It's a bright sunny day in the city of Salem, Oregon. It's finally the day of this experimental high school reunion trip to get started! It's been all the buzz around town for the past week of those wondering how it will go, those that are skeptical of it, and those gossiping about the arrivals of those back in town for the first time in...well for some of them years.
Right now on the steps of Olympia high a few older looking adults are chatting and walking down toward the series of black and silver luxury RV's that the school has rented out for this special occasion.
"This is ridiculous, why couldn't they just have a regular high school reunion. Worked fine for all of us." A slightly older tall black man with short cut grey hair grumbled.
"Ah yes the if it ain't broke don't fix it mentality Mr. Johnson, because that's popular." Smirked a shorter brunette latina woman to his left.
"Why do we have to be popular again Mrs. Elizondo?" Mr. Johnson rebutted.
"Popular equals more money and more money means either we get a raise or we don't have to pay for school supplies. And I know all of us are broke or we wouldn't have signed up to drive a bunch of former students around the country." The shorter blonde stocky looking man to his right interjected without really looking at them he was more interested in his phone at the moment then anything
"Speak for yourself Mr. Haze I'm excited for this bunch! I've missed quite a few of them." A Slightly taller energetic ginger woman hummed hooking her arm for a moment with the other female co-worker.
"Oh you bothered to look on the reservation list? And here I thought you'd make it a surprise Mrs. Spark." Mrs. Elizondo half giggled.
"I was! But then I just couldn't help myself!" She replied practically jumping with joy.
"Then you should know Jane Charles is coming...Still excited?" Mr. Johnson replied dryly clearly not excited at all to be uttering that name again.
"You know know maybe she had a change of heart!?" She grinned placing her free hand over her own heart for emphasis.
"Oh really? Then you won't mind being her busses driver!" Mr. Haze teased lightly finally looking up to side eye Mrs. Spark.
"W-wait a minuet I didn't say all that!" Immediately letting go of Mrs. Elizondo to hold up both hands and shake them along with her head.
They all begin to laugh before taking their respective places in front of the RV's they will be driving. Each RV had their number labeled on the side door. Each teacher grabbed the their clipboards with the names of the students assigned to their bus. It was at this point they all looked over that list to see who they specifically had. Some with surprise, some with excitement...and some with dismay.
RV number one was being driven by Mr. Johnson their former Math teacher and he had: Violetta A., Zachary C., Jennifer D., Persephone M., Liam F., and Malachi Y.
RV number two was being driven by Mrs. Elizondo their former science teacher and she had: Genesis M., Austin C., Jane C., Reed R., Lyra M., and Katerina T.
RV number three RV was being driven by Mr. Haze their former English teacher who had: Reyna P., Baldur O., Nina R., India K., and Andrew A.
Lastly the fourth RV was being driven by Mrs. Spark their former History teacher and she had: Alexander S., Juniper C., Harper F., Brielle D., Travis B., Anastasia M.
There are a few custodians who are wondering around to help anyone with baggage that needs it. The current principle Mr. Grayson was making his way towards the RV's himself and just hung up the phone before pocketing it and straightening his suit. Apparently one of the RV's had broken down on the way but luckily enough one of the attendee's owned a vehicle of his own big enough for him and those who would've been his fellow passengers. See things were going swimmingly already!
This road trip was all set to go now all they needed was the former students to arrive!
Today was the day, the start of the reunion where they would all gather up to meet at the school and board the buses. And Persephone was--
A great big bundle of nerves that kept her awake for longer than she had wanted, and hit her the second she woke up to her alarm to get ready. Her bags were already by the door to her old room, which she had been using for the last few days since getting back in town. Running her fingers through her hair and across her scalp for the fifth time in a span of seconds, she let out a sigh and got out of her bed. She could at least get dressed before spiraling down the memory lane of adolescent horrors that was the majority of her high school experience. Especially since she had spent two hours picking out what she would wear today. With Doja Cat playing as she got ready, she was choosing to overcome those nerves.
No more questioning herself or her choices, it was time to move on and start the day before it got any later. Her outfit was casual and fit her well, and was gonna match her lipstick. She was gonna make her hair work for her today, in a high ponytail, and let it just be its natural self today. Period. End of sentence. She put on the gold pomegranate pendant necklace her father had given to her for her birthday last year and ran through her list of things she needed again, from the top.
Her camera bag, with both the video one and photography one. Check. Her equipment bag for the camera equipment. Check. Her suitcase of clothes that she also managed to get her shoes to fit into. Check. Her black backpack with her main electronics, taser, and wallet. Check. Her makeup and toiletries bag. Check.
Everything was in order, and she seemed to have everything to go, so she took the bags, two by two down the stairs of her childhood home and to her car parked outside with the trunk open. Just as she was heading out with her makeup bag and purse, her father and stepmother Adriennana caught her at the door. "They grow up so fast." Her father said with a smile on his face as his wife leaned over to Persephone for a hug that made her tense up for a moment before she patted the woman on the back.
"You look wonderful as always Persephone." Adriennana whispers softly as she pulls away from the hug, gently squeezing Persephone's shoulders as the younger woman smiled back.
"As if you expected any different Adrie. I only serve looks that wonder and amaze." The redhead replied with a wink before she patted her stepmother's hand. "But I gotta go or I won't be able to get good shots of the people who got there early." She added before giving her father a quick hug and walking out the door with her heeled boots on, calling out her love for them both before closing the door behind her. Taking the steps two by two from the door until she hit the walkway to the driveway for her to slip into her mint green Volkswagen Beetle. Within minutes of setting her things into the passenger seat and starting up the car, she was on her way. The radio playing for her to tap her fingers on the steering wheel while she drove, squirming in her seat a little bit because she was getting really into the lyrics of the song.
So she was pumped and in the girlboss mood when she pulled into the parking lot to see she was the first there. Parking out of the way, she turned off dear ol' Herbie and collected the things from the passenger side before she got out of her car, closing the door with a bump of her hip. Still humming the song, she got her actual bags out first to put in the bus. Thanking the custodians when they take them from her to put up. After which she got her camera equipment bag and camera bag to stay with her until they were about to leave so she can get as much footage as she could. Locking up Herbie, she rolled the equipment with her while carrying her camera bag over her free shoulder as she walked over to the group of teachers with a smile on her red lips.
"Good morning Olympia High Faculty. How are you all doing this fine day?" She addressed them warmly before fully making it to their group, and with a confidence that might shock a few depending on if they remembered the shy Percy that was one of the top students in the class of 2013. Stopping in front of them, she gently placed her book bag down so she could have her hands free to get her video camera out when she needed to. "And are you all camera ready?" Persephone asked with a small smirk as she lifted the bag a little to hint at the camera inside as she took a sweeping looking at all her former teachers. "I'd love to get some anecdotal interviews with all of you about what you remember of the classes and how you think today is gonna go. While we have some free time before anyone arrives."
Mr. Haze looked up from his phone at the familiar-ish voice, about to greet one of his favorite-- albeit quirky, students. His mouth opened slightly in disbelief just like Mr. Johnson who looked as though he thought squinting might make her look like her younger self.
"Persephone Michealis? Is that you??" The stocky blond asked, his phone nearly slipping from his fingers as her smirk turned into a beaming smile more familiar to them, the same one she would give after getting her tests back with an A+ at the top of them.
