Pressing his tongue to the roof of his mouth, Calvin tried to ignore the thoughts swimming in circles in his mind. Calvin used to crave the intimacy of friendship outside of his small friend group, because it felt somewhat fake. The superficial nature of friendships was something Calvin had grown used to. Usually, it was all for show. Nothing that ever came off as serious. People wanted to look good, wanted to show how actively they were liked by those around them. He couldn’t see himself fitting into that mold, simply because he didn’t care. There wasn’t a point in wanting people to idolize him when they themselves were so horribly useless. What was the joy in that? Someone useless liking him wouldn’t do a single thing for Calvin. Was it cynical? Was it vain? Why certainly. That was the joy in not caring, He could be as unlikable as he wanted to be. and the people who actually mattered didn’t care at all. If Calvin wasn’t likable, they didn’t have to be around. It was almost perfect. Almost. There were always people he would rather not be around, people that he didn’t like but somehow gravitated towards him. But that wasn't true. Because he still did crave those things.
That was why he was at this shitty party. Calvin had allowed Arlo to drag him to this party and he had agreed it would go ‘fine’. Whatever fine was…He wasn’t sure of it. everything was a bit hazy at the party already. the stench of sweat and cheap liquor emanated throughout the crowded rooms. sweat seemed to drip off of everyone in the house. Honestly, it was revolting. Calvin was trying to pretend he enjoyed it— for Arlo's sake —though the only enjoyable part of this had been that he was able to get wasted and not have to pay for it. Everyone was certainly cross faded, or close to it. Calvin just wanted to leave, but walking alone… That was far from savory. so instead he let Arlo talk his ear off in a circle of others. Calvin's dark eyes took in the dimly lit scene, trying to decipher what was happening around him. why was stuff so confusing in situations like these?
That was how much of the night had progressed for Calvin, until someone else acknowledged him. someone he had seen around, spoken to just a few times. Calvin could remember the fleeting conversations. It really would be foolish to call them conversations. That didn’t matter though. Ariel was so interesting, and when he had once asked Calvin to move, the male stared for a second. “Oh, fuck. Yeah, sorry.” he had moved and waited for a moment. He remembered the moment so fondly, even now. The closeness, feeling seen, if only for the other to tell him to move. Those thoughts rushed back when Calvin turned his head slightly and saw the very person he had hoped to. Ariel! He turned towards Arlo. "I think I might start heading back." Calvin had caught sight of the other, he knew Arlo wouldn't understand. If he realized what Calvin was doing, it would be so awkward. So he instead just waved to his friend, saying he actually didn't mind walking home alone. That was a lie. It was fine though, maybe he could get Ariel to walk him home.
Stepping out and away from Arlo, Calvin walked across the room. Ariel was kind of alone. The other had stepped away from the people he had been with. "Hey," He knew it wasn't exactly a strong lead by any means. His throat felt unusually tight as he spoke to the one and only person who had ever seemed to matter. "I know -" Hesitation. "I know this probably sounds weird, but I uh- I was - We're neighbors." We live in the same apartment building. Don't say it all weird. "I was wndering if you'd walk back to the apartment complex with me." It didn't seem too weird, given they had a mutual friend or two. But it wasn't exactly the most normal request. ALl he could do was hope for the best.
Ariel probably should have been more worried about the fact that he didn't even know whose house he was at, nor did he care. It was crowded and hot and full of smoke and he was miserable, chasing his nausea with a joint and trying his damndest to remain glued to the wall while still keeping his friends in his line of sight. He hadn't wanted to come to this party in the first place—he had studying to catch up on even without the fact that he'd just been dumped three days ago and had absolutely no interest in going out. But his friends had insisted; James had passive-aggressively complained about his refusal to join them until he'd gotten mad, and then Kai had cleaned up her mess by playing good cop and assuring him it'd help cheer him up, and of course the ever-unhelpful designated driver Charlie suggested he wouldn't even be worried about Eason, his now-ex-boyfriend, once he was drunk enough. He should've known right then that the three of them would end up ditching him.
