. >*A* phone, at least.
  7047. >Fallen behind the toilet.
  7048. >The toilet paper falls from your hand.
  7049. >When? Was she lying? Did she lose it?
  7050. >Did she drop it moments ago while your back was turned?
  7051. >You don't notice that you're stepping into Di's urine, and if you did, it wouldn't be important.
  7052. >There's an easy way to find out.
  7053. >Did she try to call?
  7054. >The screen flickers to life at a swipe of your thumb.
  7055. >Check the log.
  7056. >Wait.
  7057. >Whenever she dropped it isn't important.
  7058. >She was about to send a text. No, a pic.
  7059. >To Soarin.
  7060. >"Sil...? Sil!? Am... am I... what...? Sil, why's my hair all red? Sil!? Am.. am I *bleeding*? Sil!?"
  7061. >Huh.
  7062. >She shaved.
  7063.  
  7064. >You are Diamond Tiara and you're lucky you only needed a few stitches.
  7065. >That's what Sil and Soarin keep saying.
  7066. >The people at the emergency clinic kept saying other things.
  7067. >You don't know what.
  7068. >*Other* things.
  7069. >It was just too complicated to follow and too much to remember.
  7070. >Obviously nothing important, because they shut up the moment Sil flashed some cash their way.
  7071. >Heh.
  7072. >*Poor* people.
  7073. >"This is nothing to laugh about, Di," Silver chides as she helps you into the backseat of Soarin's car. "You could have been seriously hurt."
  7074. >"She *might* be. They couldn't say for sure she didn't have a con-" blah blah blah.
  7075. >They just *keep* talking.
  7076. >Doctor said you were probably fine. Probably!
  7077. >He shined lights in your eyes and everything!
  7078. >"- I really think -"
  7079. >Bahahahaha, that stupid jock? *Think*?
  7080. >"- someone needs to stay with her tonight."
  7081. >Soarin looks your way and - fucking what!?
  7082. >He kicked the door shut!
  7083. >RUDE!
  7084. >You can still hear him and Sil talking anyway.
  7085. >Not the words or anything, but enough to know they're arguing.
  7086. >Probably about who has to take care of you.
  7087. >Whatever.
  7088. >You don't want to listen to them anyway.
  7089. >Tired.
  7090. >So tired.
  7091. >At least your head doesn't hurt as much, until Soarin throws himself into his seat, setting the car - and your head - rocking.
  7092. >He slams the door and you suddenly have things other than your head to worry about.
  7093. >It's not the only thing rocking.
  7094. >Don't throw up.
  7095. >Don't throw up.
  7096. >Don't... okay.
  7097. >Okay.
  7098. >You're good.
  7099. >Until Silver sits down, that is.
  7100. >The car barely moves, but your stomach flips.
  7101. >"Soarin, it'll be fine," Silver sighs. "Her parents will look after her."
  7102. >Cold, purple eyes burn into you, but you don't stop laughing. You can't.
  7103. >Every chuckle that shakes your body makes you want to vomit, but that doesn't stop you either.
  7104. >It's just too funny.
  7105. >"Di-"
  7106. "Y'know th'don't care."
  7107. >"Di."
  7108. "Y'know that. S'fine. Don't need 'em."
  7109. >"Di!"
  7110. "What!?"
  7111. >"Just... Di..."
  7112. >Soarin puts his hand on Sil's shoulder and her eyes jerk away from you.
  7113. >"It'll have to be you, Silver," he sighs. "I know you wanted to spend the night with me, but I don't see any other choice."
  7114. >He flinches as she turns her gaze on him.
  7115. >"You're letting her come between us," Sil whispers.
  7116. >Psh.
  7117. >Like you can't hear her.
  7118. >You're not *that* drunk.
  7119. >"I *don't* want her to come between us."
  7120. >"Then WHY!?"
  7121. >"Silver, you obsess," Soarin sighs, running his hand on her cheek. "If something *is* wrong and -"
  7122. >You aren't stupid.
  7123. >You know what that look he flashes you means.
  7124. "M'fine. Just take me home."
  7125. >Asshole shakes his head, then turns back to Sil.
  7126. >"If something happens to Diamond, you'll never forgive yourself. She's your friend."
  7127. >Silence.
  7128. >Sil's head drops, but she doesn't say anything.
  7129. >Doesn't matter. You're fine.
  7130. >"Silver, I don't want *that* to come -"
  7131. >"You're right," she says abruptly. "Thank you."
  7132. >"For?"
  7133. >"For explaining it like that."