"Since the day I was born. It's nice to see you too Mr. Haze." The younger ginger was soon swamped in a hug from the older one, her eyes growing wide and her smile disappearing as she stumbled slightly back with her arms out to protect her bag at the abrupt hug. "And you as well Mrs. Spark." She added quickly as the woman pulled away, her hands going up to hold Persephone's head in her hands, moving her face from side to side to see it all.
"Oh, you've grown into such a beautiful young woman Persephone." Mrs Spark cooed, squishing her cheeks and making Persephone's lips start to pucker, making her feel anything but beautiful. Reaching up her empty hand, she grabbed the woman's hand and pulled it away from her face.
"Mrs. Spark, you make it sound like she was an ugly duckling, all she had was a wild mane of hair and timid nature." Mrs Elizondo said, pulling the other teacher away from their former student who mouthed a small thank you as she chuckled softly to herself. "Now, now. Let's let her get to work now shall we? She also has a job to do, you can catch up after if we have time."
Mr. Johnson was the first to be interviewed on the steps of the school, Persephone loosening the stiff man up with a joke about math as she put the microphone on him, before getting out her camera to start filming. His view was not the most optimistic of the trip thanks to a particular student being allowed to go. One that she shared the same sentiments, but sighed in relief after finding out from Mrs. Spark before her interview was that she wasn't in the same bus as her. Now Mrs. Spatk had a lot more to say, hers took a long time just as Mrs. Elizondo's did after.
Mr. Haze couldn't decide whether he wanted to have a brief or long interview and ended up taking the most time without him realizing it, as even he dipped into memory lane a bit when talking about some of his former students.
It was while she was talking the microphone off of Mr. Haze that Principal Grayson came over to where she was taking the interviews. "Mrs. Michealis, I can't thank you and Mrs. Rivera enough for offering to handle the photos and film for us at a price we can afford." The man began, as she guided him into place and began to put the microphone onto the tie of his suit.
"It is no biggie Mr. Grayson. Besides, now I can use all the things I filmed from high school and put them to good use." Persephone replied, as she took a step back to get behind the camera to start the interview portion after noticing someone had just arrived. "Now Principal Grayson, how do you remember the classes that are coming to the reunion today?"
Occasionally checking the viewfinder, she could pick up tidbits of the conversation from a few yards away amongst the woman who had just arrived and Mrs. Elizondo. She pushed it from her mind as she focused on asking the small list of questions to the Principal instead, paying attention to his answers and recording a few notable pieces on the notes app of her phone just as she had for the teachers. It was hard to keep her smile when he brought up how he had mispronounced her name her first year over the intercom, the apology that came after the light-hearted joke about it didn't feel as genuine as he thought it was.
"And, that's a wrap--" Persephone called out once the man was done, coming forward and quickly taking the microphone off of his suit to put away, for now, slipping it safely back into its place in her equipment bag before shutting it. "Thank you for your time." She chimed out as she waved goodbye to the man he seemed torn between wanting to continue to talk and wanting to make sure was running smoothly. When she went back to taking down her tripod, he simply continued walking toward the buses.
Keeping her camera out though, she went around getting b-roll footage of the outside of the front of the school and buses. Letting Ananastia have her time reconnecting with her teacher in peace for now.
Talking to her parents / Talking to the Faculty / Filming the School
Ani stepped out of the taxi and looked out at the old high school, taking a deep intake of breath to calm her nerves. It was not just the trip and meeting everyone again that had her nervous. It had been years since she had been back to her home town, having spent the last five years either in New York or travelling across the country due to her recent fame. Would she see her parents again? She wondered. She knew this trips was big news in town and had passed word to her parent before her arrival, somewhat hoping to reconnect after so long apart, but received no reply. They hadnt been pleased when she chose a career in cooking. Still she looked around for any sign of her father's old red BMW in the school car park.
"Miss?" Came the words from next to her breaking her thoughts. She turned seeing her driver who had opened the door for her and picked up the large Tupperware box and her suitcase for her from the back of the car, waiting for her. The tupperware box was filled with homemade backed sweets and pastries, from cookies to brownies, more than enough for everyone involved in the trip. A result of both trying to bring a great icebreaker from her friends and trying to forget about her nerves.
"Oh, i am so sorry..." She said realizing he was waiting to hand everything over to her and go. She adjusted her outfit, a yellow blouse and jeans centered outfit she had thrown together in a long attempt to find a new style for her to present to herself. She was still not confident in it but didnt really have anyone to ask. She wanted to show she had changed from the inconstant know-it-all girl that they once knew, the one who seemed to have more important things to do than them. If they remembered her at all that it, always busy with her studies and what were the responsibility of her knowledge, she had always wondered whether she left any impression to anyone here at all.
Finally, she took out her wallet and took out the cash for the driver exchanging that for her things. "Here... we go... Thank you... Oh... Eh good day." The driver seemed uncertain if he should leave her, the combination of the large tupperware and suitcase seemed a little too much for the petit girl. However assuming that she didnt have too far to travel, he let her be nodding his thanks and goodbye.
Unsteady at her hold, Ani moved towards the faculty and the others already there. "Oh hi! Anastasia Mariannes! I... I... Brought treats!" She called out setting down everything and opened the tupperware finally. "Dig in!" She greeted each teacher as they approached particularly Mrs Elizondo who had taken particular interest and care of Anastasia during the time at the high school.
"The brainiac who turned to a tv chef... Out of everything, this was the last thing i expected from you." Elizondo said once she took a brownie.
"No one is as surprise as I am, Mrs Elizondo." She replied finding herself beaming.
"I got to say, i have watched some of your work... It really suits you, you seem in your element and i am glad to see it." Mrs Elizondo replied before taking a bite of the brownie. A look of pleased surprise in her face. "Oh... Oh my... These are.... You really need to give me the recipe."
"Oh I dont know... I am thinking of releasing a cookbook, would it be wise to give the information for free now..." Ani said a sly smile on her face showing she was kidding around.
"Oh that is how it is?" Mrs Elizondo replied with a chuckle. "Cheeky little..."
Road trips are fun...reunions are supposedly fun...so combining them should be extra fun...right? That's all that was whirling around Genesis's head for the entire week leading up to today. She was kinda hopeful in that connection being a true one seeing how everyone acted online in the group chat. No big fights or anything from what she saw. Maybe maturity looked really good on all of them! Yup just keep reciting positive affirmations and everything will be fine!
She started getting ready late not because she woke up late but because to distract herself from her nerves she'd started tinkering and fixed things around the apartment she was in and in true Gen fashion lost track of time. Especially since it went from just fixing the broken to trying to optimize and add random cosmetic aesthetics to others because Gen never knows when to stop. She can't help herself her hyper fixations tend to only be ended by a new hyper fixation.
Luckily her closest female co-worker Faith knew that about her now and knocked on the door an hour earlier then arranged which snapped Gen out of her trance long enough to go get the door. Faith just shook her head seeing the mess Gen was in with stains and dirt and grime all over her clothes...and was that water on the floor behind her?
"Go get ready! and you better have packed!" Faith shook her finger at her then pointed to the bathroom.
A chill ran down gen's back in reaction feeling like she was being scolded by her own mother. Tho Faith had become sort of a motherly figure since her actual mom didn't really speak to her anymore. Gen squeaked and ran to go get changed and ready to go.