Ariel watched Charlie and Kai take bets on James' success with the couple she was chatting up a few feet away as he smoked and tried to come up with an excuse to leave, considering the strong possibility that none of them would notice if he left without saying anything, but knowing they would bitch about it later if he did. The thumping bass of the music was beginning to give him a headache and his patience was waning rapidly as he stamped out the end of his joint and leaned his head back against the wall behind him. Then a voice reached him, hardly audible over the music but clear enough for Ariel to tell they were speaking to him. He sat up again and glanced over to the kid who'd stopped beside him, trying to decide whether or not they knew each other. He looked a little young to share any of Ariel's classes—oh, there it was. Neighbours.
Taking another, longer look, Ariel thought he did recognise him, having seen him around some of the same places a couple of times before, though he couldn't recall whether he'd ever known the kid's name. Regardless of this, Ariel realised that the perfect excuse to leave had fallen into his lap, and he certainly wasn't about to waste it. He pushed away from the wall, held up a finger, give me a sec, and turned to weave his way to where Charlie stood—the closest to him of the three of his friends at the moment—easily identifiable by the pink and purple streaks in his hair. Ariel caught Charlie's elbow and leaned closer to be heard over the music.
"I'm leaving." That was all he said, all he needed to say, so without giving his friend a chance to respond he pushed his way back through the crowd and over to the wall. Then he nodded his head in the direction of the door, wordlessly telling the kid to follow him out and waiting to ask his name until they could hear each other more easily. His height made it easy to carve a path through the bodies, and the shock of fresh air after the heaviness of the atmosphere inside the party made Ariel stop for a moment just outside the door before he looked back to make sure the other boy had indeed followed him out.
The wordless confirmation from Ariel was enough to make Calvin ecstatic. His throat felt tight, words all getting stuck as he struggled to think of anything that wasn't just a sound of excitement and enthusiasm. Walking out of the crowded house once prompted, Calvin felt his head spinning. He almost felt like he had to vomit. The thought of not being alone for just a moment, it was all he needed right now. Especially given that Ariel was spending time with him.
"Thanks," Calvin said. Once outside, a slight breeze pushed the pair along the dimly lit paved pathway. There was an awkward silence that hung between them. It was presumptuous for Calvin to ask the other to walk him home. Close enough, just so he wasn’t the one who ended up alone. Because Ariel was so fascinating, Calvin enjoyed his presence, even if the other didn't really know it. He was just lonely. That was all. Momentary silence had fallen over them as they walked was soothing, but it lasted too long. the whistling of the wind behind them made Calvin shiver just a little bit. He was always more prone to getting cold than others. Calvin dragged his hands across his face for a moment, yawning softly. When he lowered his hands he had looked over at the other for a moment. Was he being too quiet?
“I haven’t been able to go out lately. Cause of the uh,” he felt his face get warm with embarrassment. Because of what, Calvin? "Stuff. but it’s fine. it’s really nice out tonight, don’t you think?” Calvin had looked down at his hands and laced them together for just a moment. He could see right down the street. It was a straight path, but there were plenty of sketchy stops along the way. Though every time another gust of wind blew past the pair Calvin would shiver just slightly. he tried to ignore it. for just a moment he felt overwhelmed. He had stopped walking for a moment, trying to get himself to focus. hHs head was spinning. It reminded him of when his parents had forced him into therapy. His mind was cluttered as he looked at the other. Did Ariel think there was something wrong with him too?