  7134. >She sighs.
  7135. "M'fine. Said m'fine. Nothin's wrong."
  7136. >"Di, shut up."
  7137. >Maybe if you were sober, you'd have a smart comeback, or even a swift "fuck you."
  7138. >Instead, Sil's bent over the back of her seat before you know it, your hands in hers.
  7139. >"You're my friend."
  7140. "Y-yeah?"
  7141. >"I'll stay with you tonight."
  7142. "Y'were supposed to, anyway."
  7143. >Maybe it's because everything is moving too fast - or too slow - but you can see the guilt flash across her face.
  7144. >"Y-yeah, I was," Sil admits. "Sorry."
  7145. "S'fine."
  7146. >You can be kind.
  7147. >You can forgive.
  7148. >It's easy; you don't want to be mad at Sil.
  7149. >"I'll drop you two off at...?"
  7150. >"Di's place," Sil answers. "My parents... they..."
  7151. >"Worried they'd see me?"
  7152. >"No, that they would see Di. They... probably wouldn't approve."
  7153. "An'mine don't care!"
  7154. >Upsides to neglectful parents.
  7155. >You can be as stupid as you want.
  7156. >"Indeed, hers won't even notice," Sil responds, turning around in her seat to face foward. "I don't have many friends."
  7157. >Heh.
  7158. >Overstatement much?
  7159. >Just one. Just you.
  7160. >For some reason, that doesn't make you laugh.
  7161. >"I don't want to lose one just because she was lonely."
  7162. >For some reason, that makes you cry.
  7163. >You're just drunk.
  7164. >And your head hurts.
  7165. >It doesn't mean anything.
  7166. >You have no idea why.
  7167. >"Diamond, are you okay back there?"
  7168. "Yeah, I'm -"
  7169. >The car hits a bump.
  7170. >Nothing is okay.
  7171.  
  7172. >You barely hear Sil's murmured apology, even though she's helping you out of the car, even though her head is right beside yours.
  7173. >"It's fine, Silver," Soarin answers, his voice louder and stronger. "She's not the first."
  7174. >He almost sounds genuine.
  7175. >"Maybe not even the youngest..."
  7176. >You're almost curious, or would be if you didn't feel so miserable.
  7177. >Everything hurts.
  7178. >"I don't remember if the victory party was before or after Spitfire's birthday," he continues with a laugh, "but either way I've had to clean up the backseat before."
  7179. >Ugh.
  7180. >You're standing.
  7181. >Roughly.
  7182. >At least, you're out of the car, leaning heavily on your friend's shoulder.
  7183. >"Silver, are you sure you don't need any help?"
  7184.  
  7185. >You are Silver Spoon and you smile for Soarin.
  7186. "This isn't my first time, either. I'll be fine."
  7187. >Di murmurs something under her breath. Protesting, no doubt, but it's the truth.
  7188. >Not this exact situation, but close enough.
  7189. >Carrying her inside, drunk. The vomit is new - she usually doesn't drink *that* much - as is the blood.
  7190. >"And... her...?"
  7191. >Soarin is worried and - now - you don't blame him.
  7192. >You're trying not to.
  7193. >It helps that you're worried, too, mostly because he was right.
  7194. >You would never forget it.
  7195. "Everything will be fine."
  7196. >It has to be. For him - and you.
  7197. >Soarin doesn't budge.
  7198. >He doesn't believe you.
  7199. >It would hurt, if his eyes weren't focused on you.
  7200. >He's worried about *you*.
  7201. >Not Di.
  7202. >You smile - not intentionally.
  7203. >Not for him... and not for show.
  7204. >That actually, honestly makes you happy.
  7205. "I promise, Soarin."
  7206. >He can think whatever he wants of you, so long as he's thinking of *you*.
  7207. "I'll be fine."
  7208. >He hesitates a moment longer, but nods.
  7209. >Perhaps he saw that your smile was real.
  7210. >Perhaps he believes you now.
  7211. >Perhaps he simply chose to believe *in* you.
  7212. >Whatever it is, he - reluctantly - steps back.
  7213. >"Okay," he sighs, "but if anything happens..."
  7214. "I'll call you. I promise."
  7215. >Soarin reaches for his pockets, patting them to reassure himself that he has his phone on him.
  7216. >Though he finds it, he still frowns.
  7217. >"But, yours is -"
  7218. "It's okay."
  7219. >He doesn't move until you show him.
  7220. "I have Di's phone. I'll use it."
  7221. >His shoulders slump, his head nodding in surrender.