She tossed on a white under crop top tank and threw a long crop toped loose white button up top over it. The some light blue denim blue jean shorts before putting in her contacts and black converses tennis shoes. Super casual but she felt still you know...cute! She let her curls hang down since she had no time to flat iron her hair anymore thanks to her tinkering. Luckily she had in fact already packed up her things and clothes...like a week ago. All except her glasses she she tossed on her little brown back pack.
With that they were off and ready to go! Gen needed the ride because she mostly rode around on her motorcycle Ursula, and she simply didn't have the space for luggage as much as she loved her. Plus the idea of leaving her baby out in the open of a school parking lot for weeks was terrifying. So she is safely at the shop for now.
Once they arrived Faith and the custodians quickly helped get her major bags onto the bus. With a farewell hug that lasted a bit longer then faith probably wanted because Gen was terrified of letting go and having to actually turn and deal with when she'd signed up for. She watched her friend drive off.
Gen nervously bit her lip before turning to face the RV's again and to look around and see who else she recognized whom she could just go up to and say hi. She saw Persephone instantly, but she looked kinda busy with the whole camera thing. Sooo next?
It should be easier since she still followed most of them on Instagram, but not everyone...
Oh is that Ani!? And looks like she brought snacks! Gen slowly moves closer to her peers a nervous smile gracing her lips with a shy wave, "U-uh hey guys."
Harper was typing away on her laptop at the kitchen counter, momentarily getting distracted by every other second by her family.
It wasn’t her choice to move back home, she enjoyed California, minus the prissy and egotistical people she’d come across, San Francisco was pretty laid-back, especially after she’d quit the magazine and focused on her book release.
That was years ago, though.
Now, she was newly living with her father and older sister in her childhood home, filled with traumatic memories surrounding cancer because that was a brilliant idea.
She deleted whatever she had, watching the words disappear with a sigh. The document was blank, nothing but an empty page and a text bar blinking, awaiting her next words. An email slid into view on the right side of her screen.
Olympia High Reunion: Harper Q. Foster. RSVP…
No thank you. Harper didn’t want to relive high school for three weeks. Besides the bullies, ex-friends, and memories she didn’t feel like bringing up…
High school was hell.
Though, comparing this exact moment and the reunion, it sounded like a dream. She scoffed and slid the email away with the trackpad on the laptop.
“Y-yes, Harper Foster. I’m calling to make an appoint–” Her father’s voice was so loud it almost echoed in the house.
Harper’s words attempted to cut through the raising voices, but it was to no avail, they weren’t even listening.
“What do you mean you need to talk to her? I’m her father.” Noah paced around the kitchen, phone to his ear while Harper could faintly hear the nurse on the phone explain that she needed to make the appointment herself.
Freya walked into the kitchen, eyes glued to her smartphone and not even bothering to glance at Harper before speaking.
“Okay, so, apparently you’re supposed to stay away from citrusy, minty, or…” Freya squinted, completely ignoring the reading glasses that stood on top of her head and bringing the screen closer to her face.
“Spicy foods before chemo, I think that’s so stupid. I don’t really remember mom staying away from much of anything? She kind of just threw up a lot.”
Being reminded of what her mother went through in treatment wasn’t really a good tactic to get Harper to agree with it in the first place.
And the past month since they’d found out, that’s all they’ve been trying to do.
Ever since that article was released last week that she was sick, between that, her agent pushing her to confirm the leak and her family already setting up for the treatment that Harper didn’t want—
She felt like she was losing her mind and it didn’t help that nobody was listening to her.
“Yeah, nausea is–”
Freya had cut her off, scrolling through her phone.
“Nausea is pretty common, I thought I’d know this stuff, but I guess it slips your mind almost a decade later–”
“It hasn’t really been–”
“Harper,” Her father cut in, holding the phone out towards her.
“They need your permission to schedule the treatment, because apparently, I’m not allowed to.” The last of his sentence was dramatized, his voice raising for the nurse to catch his tone.
“Consider jogging out of your daily schedule too, your body needs a lot of rest, chemo actually takes a huge toll on the body, if you remember mom–”
Harper had taken the phone from her father and hung up, placing it onto the counter with a loud enough thud to break Freya out of the rabbithole that was webMD.
“Can you both just listen to me for once? I’m tired of going back and forth, I don’t wanna do the treat—“
“You’re doing the treatment.” Her father and Freya spoke simultaneously.
“I’ve told you–”
“We’ve already talked about this,” Noah said, rubbing at his tired eyes, dark circles already beginning to take hold, the stress was visible in the bags under his eyes.
“No, you two talked about it. I don’t have time for–”
Freya stood up straighter, putting down her phone for a mere moment.
“Are you even listening to yourself? You sound so fucking ridiculous, Harps. You don’t have time for treatment? You do know without it, you’ll just…”
“Yeah, I know! But being constantly reminded isn’t really on my bucket list.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t think mom would want you dead before you’re 26.”
A heavy silence came across the trio, nothing but the grandfather clock ticking in the background. Harper’s gaze shifted from Freya to her father, and she knew she wasn’t going to win here, at least… not right now.
They needed time to process... grieve while she was... still alive or something.
And Harper needed to be away from her family.
Her gaze flickered to the laptop and back to them, if this was a cartoon, a lightbulb would be going off right above her head right now.
“Three weeks. I’m asking for three weeks.”
Her father was quiet the entire time, but this had caught his attention and waited for Harper to finish. “The reunion. I’m going. When I come home… I’ll do the treatment.” It was a lie. A huge one, but what were they gonna do?
“Harper–” Her father started, and she already knew what he was going to say, how she could get treatment as soon as possible, cancer was unpredictable, bring up her mother again and that was the last thing she wanted to talk about .
“Just let me have this,”
She could tell by the looks on their faces, they were unsure, but considering she wasn’t for it at all a few minutes ago…
She had a bit of time to prepare for the reunion. How? Well, she'd gotten a few decent... outfits... but uh, she meant mentally. Harper definitely needed to mentally prepare herself for this entire soon-to-be disaster.
A bit pessimistic, maybe, but...
She didn't have high hopes for this reunion whatsoever.
Harper had taken an uber, closing the car-door shut and purposfully keeping her head down while she made her way to the RVs.
Luggage wheeling in one hand, and a laptop case that was slung around her shoulder.
Three weeks. Three entire weeks to just write, write, and write. The plan wasn’t to interact with a bunch of people she hated in high school. Or… a bunch of people she didn’t really talk to anymore.
It’ll be fine.
Harper’s unrecognizable personality-wise. She grew out of the shy and quiet girl she used to be. She was an author, she was… successful, she was confident, and there was nothing or nobody that threatened to make her feel less than.
“Harper?! Is that you? You look so different without braces!” The shorter girl didn’t have a chance before she was wrapped into a hug by her old history teacher.
She got them off junior year, so Harper had no idea why she didn’t–
It's alright. No big deal. She was just... most memorable that way.
“Oh,” The energetic woman’s shoulders drooped slightly, a sympathetic look already showing on her features.
Oh, here it goes…
“Is it true?” She asked and Harper hesitantly nodded, brushing away her words. “It’s fine, I’m… healthy besides that. Treatmentandstufforwhatever, anyway... am I paired with you?”
“Yup. I got you, Travis, Ana…” Harper tuned out Mrs. Spark until she heard the words;
“You three were so close back then, all these years later…isn’t that exciting to see each other almost eight years later?”