His first therapist had been... Interesting. Calvin's parents had sent him to the guidance counselor at school for help.She was crazy though, he had been sure of it! He wasn't certain if the woman thought he had problems with something. She never truly said why he was there. the only thing he remembered from it was when she tried to give him 'mindfulness exercises'. She tried to explain to him when he felt bad to just imagine those bad feelings melting off. Calvin had been quite sure that if he imagined that, there would be no part of him left. But sometimes he found himself imagining it. He could do it right now, thinking about it made him feel a little uneasy. Whenever Calvin imagined the bad things melting away, they took him with them. It always started small. inky black liquid dripping off of him and forming a small pool on the floor. Slowly it would start filling the room. He could see it so vividly, even when his eyes were shut. up and up and up. until it got up to his neck. then it would fill the room. maybe all of the negative parts of him would be gone, but he would be taken with it. Calvin simply could not see a place where he belonged. despite how dreary that imagination activity was, it often put him to sleep. That was how the walk felt. Consuming. That was then, and this was now. Now it felt better. “Sorry!” He said quickly when he noticed that the other had gotten so far ahead of him.
Calvin had quickly walked to catch up, looking over at the other. “Sometimes iIjust stop focusing I guess.” That was spoken more to the air than Ariel. When they were beside each other again, Calvin had already spoken. “Especially when um…” he laughed awkwardly. “It’s so nice out,” he stated. Calvin felt nervous. Why wouldn’t he be? Ariel was attractive, and he seemed so interesting.
In response to the kid's thanks, Ariel ducked his head in a casual nod that was halfway to a shrug. "Sure. I'm sorry, if I should know this, but what was your name?" If he hadn't been inebriated, he probably would have felt more awkward about having to ask, considering the fact that this guy clearly knew who he was, even if it was only as his neighbour. "I'm Ariel. If you didn't already know." Yeah, he was definitely going to regret saying all of this later when he was soberer.
The quiet as they walked was welcome after the noise and chaos of the party, though Ariel's wandering mind could be a dangerous place if left unchecked. He noticed Calvin shivering and was tempted briefly to offer him his jacket, but refrained after considering that that might be weird coming from a virtual stranger, and how protective he was of his letterman. It took effort to tune in to what the kid was saying as he continued to speak every so often, and Ariel was pretty sure he wasn't processing most of Calvin's words correctly. He offered a short scoff in response to the weather comment, mostly due to the fact he was watching the kid shiver as they walked and yet he still called it 'nice out'. If he were less polite, he'd have told Calvin that he didn't need to make small talk, that he was perfectly okay with walking the entire way in silence. But of course he didn't; he swallowed the words and his headache and walked on, not even noticing that Calvin had stopped until he said something.
Ariel stopped short once he realised he'd left Calvin behind and watched him hurry to catch up. He tightened his lips in a stiff but forgiving smile and nodded to acknowledge the explanation as they resumed walking, and he almost laughed because there it was again, 'it's nice out'.
"Is it? I think it's kind of cold," He said, pointedly and a little teasing with a dry smile down at Calvin. Part of him hoped this would end the non-conversation there, to have directly contradicted the only thing the kid seemed capable of saying.
Rambling on and on about nothing wasn't a usual occurrence with Calvin. He was usually on edge, but he had slowly gotten a hold of social cues. Formerly chasing approval of others, he would say and do whatever others wanted. Now? He at least had a grasp on these things. Their eyes hadn't met once since they had left the party, and that filled Calvin with a pang of regret and frustration. why won't he look at you? Calvin's mind began to create strange scenarios. there was something that hurt him so deeply. He was a person! There Ariel was, someone so stunning, and he wouldn't pay any attention to Calvin. of course that didn't surprise Calvin. He didn't expect Ariel to look at him with shining eyes. They were different people.
Ariel had more important things to deal with, Calvin was likely an inconvenience. It wasn't that Calvin had incredibly low self esteem. He simply thought highly of Ariel. Ariel took priority in Calvin's mind even if Ariel didn't see him. The taller man was walking alongside the other, glancing down at him. the clouds coming from their lips and mouths were dissipating in synchrony. Calvin had cocked his head to the side just slightly as he peered down at the other. the dark outline of Ariel was barely visible. The street lamps were either dim, flickering, or off. No one seemed to take good enough care of them. Calvin surely wouldn't fill that role. he hadn't spoken since he had caught up with Ariel, instead juts picking at his nails. Pulling the cuticle on one of them down a bit. it was in the way. Calvin looked back at Ariel as they walked. There was an entirely crushing silence around them.