  7222. >Had he been looking for a reason to... to what?
  7223. >To stay?
  7224. >Even you know that would be too much.
  7225. >Even the crazy girl.
  7226. "I'll call you, Soarin."
  7227. >You begin walking away before he can find the excuse he's looking for.
  7228. >It would be a horrible idea.
  7229. >You can't let him, but you would.
  7230. >You know you would.
  7231. >It wouldn't be so bad.
  7232. >Di's parents wouldn't notice.
  7233. >She wouldn't mind.
  7234. >Maybe -
  7235. >As you turn to ask him, the engine fires.
  7236. >He drives away before you can call after him.
  7237. >Good.
  7238. >The walk to the door is longer than the distance would imply; Soarin's bright yellow car is out of sight before you reach the door.
  7239. >With Di leaning heavily on you, you search her purse for her keys.
  7240. >Nothing.
  7241. >Her pockets, then.
  7242. >"Sil... wha...?"
  7243. "I'm just looking for your keys."
  7244. >"Oh."
  7245. "You better not have lost those, too."
  7246. >"Wish I had."
  7247. "Why?"
  7248. >Other pocket, perhaps.
  7249. >"Because...'cause then..."
  7250. >Ah.
  7251. >"I couldn't come home."
  7252. >There.
  7253. >Di lets out a soft groan when she sees the key in your hand.
  7254. "Sorry."
  7255. >"S'fine," she mumbles, resting her bloody head against yours, "just promise you'll stay?"
  7256. "I promise."
  7257. >She's your friend and she needs you.
  7258. >The door opens with the soft whisper of well-oiled hinges.
  7259. >Laughter echoes down the entry. Two voices - a man and a woman. Miss Rich and... someone. Not her husband; his laugh is deeper and richer.
  7260. >You should call Soarin. He could spend the night here and no one would ever notice.
  7261. >"Sil...?"
  7262. "Oh, sorry."
  7263. >You help Di inside and toward the stairs, her head bouncing against yours with ever step.
  7264. >She lacks the strength to hold it up. Not just physically, but what little pride or dignity she could muster have long since worn away.
  7265. >The journey up the stairs is painfully slow, one step at a time, making sure Di has her full foot on the next step before daring to let her put her weight on it.
  7266. >A tumble down would be... unpleasant.
  7267. >You arrive on the landing safely.
  7268. >Di's staggering shuffle speeds up as she nears her bedroom.
  7269. >This isn't the first time the two of you have made this trip.
  7270. >However, once inside, you turn her away from the comfort of her bed. That's new.
  7271. >Almost.
  7272. >"Sil..."
  7273. "I know, but you need a shower."
  7274. >"... but... *tired*..."
  7275. "Just a little bit longer, then you can sleep."
  7276. >Last time, it had been her caring for you.
  7277. "Shower."
  7278. >She flinches at your voice.
  7279. >"Yes," the girl murmurs. "I know."
  7280. >She reaches up with her other hand, brushing the back of it across her lips as if to wipe the filth from her mouth. It doesn’t work.
  7281. >With a weary sigh, she shuffles along unresisting.
  7282. >Good.
  7283. >She needs this.
  7284. >Not just a shower, but attention.
  7285. >Friendship. Love. Affection.
  7286. >Her father once loved her mother, and she him.
  7287. >They both used to love her.
  7288. >Love can be so fleeting.
  7289. >You’ve seen that firsthand.
  7290. >You won’t let it slip through your fingers like that.
  7291. >You’ll do anything.
  7292. >Anything.
  7293. >That’s why, instead of being wrapped in Soarin’s strong arms, you’re here helping Di stumble into the bathroom, watching her freeze when she sees her reflection in the mirror.
  7294. >Red and brown streak her clothes and hair.
  7295. >She's too out of it to even undress herself.
  7296. >Too shocked by the horror of what she sees.
  7297. >No wonder she needs you so much.
  7298. >No wonder she needs *you*.
  7299. >Who else would put up with this? Who would stay by the side of such a wreck of a person but one equally broken?
  7300. >Who would give her the encouragement to go on?
  7301. >No one.
  7302. >You need each other.
  7303. >The last of Di's clothes hit the floor.
  7304. >She frowns as you wad them up and shove them into the trash.
  7305. >The expression lasts only a second, Di too confused to understand what you’re doing.
  7306. "It’s for the best."
  7307. >"I know," the girl mumbles, staring at the trash can.
  7308. >You doubt she knows her own name right now.
  7309. >"But..."