She didn’t have to pay attention to realize she was talking about Juni and Brielle.
“... Yeah,” She croaked, forcing a thinned smile towards Mrs. Spark. “Can’t wait!” Harper had given her a thumbs up, turning her back and letting the plastered smile drop instantly.
“Just so… excited.” She muttered to herself while she struggled with her luggage before a custodian had offered to help and Harper muttered a thank you, a deep sigh escaping her nose as she looked around, resting her hands on her hips.
Her eyes locked onto Reed’s and Harper instantly felt her palms start to sweat, her heart beat a little faster and her nerves were already on edge.
High school crush… that wasn’t intimidating at all. It’s not like Harper’s crush was still…
He was still pretty… uh…
Jesus, relax. You’re not that girl anymore, remember?
Successful, confident and… fuck, what was the third one? “... Hey, Reed!” Harper had given a half-hearted wave.
Lea nervously finished her last second packing as her two fur babies purred rubbing at her legs. "I know babies, mama knows. It's just three weeks and you get to stay with Auntie Jeanie. You love her and the kids" she said as if the cats understood her. The fact that Maxine and Chloe stopped and their tails waved faster for a moment made her think that they did understand her.
"Will you relax baby sister? You're going to have fun, trust me. Even if someone gives you crap, screw them. You aren't there for them, you're there for you. All the people you hung out with are going to be there" Rose, Lea's older sister by two years, said as she picked up Chloe and scratched the cats belly. A big smile crossed her lips as the cat purred and butted her head against her arm. "Besides, who knows? You might find one of your classmates actually had a crush on you and you might get so-"
"Shut up, please. I've barely been done with Jessica for a week. I'm not going to rebound with someone I once hung out with. It'd be awkward and only the higher powers that be know what they'll say when they find out who I was back then and that I transitioned after graduation" Lea cut off her sister. "I know that you mean nothing suggestive by it, not in the literal sense, but I want.. No, I need to be by myself awhile. I was with Jessica for three years. I was seriously thinking of marrying her you know? I need to learn to be just me again and not Lea plus one."
Rose frowned setting Chloe before pulling Lea in for a hug. "I was trying to make you laugh dummy. It's part of my job of being your older sister. I know you need time to be just you again" she said ruffling Lea's hair. "Just try to have fun."
Lea broke from the hug and looked herself over. A nice white blouse and a black leather skirt to compliment her flats- not formal but not super casual, a good middle ground. "How do I look?" she asked taking a twirl.
"Like a million bucks, now scram. I got the fur babies all sorted here."
When Lea got to the school she saw a few people were already there besides the staff that would be driving them. Taking a final calming breath, she got out of her car and got out her two bags. Lugging them over to the RV's, she waved at her fellow classmates and teachers before looking for where she should be putting her bags. The panic rat tried to tell her to leave now but she was committed to the reunion roadtrip. She was NOT going to runaway for fear of what her former teachers or classmates thought of her.
The tinny sound of the radio was slowly drowned out by nervous tapping against the steering wheel. The rhythm dissolving every few beats into nonsense as the driver's attention flicked from the road to the rear-view mirror. Not even the slight crunch of the pavement nor the quiet buzz of the air conditioning seemed to break the silence that permeated the car. Another mile marker whooshes by. Another car clunks it's way around. And the ever present tap. tap. tap. tap...
"Hey look, I know, I'm the one who suggested this, and I do, I really do want you to go, but..."
A sigh echoes through the cabin. The passenger finally lean up across the middle console to meet his dad half way.
"I already told you, I'm fine with it Pops. You know if I wasn't I'd wouldn't have even agreed to the car drive. Hell, I would have told you way before I wasted effort to pack."
Baldur's dad's beard sounds like ripping velcro as he drags his callused palm across the short hairs. Echoing his son's sigh into that same palm.
"I. I. I just want to make sure you know. If you feel uncomfortable at any time, I'll, what's the app again, I'll paypal you money. Enough to wait until I drive to you, or fly, or whatever-"
The older gentleman tensed under Baldur's hand upon his shoulder before it slipped from his body, giving his child a weary side eye in it's place.
"I know I'm blowing this up out of proportion. I'd apologize, but you know I ain't sorry for worrying-"
The scoff from the backseat earned a unimpressed, yet playful glare from his dad.
"-And I know you ain't saying it, but you're worried too."
Now that. That made Baldur lean backwards, sinking into worn leather of the backseat with a huff. Adapting his father's habit, drumming against the seat.
"Yeah, I am, but I ain't gonna get better hiding home. It's not like confronting the creature that gave birth to me." "But you might run into the one who threw you to her. What you gonna do then Baldur? Or if you run in those who were in your little group. How are you going to explain dropping off the face of the earth?" "... I don't know. Tell the truth?"
The driver grimaced. considering his words as the next road marker told of their approach to their destination. Until his son's hand popped into his peripheral. Palm upward, asking.
"At the end of the day, no matter what happens this reunion, you'll be there, right Dad?"
His hand engulfing his son's with a loving squeeze. Something he'd never though he ever have the pleasure to.
ARRIVING AT OREGON OLYMPIA HIGH...
The beat-up sedan sputtered to a stop with a tired huff, Baldur's dad taking the opportunity to finally face his son with a soft look.
"Sorry to play apocalypse before you leave, but regardless of my worries-"
The smell of old leather, and the resin that seem to cling to his father after every rehearsal. His father's favorite jacket crumpling beneath his grip as he soaked in his dad's embrace.
"I want you to have fun."
With a couple pats, Baldur's dad (unwillingly) relinquished his grip. Watching as his son swung his luggage out of the car. He still had that same look as before when Baldur came to the driver's side for one last hug.
"Goodbye and good luck son, I'll see you later Mistletoe."
The 'done-with-it' look his son gave him was worth it as he cackled his way out of the parking lot. Checking his review mirror one last time, his son a shrinking spot that screamed after him:
Being in the apartment he owned back in Salem was, in all honesty, kind of depressing. Mal hadn't spent enough time there to make it feel like a home, despite having owned it for over three years. Hell, he hardly even referred to it as his apartment. Usually after tour ended he'd kick it with one of his bandmates or couch surf til the next one. It was never too long before the next one.
Instead, this time around, Mal was in his own apartment, with its bare minimum decorations and no memories. It hadn't been his first - or second - option to pass the couple of weeks before the reunion, but he found himself craving some familiarity. Sure, he hadn't been to Salem in damn near six years, didn't even bother dropping by after their Portland show a few months ago, but it was still home. Or the closest thing he'd known to it.
He'd settled in to the apartment two weeks before the reunion was scheduled to start and had spent most of that time locked in. InstaCarting his groceries, smoking on the balcony, sleeping well into the afternoon. Some tour habits were proving harder to shake than anticipated.
At least his dog, Duke, didn't seem to be minding the change of pace in their lifestyles recently. The leisure seemed to suit him perfectly.
Mal, on the other hand, could feel himself getting more and more restless as the days progressed. Maybe if he went out and actually did something with those days he'd feel more settled, but he couldn't bring himself to. Considering the reason he was back in Salem in the first place was to reconnect with old classmates, the fact that he was confining himself to his barren wasteland of an abode so as to not risk running in to anyone he knew was ridiculous.
The closer the actual date of the reunion got, the more he convinced himself he was making a major fucking mistake.