"Oh. You don't like the cold?" He looked at the other for a moment, eyes flickering towards him. "I think it's-" Nice "-a good temperature." His throat felt tight. Calvin didn't know why he felt like he was going to cry. But he had managed to piull himself together, looking at the other. The smile... He wasn't sure what was even happening.
Even their shoes on the pavement sounded muted. Calvin's skin prickled with an uncharacteristic warmth as they continued to walk. something made him feel ill. it was a sudden feeling, his footsteps slowing down once more. He was pretty sure he shouldn't have had as much to drink as he had, but Calvin couldn't help it. Perhaps it was the fact that he wasn't focused that caused Calvin to stumble. having tripped on some stupid fucking pebble, he cursed softly under his breath. "Fuck," then he coughed. There was something so painful about the stumble. More because he was terrified he was annoying andres. formerly having said he was 'over' impressing others, Calvin realized he did care about impressing Ariel. that was his fear, really. Someone he barely knew-- yet admired --despising him. For what reason? Calvin knew he could be a little too talkative, but the other had to like him. he had to. The man tried to push those thoughts away, looking back towards the other.
Ariel stared down at Calvin with a mild, sceptical expression out of the corner of his eye, sensing where that sentence had been going before he'd changed the phrasing. He breathed another little puff that wasn't heavy enough to be a scoff, but had the intention of one. Another brief glance at Calvin a moment later and Ariel could tell he seemed distressed—more than likely his doing, he knew he was being rude, and he felt a little bad about it, realising this. He was silent as he considered whether to say something or apologise, walking on for a moment and again not noticing it as the kid slowed down. When he tripped it startled Ariel, just for a second, and that tiny spike of adrenaline was all it took to set off the hair trigger he was always sitting on. His mild guilt translated rapidly to severe annoyance. He sighed sharply through his teeth.
"Look, I know I'm being an ass," he snapped abruptly as he turned to face Calvin with his full attention, genuinely unsure whether this was meant to be a complaint or an apology. "My life's all kind of gone to shit lately, and my asshole friends dragged me to that stupid party anyway—" He stopped, regretting that he'd just begun venting his problems to this random, innocent kid. "I shouldn't have agreed to do this," he shook his head irritably at himself, gesturing a hand at Calvin before he shoved both hands deep into the pockets of his letterman jacket. He fell silent then, glaring at the pavement in front of him and breathing deeply to pull his anger back under control, once again ignoring the kid.
Anxiety had already begun to pick at him. Plucking away at whatever common sense was remaining. He stared as Ariel stopped in front of him, swallowing thickly. Look, I know I'm being an ass. That was never a good thing. What was worse was the spiral that Calvin's mind seemed to take within moments. He hates you. Ariel wants you to die. He's so fucking sick of you and you didn't even get close to him. If this is how he reacts to a stranger talking to him about these things, he'd hate you normally. He can't stand you. Ariel hates you.
That was enough to trigger dread in Calvin. He was barely processing the other's words, eyes glazing over for a moment. He forced himself to snap out of it all, staring at the other. Calvin was trying to think of something that made sense. Anything that he could use to explain away his messy behavior. Calvin wasn't drunk, he was just a little buzzed. His eyes stayed on the other. "Oh, no, I'm sorry." I shouldn't have asked. His eyes flickered to the other's face, the lone streetlamp overhead highlighting his features.
The lagging behind probably would have annoyed someone, but the other seemed to be patient with him. Until he heard the tension in the other's voice. That made Calvin worry, afraid the other would leave him. He couldn't be left behind. not by Ariel. This was the longest he had ever spent with the other by far, and he was horrified by the prospect of being abandoned. Now, the other was just dumping all his weird problems on him. Or at least Calvin would deem them weird if he didn't feel a sense of belonging with the other. Even now. They were still walking, but Calvin was just trying to keep up with the other man. He wanted to keep up with him, for the hope that maybe by the time they got back, the other would realize he wasn't that bad.