  7310. "Let’s get you cleaned up, Di."
  7311. >She looks down, at the remnants of her own vomit caking her chest and arms.
  7312. >No matter how much you had tried, you couldn’t clean it all off.
  7313. >"They won't tell my parents, will they...?"
  7314. "Who?"
  7315. >”The… uh… the doctors…?”
  7316. “No. I took care of everything.”
  7317. >A little cash took care of it.
  7318. >No need to involve insurance – or parents. Or authorities at all.
  7319. >The girl shivers.
  7320. >”If…”
  7321. “I took care of it, Di.”
  7322. >You sigh softly.
  7323. >”I doubt they’d care,” she mumbles. “My parents don't care about me at all."
  7324. "I know."
  7325. >Hesitantly, she reaches up and touches the back of her head, stopping just short of actually making contact with it.
  7326. “Does it hurt?”
  7327. >”Nuh,” she grunts, the grimace on her face betraying the truth. "Thanks, Sil."
  7328. >Her hand – and her head - drop.
  7329. >”M’tired. Can’t we just go t’bed?”
  7330. "Get in, Di. We need to get you clean."
  7331. >She doesn't argue, just stumbles forward, almost tripping over the lip of the tub.
  7332. >A slight moan escapes her mouth when you turn on the water, the cold rain striking her naked body.
  7333. >She doesn't try to avoid it, though, or ask you to turn it up.
  7334. >You do, though. Slowly.
  7335. >Eventually she stops cowering, though all she does is stand limply, swaying unsteadily.
  7336. “Sit down, Di. I’ll take care of it for you.”
  7337. >You help her down and begin undressing.
  7338. >No sense getting your clothes soaked.
  7339. >”Sil…?”
  7340. “Just a moment.”
  7341. >That’s all the longer it takes for you to finish disrobing, slipping your panties off and letting them fall into a pile with the rest.
  7342. >Carefully, you step into the tub and sit on the edge, the porcelain’s chill biting into your legs.
  7343. >It’ll warm up soon enough.
  7344. "Hand me that bottle?"
  7345. >She doesn’t know which one you mean.
  7346. “The pink one, Di.”
  7347. >”Oh.”
  7348. >Delicately and with care, you begin rubbing the body wash over her bare skin, scrubbing at what the water doesn’t immediately rinse away.
  7349. >She’s nonresponsive, practically comatose, lost in the rain.
  7350. >Perhaps she leans towards you every time your hand pulls away, even for a moment. Perhaps it’s just your imagination, or simply that she can’t hold herself up without you.
  7351. >She can’t.
  7352. “Di?”
  7353. >”Hmm?”
  7354. “I’m going to start on your hair now.”
  7355. >Carefully. Avoiding the stitches.
  7356. >It’s just a small cut, much smaller than you had expected, given the amount of blood.
  7357. >But head wounds bleed profusely and alcohol is a blood thinner.
  7358. >You avoid that spot, running your fingers through her hair, trying to clean what you can with water before applying anything else.
  7359. >She winces as your fingers catch on something, pulling painfully, but it's not your fault.
  7360. "Looks like you got some here, too."
  7361. >"Some wh-"
  7362. >She doesn't have the strength or care to finish the question, or maybe she knows. Maybe she doesn’t want to hear that her own blood is clotted in her hair.
  7363. >"M’sorry, Sil."
  7364. >She dips her head.
  7365. "It’s fine."
  7366. >”Ruin’d errything.”
  7367. “It’s okay.”
  7368. >”But –“
  7369. “I forgive you.”
  7370. >You always do.
  7371. "Pass me the shampoo."
  7372. >You've got to get this out.
  7373. >The bottle she hands you isn't her brand – it’s yours.
  7374. “No, the other one.”
  7375. >”Oh.”
  7376. >You set both bottles on the edge of the tub beside you and continue straightening out her hair, before squeezing a dollop of her shampoo into your hand.
  7377. >It's fragrant, almost offensively so, smelling of bubblegum and coconuts.
  7378. >Some might find it irritating, but to you…
  7379. >Truthfully, you *are* one of those people, but something about it just smells right.
  7380. >Comforting, even as it grates on you.
  7381. >Di whines softly as you work it into her hair, running the fingers through over and over to make sure every last speck of filth is cleansed from your friend.
  7382. >You try to be as gentle as possible, but the hand catches on new knots and tangles - and other things - on every pass.
  7383. >By the time you're satisfied, the water is starting to run cold.
  7384. "All done, Di. Time to rinse off."