He hadn't changed much since graduation, and while people didn't seem to mind the music-obsessed stoner vibe as teens, Mal wondered how many of them would think he was little more than an overgrown child. The whole ordeal had him doubting himself in ways he hadn't for years.
Whatever. He'd already paid for the trip, and he sure as hell wasn't about to ask for a refund. What was he gonna do with his time off if he did that? Besides, maybe being around his former peers would be a good thing.
That mentality is how he found himself sitting in his car in the school parking lot for damn near half an hour, watching while people started to trickle in. Ridiculous. Before he could fully realize that people could probably see him sitting there like an absolute creep, considering the parking lot wasn't exactly full, he took a deep breath and grabbed his suitcase from the trunk.
He watched the interactions taking place as he walked over to where the RVs were: Persephone interviewing faculty, Harper and Gen looking as awkward as he felt, and a woman that looked vaguely familiar but he couldn't exactly place.
Well, here goes absolutely fuckin' nothing
, he thought to himself as he handed his lone suitcase to a custodian and thanked them.
In all fairness, Mal did seriously consider coming up to literally any of the people that were here already but... they all seemed decently occupied. Plus, it was a little early in the day to be putting himself out there like that. He was itching for a smoke, but the setting seemed slightly inappropriate, so he instead settled for sitting on the steps and taking everything in. He desperately needed to get over himself.
Surely this would get easier once they were actually on the road, right?
white shirt, flannel over shirt, jeans, and sneakers
School Parking lLot
in the conversation...
Game Shop Owner
Early in the morning, just before dawn, Reed was up just as he was used to doing any other day. He didn’t wake up Viviene while he went about his normal routine, letting the ten year old sleep in during her summer break while the smell of fresh coffee permeated the air of the entire house, lulling just a little bit more energy from the tired man who stood under the warm water of the shower head.
His mind detailing in a simple, but long list, of what he had to do that day.
Make breakfast, Get Viviene up, Help Juni with preparations that day, Clean the front of the store, Re-shelf the games from last night—
”Uncle Reed, quit hogging the hot water.”
Viviene called out from knocking harshly on the bathroom door, clearing the fog from his mind just as he felt the water turn cold. She could hear his nervous chuckling and knew immediately he had used it all up, just as he knew that the second he got out she would be hitting him with her foam sword all the way back to his room.
It was better to face his destiny now.
”I can’t believe you used up all the hot water again!”
FWACK! FWACK! FWACK!
”I got lost in my thoughts, the water will be fine in thirty minutes.”
He answered as he ran through the hallway with a foam sword smacking him from behind, clutching tightly to the towel around his waist as he slid into his room, closing the door behind him.
”I’m making your favorite for breakfast to make up for it. Just let me change first.”
”Spinach and cheese omelettes won’t be able to save you forever old man. One day you have got to get your wandering thoughts under control.”
The ten year old spoke out, and the huff would have been comical if he also couldn’t pick up her saying that he worse at saving water than a ten-year-old. A small, apologetic smile forming on his lips as he got dressed in a simple shirt and plaid button up and jeans.
Viviene was waiting for him, angrily, as she watched him begin to cook, her arms crossed the entire time with an annoyed look on her face. Though it was slowly melting away as the smell of her favorite omelette overpowered the smell of the brewed coffee. A mug of which that Reed was sipping on gratefully, enjoying the warmth and bitterness of it. The back door opened and the joyous voices of his parents filled the quiet room As he platted the omelettes neatly onto the table.
One for him, one for Viviene, one for his mother, and one for his father.
The way his niece lit up the second it was put in front of her was worth the foam beatings every other morning.
His mother began, elongating the ‘o’s as she set her basket of goodies on the counter before sitting at the table with her granddaughter.
”Are you excited for your trip?”
She asked, smile bright as she placed a napkin in her lap before she started eating her omelette, even though her youngest son stared at her confused.
”My what? I don’t remember any trip being planned.”
Reed says, looking between his parents frequently as he sat down beside Viviene, who elbowed him gently in the side to get his attention.
”The reunion dummy,”
The ten year old explained, rolling her eyes at his forgetfulness.
”It’s today. You’re supposed to go there instead of the shop. You and Auntie Juni are leaving the shop to us while you’re away. Did you really forget?”
She almost seemed in disbelief as she stared at his unchanging expression, when his lip twitched upward into a smile and he quickly wrapped his arms around her shoulders and began to ruffle her long hair.
”I remember you asking for an autograph from a classmate of mine.”
Reed said, beaming down at the girl swatting his hands away half-heartedly before she huffed and turned away from him completely.
”Now, now. You two calm down.”
Mr. Ryder cut in, getting them both to resume eating breakfast.
”I take it that the bags by the back door are for the trip?”
”Yeah, it is. I did kinda forget—”
”I KNEW IT!”
”But I did make sure get my packing done before going to bed last night.”
Reed answered as he got up, collecting the empty plates from the table to clean before he left. Well he tried, his mother was right behind him and pushed him the minute he set them by the sink for her to take over.
”I can take you over there now son. So you don’t have to leave your car in the parking lot.”
His father offered and Viviene immediately began to pout. She had wanted to go with him so she could meet her favorite streamer in person, but because of her uncle she wouldn’t be ready in time. And she couldn’t go see him without showering first. The burn of her eyes drilling into Reed’s head made him sweat and chuckle nervously.
”I won’t forget the autograph—”
He began while inching closer to the door with his bags, his father following his lead, albeit in a more normal fashion since he didn’t have a small child glaring at him the entire time.
”I can do that much at least.”
He looked away for a few minutes to pick up his bags when he was nearly knocked over by her tiny body ramming into him. Her arms wrapping around his waist tightly as she buried her face in his shirt.
”You better make it back to give it to me…”
Viviene murmured quietly , muffled by his shirt as she hugged him just a little tighter before letting go and pointing up at the fond expression on his face.
”I’ll be calling every night to keep tabs on you. So you better pick them up.”
Then she turned on her heel and went stomping back upstairs to take her shower.
And he was allowed to leave for the trip.
”So you two are getting along well.”
Mr. Ryder stated rather matter of factly after driving in silence for almost full ten minutes. Reed took a deep breath through his nose before sighing softly, his head leaning back against the head rest as a small grin grew on his face.
”Yeah, we are.”
He spoke softly as his eyes stared out the window but not at the world that was in front of him.
”It’s nice to see her back to her old self again.”
”You do realize to get that autograph, you’re gonna have to talk to him right?”
His father asked, briefly looking over at him from the corner of his eye and watching his youngest son’s jaw clench as he looked down at his hands.
Reed began slowly, letting a silence fall over them as he rubbed the lighter patches of skin on his knuckles.
”It’s something that needs to happen— It should have happened a long time ago. And if it’ll make Vivi happy too, even more reason to for it to happen. Besides, Bishop’ll be there too. ”
He added after a deep breath, his head snapping back up as he put a smile back on his face in time for the school to come into veiw.
”Thanks dad. You take care of Vivi and the shop. She’ll rat on you if you don’t do a good job.”
”Just for that, I’m telling her that you cackled evilly and said you wouldn’t even try to get the autograph.”
Reed didn’t have much time to respond after he closed his door because his father began to cackle while already starting to drive away, knowing his son was too preoccupied with the bags in his hands to do much other than open his mouth to yell and then get distracted by the custodian who came over to him. Too nice to yell with an innocent person right next to him, he just sulked while following the custodian over to the bus to deposit his luggage.
Anastasia chuckled at Mrs Elizondo's reaction to her little teasing. In one point in her life Anastasia would never have the courage to make a sort with anyone let alone a teacher, at least without panicking about how it would be taken. She could tell one person like Mrs Elizondo would appreciate some sort of joke but was never confident that she herself would make the joke stick or taken the same way. There was very few people she would show her sense of humour. However, since her time since becoming a chef and especially going on TV she slowly began to be more comfortable making such jokes. She wondered though if that is a better her though.
"I will see at some point writing the recipe down during the trip... I have to do so anyway for my book." She explained as she set down the box and pointed at her forehead. "As always. I tend to keep things here... It has been hard to get myself focused..." She said almost jumping when she heard a voice seemed to come into her ear out of nowhere. "Oh Christ!" She explained before chuckling at herself and looked towards at the source.
"Gen? Hey!" She greeted happily at the sight of one of the closest friend she ever head at the high school. She moved to go in for a hung but hesitated. "You look great... Eh here..." She finally said, lifting the tupperware box and presented it to her. "Here dig in. Take a couple of things if you like... There is plenty." She said surprising herself how tongue-tied she found herself in front of Genessis, kicking herself mentally as she thought she had got better than this. It had years since they last spoke though and she couldnt remember them being big talkers back than either.
MOOD: anxious. LOCATION: olympia high school. OUTFIT:soft. TAGS: Reed JellySquishies
, Harper Soap MENTIONS: open / everyone.
There was a new flower garden at the front of the house built up from old scrap wood and blooming brilliantly with the life and vibrance that only a practiced gardener could achieve. They had planted Begonia, brilliantly red in the early morning sun, and Purple Hyacinths, deep purple bunches. “Beware!” the Begonia’s spoke, “Sorrow.” the Hyacinth’s returned. Beware of the sorrow here. Bishop briefly wondered if his mother had been aware of the meanings behind her flower choices before deciding that she couldn’t have and wrote off the apt meanings as simply coincidence. His chest was tight and he could feel his heart beating wildly out of control against his ribcage.
Bishop O’Hara had not seen his parents in nine years. Nine years. They had tried to call on his twenty-first birthday, three times in total, after that they had sent one letter to his old address and that was it. Bishop had changed his number and they had plainly given up after that. Or maybe they had just kept texting and calling his old number in futility, hopelessly reaching out to their son. That probably wasn’t true but Bishop liked to dream. He clutched at the loose end of his belt, clenching and unclenching his fists around the material, trying to ground himself with the feel. Beware of the sorrow. He let go of his belt only to run a hand through his hair and smooth down the already smooth collar of his flannel. Why the hell was he here?
While your mother and I don’t agree with the choices you’ve made in your life since leaving our home, we would prefer not to have to lose our only son because of this. You have spent your entire life working to be something under our roof and all this rebellion is doing is throwing all that hard work away and estranging you from your family. We are the only family you have. Family is the most important and we raised you to believe that. We raised you to be a strong man and a good husband one day. We are old and continue to get older, if you do not come to see reason before we die, you will regret your decisions for the rest of your life. God will make sure of that. God is speaking to you, son, and he is pleading with you to stop your sinful life and come home.
The folded letter in his pocket was burning a hole into him. It was old and yellowing, stained with tears and crinkled from multiple attempts to ball it up and throw it away. Bishop could not tell you why he had kept the damn thing for so long, or why it had dragged him to his childhood home at 7 am when he was supposed to be getting ready to go on a road trip that he hoped would help him get over years worth of pent up guilt. So what was he doing here? Had he just come to stand and stare, misty blue eyes clouded over with unshed tears? Or had he come to confront the people who had made him the way he was, to look his father in the eye and...and what? Yell? Curse? Hit him just like he used to do to Bishop? What the hell would any of that accomplish? He had swore to himself long ago that he would not become the man that Sergeant Major Michael O’Hara was. He would not be the man Sergeant Major Michael O’Hara wanted him to be. Bishop sucked in a deep breath and turned away from the gate of the place that once was his home, a terrible one but a home. He should have left the letter, torn it up and left its pieces on the stoop, but he clutched onto it in his pocket like a lifeline, the last reminder of the person he used to be.
“Can I-” Bishop froze, half-way turned around as the voice of his mother cut through the previously still air, “Bishop?” She sounded sad, Bishop hated the way it made him ache. Breathe. Bishop sucked air into his lungs, eyes closed as he turned toward his mother. When he opened them again and saw Bette O’Hara standing before him on the porch of her too large craftsman home, he stopped breathing again. She looked somehow much older, the familiar lines of her face deeper and her hair gray where it used to be a burgundy. She looked tired.
“Sorry, wrong house. Have a good day.” Bishop hated the way it made him ache.
An hour and some odd minutes after he had run, once again, from his home Bishop was pulling into the parking lot of his high school in a blue Lexus LC, top down because he liked the freedom. The car parked and top raised, Bishop meandered slowly up to the small crowd of people that had already gathered. He hated that he didn’t recognize some of them. Reed was a sight for sore eyes and Bishop was so excited to see him, he had been in Greece for a few months. This would be the first time he’d seen him since he left, so he hadn’t even registered the tiny brunette that was with him. Bishop’s all too loud voice boomed up and through the air as he bounded up next to Reed and threw an arm around the other man’s shoulders, turning him toward Bishop so that he could give him a proper hug.
“Reed! Reedster! The man, the myth the-” His voice was quickly cut off when he noticed Harper standing there, looking much different than the nerdy girl that Bishop remembered. Her hair was darker. He swallowed thickly and tried his best to keep the thousand watt smile on his face from faltering nervously as he turned it on her.
“Harper, sorry didn’t mean to interrupt.” He glanced quickly back to Reed before returning his gaze to the woman.
“Hi, good to see you! I read your book, it was kinda sad but sad is good sometimes. Not that the book isn’t good all the time, it is, I read it on the train in Greece. It’s probably one of my favorites, but I don’t really read that much so I guess that’s not really like a big deal, I mean it is because it’s really good just, I don’t really have a lot to compare it to is all. I liked it a lot is what I’m trying to say. Hi.” Bishop hadn’t realized he had said all of that in one breath until he stopped and had to gasp for air, gaping like a fish out of water. Lovely start. Really.
“Sorry, I’m a little jazzed right now. If you couldn’t tell.” He glanced between the two of them, “Anyway, I can like fuck off I don’t like want to interrupt your reunion, I’ll talk to Reed later.” He grinned and shuffled away looking awfully red in the face. Bishop found a spot to stand some feet away and shoved his hands in his pockets, eyes cast at the pavement of the parking lot where a ladybug crawled across his shoe. He smiled.
Bellamy knew from the moment he woke up that morning with his child resting on his chest, leaning back in a recliner in the living room, that today was gonna be weird.It already had been for the past couple of days, Iggy having nightmares of them not coming back, and only the sound of Bellamy’s heartbeat could soothe him back to sleep.
If Iggy wasn’t still getting the hang of potty training, they’d be able to just sleep in his bed. Instead they ended up in the living room after they changed out of their wet clothes and cleaned up.