  7385. >She nods and rises to her feet – and you join her, holding her steady as she rinses her hair and body for the last time in the chilly water.
  7386. >She’s trembling.
  7387. >She really is.
  7388. >That’s enough.
  7389. “Okay, Di, we’re going to get you out now.”
  7390. >She nods, bending slightly and reaching for the knob.
  7391. "No. Wait."
  7392. >You should shower, too.
  7393. >Might as well.
  7394. >Di nods timidly and silently steps out of the tub.
  7395. >Her steps aren’t as weak, but she nearly stumbles.
  7396. “Wait, Di. I’ll help –“
  7397. >”Can get t’my bed on my own,” she interrupts, shaking her head and sending little droplets of water spraying around the room.
  7398. “O-oh. Okay. You’re sure?”
  7399. >Nod.
  7400. >You would insist, but what little warmth remains in the water keeps you rooted.
  7401. >It will run out soon – and does.
  7402. >The cold water is almost painful on your skin, but that isn't the reason you rush.
  7403. >Di is waiting. She needs you. You need her.
  7404. >You need her to be happy and safe.
  7405. >For Soarin.
  7406. >Still, standards must be maintained.
  7407. >Your mild shampoo is all but scentless after Di’s, the stench of hers lingering and overwhelming the gentle floral fragrance.
  7408. >It's yours, though, so you use it. It’s what you’ve always used.
  7409. >You undo your braid, letting the strands twist free and loose, before running your fingers through the strands.
  7410. >They come away pale red, stained with the traces of Di’s injury.
  7411. >The color washes away soon enough, the whole thing hardly more than a footnote, albeit one that strikes hard.
  7412. >You don't use the brush.
  7413. >It would be unseemly to give more care to your own appearance than Di’s, all things considered, but more importantly… that would take more time and care than you have.
  7414. >With a gasp, you dip your head into the stream, rinsing the shampoo from your hair as quickly as you can.
  7415. >All done.
  7416. >It can’t be described as jumping, but that word comes close to how you get out of the tub, slamming your hand against the know and cutting off the water only after you escape it’s bitter chill.
  7417. >Exposed to the air, you feel even colder.
  7418. >Of course there's water all over the floor - at no point was the shower curtain pulled shut to keep the spray contained.
  7419. >It never is, when you're together.
  7420. >You yank the towel from the wall and quickly dry yourself.
  7421. >All done.
  7422. >You almost sprint for the bed, for the warmth and comfort of its blankets, but a thought stops you.
  7423. >The phone.
  7424. >You should have it near you.
  7425. >Just in case.
  7426. >Just… in case.
  7427. >You were busy.
  7428. >Did Soarin call?
  7429. >You reach down into the pile of abandoned clothes, turning on the screen with a swipe of your fingers.
  7430. >Oh.
  7431. >You’re an idiot.
  7432.  
  7433. >It’s late. So late it’s almost early.
  7434. >Hesitation had played a part and worry its own.
  7435. >Di is asleep, her hair fanned out across her pillow, still shimmering wetly in the pale light – the only light – streaming through the windows.
  7436. >Covers pulled high, almost burying her face.
  7437. >You lift a corner and slide yourself inside, the sudden warmth almost melting you.
  7438. >To think it all came from her.
  7439. >This heat, this comfort.
  7440. >Soarin.
  7441. >Everything.
  7442. >You’ve barely settled into the bed when Di puts her arm around you, pulling you closer.
  7443. >She lacks the strength to do such a thing, but it happens nonetheless, her bare breasts pressing against your back, her skin rubbing against yours, her warmth heating you up.
  7444. "Goodnight, Di.”
  7445. >She mumbles something in return, pressing even closer until the two of you share a single pillow.
  7446. >You love the smell of it.
  7447. >Her hand presses against your sternum, holding – hugging – you tightly.
  7448. >"Goodnight, Silver."
  7449. >It travels down, gently stroking your belly.
  7450. >A leg slips between yours.
  7451. >So does her hand.
  7452. >"Hmm?" Di moans softly.
  7453. >So do you, partially at her touch and partially because of what it means.
  7454. >"Sil..."
  7455. >You bite your lip. Sound only encourages her. Makes her think you're enjoying it.
  7456. >"You shaved."
Soarin Silver Spoon Diamond Tiara underage coercion

Soarin's Silver Lining pt.4

by blossomanon

Soarin's Silver Lining pt.3

by blossomanon

Soarin's Silver Lining pt.2

by blossomanon

Soarin's Silver Lining pt.1

by blossomanon