With practiced ease, Bellamy slowly stood up from the chair with the sound-asleep toddler in his arms, and walked sluggishly to the kid's room. His hand gently held him in place as he tapped the door open with his foot, the colorful bedroom greeting his tired eyes. The simple night dress he wore felt uncomfortable on his skin, out of place while he shuffled over to Iggy’s little bed. The bed frame made of sturdy wood to look like a little ship making his lips quirk up in a lopsided smile.
Iggy didn’t want him to go.
It was going to be the first time they had been apart longer than a few hours since he had been born-
And Bellamy was sure that he would miss the little guy just as much, if not more. It was clear from how even in the dead of sleep, his son still grasped onto his hand the second he was going to pull them away after placing him in his bed. Tore at his strings to see those tiny little fingers hold onto his so firm.
Instead of trying harder to get away, he choose to pull the messily pulled-away covers up to the young boy’s chest, tucking him in with care using only one hand as the small hand’s grip slowly lessened until finally Iggy let go.
Bellamy kissed him on the forehead before finally forcing himself to leave, though he did pause at the door to look back. A frown on his lips.
Stupid reunion…. Hermes better be there or I’m leaving early.
Exhaling deeply from his nose, Bellamy rolled her neck in a circle, listening to pops and crackles break up the silence of the quiet apartment as he went to his room the next door down. The room was a mess from the bare mattress on the floor to the clothes piles all around the room, with minimal furniture besides a dresser and a mirror leaning against the wall by his packed bag.
All these things were for the Bellamy who was gonna be coming back from the trip to deal with.
For now, he needed out of these clothes and a shower.
By the time he was out and drying his hair with a towel, he could hear his roommates starting to get up and the sound of his mom in the kitchen, cooking away. The familiar smells made the nostalgia and the fact he hadn’t eaten yet more prevalent on his mind while he threw on a white tank top and the baggiest jeans he had, a black leather belt being pulled tight to hold them up as he put his wallet and phone into the front pocket. The normal pair of boots were fine for him today as he slipped his wallet and phone into his front pocket. Slinging his bag over his shoulder, he walked out running his fingers through his hair lazily. Brown eyes stared unamused over at the kitchen where most of his roommates were chowing down on his mother's cooking. The older woman was busy cooing at her grandson while trying to feed him, though he only beamed at the sight of Bellamy.
Arms reached out towards him and tried to sneak past their grandmother but the chair was a little too high.
"Moddy! I want Moddy, not Gran-Gran!"
Iggy called out, a half smirk growing on his parent's face as Bellamy dropped his bag right by the chair to pick up the child who began to giggle. Gran-Gran pouted, but from the warmth in her eyes, it was clear she was more proud than upset.
"Now Iggy, you're gonna be good for Gran-Gran and Lolo while I'm on the trip, right?" He asked, looking his child in the eyes as he gestured with his head toward his mother.
Iggy's lips pressed together and he started to sniffle. "Moddy no go."
"Moddy has to go, but I'll be back." Bellamy says quietly before kissing all over Iggy's face until he started giggling again. "And, you'll have sooo much fun with Gran-Gran and Lolo at their house, that you'll won't even notice when I come back." He added, forehead to forehead with the happy child before setting him back on the chair. "But first, let's eat."
Bellamy hugged Iggy goodbye after buckling up in the car seat within his mother's van. Waiting until they had pulled out and drove away before leaving himself because he knew Iggy would be watching to see him wave goodbye the whole time he could.
Instead of being dropped off by car, he had decided to skate there with his board, duffle bag of clothes, and backpack of everything else on his back as he kicked off with his feet. A pair of dark sunglasses covered his eyes as he let the wind dry out his hair. The natural dark roots showed distinctly from the blond it was at one point dyed. There was only the sound of the world starting to perk up and the wind moving past him while he peacefully skateboarded his way down the familiar route to the high school.
Mindful of the traffic and the pedestrians as he rode past, by the time he had gotten close enough to see the parking lot, quite a few people had already arrived. A few were daring enough to leave their cars, some were more expensive than others. Bellamy had no real plans of putting his duffle bag up in the bus just yet, the weight of it comforting on his frame as he scanned the few groups of people that had arrived, futily since most were faced away from him.
So he was forced to come into their social range of them in order to see who exactly they were. The teachers had tried to get him into a conversation, but go only a lackluster hand raise of a wave as he slowly rolled past them on his skateboard. Not bothering to verbally say hi.
Though he did that with anyone who tried talking to him. He wasn't interested in chatting, there was one person he was looking for and if they weren't there-
He would be disappointed and his day ruined.
Which was looking more and more likely with each group he steered near not having even one person who looked even slightly like who he was looking for.
Genny. Bookworm. Ryder. Bish. Sweetroll. Lea.
Hell, even nerdy Pomagranite was here. Unsurprisingly filming her classmates, and catching him skating by the last person left to look over, Bellamy's hopes were low. If not non-existent.
However, as he got closer to this one figure by themselves, the more he saw familiar things about it. The stance and posture were something a lot like Hermes did, and so he kicked up his board into his hands and started quietly making his way over to them. Like a shark looming into the kill, Bellamy got close enough to pop up.
"So you went from Hermes to Hades?" The tone was blaze, but the slight grin on his lips as he stepped into Baldur's view from behind might have been a full-blown smile on someone else.
Reed, the second he finally had his luggage put away, upon standing back up had made prolonged eye contact with someone.
And while staring back at them while letting his brain catch up to figuring out who was having this staring contest with him, the messy haired man raised his hand up to wave. A warm smile grew on his face before he realized fully that it was lil Harper over yonder, but it stayed just the same. If not reaching more of his eyes to make the corners crinkle up as he gave a more enthusiastic wave.
“Hello there Harper.”
She had changed since when he last saw her, though he was happy to see her walking up to him on her own. Shaky steps, that were unsure in their footing but done, all the same, something that made a bit of giddiness spark in his chest.
A soft laugh bubbled out of him after the small talk began, his hand going up to run through his hair as he gave some thought as to what to say.
“I’ve been good, busy, but good.”
He answered softly as he leaned slightly on the bus behind him.
”I have a game shop now and the first anniversary of its opening was a few months ago.”
The fond memories of the party that he had planned for it and how happy everyone had been put him in a better mood.
“But enough about me, what about you?”
Reed dismissed the talk about himself with a small wave of his hand as he straightened up and gently nudged her with his elbow.
“I heard you went viral and wrote a book? You’ve been doing so well for yourself. It’s amazing how far you’ve come-”
He would have continued but the loud, familiar yell of Bishop had him instinctively snap his head in the man’s direction as he came over and slung his arm around his shoulders to pull him in a hug.
Reed didn’t hesitate to hug back, patting Bishop’s back before pulling away and looking between him and Harper.
The brunet man noticed the tension that built instantly between the two, and how his normally sociable friend started to flounder a bit. The nervousness was not outright apparent if he hadn’t gotten to know him and knew that the info dumping he was doing was not something his traveling friend did when he was comfortable with the situation.
“It’s okay, meeting up with people from the past is always a little weird.”
Reed cut in, squeezing Bishop’s shoulder gently to quietly show his support though he was already excusing himself. He didn’t fight him leaving, and let him go to recollect himself.
“I’ll try to find you before we set off.”
Worry began to pool in his chest, and his smile wanted to falter for a moment as he watched him leave-
But Harper was here.
His smile became bashful as he rubbed the side of his neck, his gaze apologetic at how everything went down and the discomfort she may have felt. He could remember distinctly that she didn’t have the best relationship with Bishop and that might be a small part of what just happened.
“I guess everybody is a little nervous about the reunion.”
"-This is a update for those who haven't seen my socials or my last stream, but I'm on vacation for a couple weeks! I promise that my *urgh*-"
Liam's digital self shivered, cringing as a he gave a double take at the soda that happened to be in frame. Before ushing it out of sight gingerly with a pencil.
"- Only Cans finale will be done soon afterwards. In the meantime, this is Nothing, signing off for now. Behave, Be Good, Bewilder!"
The viewers were slowly pouring in, a lot expressing positive words of 'have a good trip' or 'see you soon' in the comments. Some even asking if he'll post pictures (He didn't understand the need for winky faces for that question)... It had been three years of streaming. Three years of raising Eric by himself with the help of his mother. Three years of not being directly tethered to... her. Jane. His EX wife. He still couldn't believe it. Years of letting her do what she wanted, letting himself do whatever she wanted, and it was all gone in a single night. And she had dug the grave herself... It was a hollow victory. Liam hadn't told his mom about anything, but the cheating, and Eric... Eric knew that his Mama did something bad... Did something bad to him and his Baba. But most of all his Baba. And if it was up to Liam, they would never know... That didn't stop them from worrying. His little shark didn't mention it, but the fact he had stayed up so late, finding things to distract him... He knew. Baba hadn't even said her name and yet, he knew Jane was going to be there on the trip. Not even discussing 'Purse's bunnies seemed to shake the cloud over his baby's head... Adding to the tempest roiling over Liam's. Jane had been awfully civil recently. As civil as someone like her could be.Sending messages, asking about Eric, hell, she even asked if she could share a ride. He never answered of course. Last thing he need was to pay his Ex's hospital bills after his mom got through her. Her nickname "Halyomorpha halys" at the top of his most recent text list, saying she'd meet him there... It made him feel sick.. But... What could he do?... His phone shutting off to reflect his tired face back at him. His mom in the driver's seat humming a nonsensical tune as she drove the pickup smoothly around the next corner.
"Papaguesswutpapaguesswut-" "Breathe Baby!"
Liam's mother chuckled while giving a glance towards the backseat, Eric vibrating in his seat with excited energy. The little fin bouncing in the rear-view mirror the cherry on top. The tightness in Liam's chest melting at the absolute beaming grin on his son's face as they met eyes.
"Alright Snappy, what's up?" "I drew 'Purse-sit-phone-e's bunnies! I messed up a bit, but I fixed it!"
The orange Eric tried to draw the carrot at first was too red. Looked like a spicy pepper, but bunnies couldn't have spicy. It messily covered by another rabbit.
"That's great Snappy! Do you want to show me? Or is it just for Persephone?" "Sorry Baba, but it's just for Purse."
Liam clutched his chest with a dramatic gasp, flinging himself in the seat over the dashboard. Eric giggling in his seat at his father's acting before taking the opportunity to untangle the micro braids he had done during morning routine. Memaw rolling her eyes as she took another turn. But the playful grin that tugged at her lips made the previous action soft. Eric unrolling every tangle he made in Liam's hair with a increasingly bored look as his father's spiel began to drag out a little too long.
"-You wound me sir! For what I can do against a fair mai-OW."
Cackling erupted from the backseat at his dad's sheepish look as he rubbed his sore chest. The perp, none other then Memaw herself chastising him with that same loving smile.
"Now you quit it young man, we're here!"
The school loomed in the pickup window, bringing with it both hope... and despair. Liam stepped out onto school ground for the first time in years, the sights, and the sounds of people reuniting sending him back into his high-school days... Until he was dragged to reality by a sniffle. Tiny hands reaching through the window with tears. The smell of freshly washed fabric with the heaving of tiny lungs as Liam cooed softly. Strong hands lifting his son from his seat into comforting embrace.
"What's wrong Eric?" "I don't want you to go."
Eric burying his face into Liam's neck, leaving a wet spot on his shoulder. The distress his son exhibiting tugging at Liam's heart strings in the most painful ways.
"I'd love to stay, but I can't change my decision now baby." "But-" "Shhhh-"
Taking the edge of his shirt and gently wiping his son's face, Liam gently set him on the ground. Giving a gentle kiss on each teary eyelid. Ending with him kneeling to his son's level with a soft gaze.
"You know how I told you daddy did some bad things in the past?" "Yea..." "And what does daddy always tell you when you do something bad?" "... Say sorry and do better?" "That's right. Daddy hasn't done that yet, so this vacation is an chance for dad to finally do that. Did that make sense?" "... Yeah."
Liam offering his shirt (He could always change it later, he went for easy comfort today with a pink combo of long sleeved shirt and pants over his walmart boots) as his son wiped the tears and snot from his face. Making a tiny honk as he blew his nose in the cloth. Eric peering into his father's face with his own slightly redden one, a step over his earlier distress.
"Tell you what, I promise to text Memaw everything I did, EVERY night. And send pictures when I can."
At the mention of pictures, Eric gasped and bolted from his father's grasp. Leaving Liam a little stunned, but before he could have done anything, Eric had already finished yanking open his door on the pickup, grabbing something from within, and slamming it closed again. (His MeMaw yelling "Don't slam my doors baby!" from still within the car.") His little sneakers screeching across the pavement as he dashed past his father in a blue blur. Liam scrabbling to get back on his feet catch his slippery shark-suited son, cursing the gravel as he slipped slightly.
"I"M GONNA FIND PURSE!" "Wait hold-" "-LIAM."
At the sharp tone he hadn't heard towards him in years, Liam froze. Sweat beginning to wet his brow as he turned to see his mother's face peering from within her pickup. Eyes sharp as ever, enough to make Satan cower himself, she patted the side of her truck.
"... He'll be fine, come talk for a sec."
The little boy ran across the yard, gripping tightly the paper in his hands, scouring over the crowd... ... Not her, she's pretty, but she wasn't it... She wasn't in that group... or that one... where was she? Was she arriving later? Too lat for Eric to see her reaction to it?... Skidding slightly over the gravel like his father did as he saw his target. One pretty lady with cam, with long pretty red hair to match. Bingo. A little speeding bullet in a shark onsie running at her at full speed, stopping a little too hard as he tumbled onto his bottom with an 'umph'. But before concerned could be shared, a piece of paper was offered up by tiny hands with buzzing excitement held within green eyes just like his father's. Just a little above her knee, panting from running and shear joy only kids high on pure adrenaline could have.
Estatic / PANICKED / Slightly Sad but mostly Happy
School Parking Lot
The camera weighed a heavy on her shoulder in its harness and rig as she carefully filmed panoramic shots of the school, her hands holding onto the handles as she made sure to keep her steps sideways as smooth as possible, her eyes watching the viewfinder though she listened out for anything approaching her. Familiar voices reaching her ears didn’t tear her eyes from her work until she had finished the task first, only then did she turn her head to look.
Marking the current timestamp of the footage in her notes, did she turn her lens over to the parking lot, spanning the buses as a few people had assistance with putting up their luggage, and catching a few more pulling in. Various cars and their inhabitants, one of which made her smile as she recognized the curly man that belonged to Malachi as he exited his own finally when she heard shooting from the other side of the parking lot. A vague sense of familiarity prickled her brain the longer she looked them over before it dawned on her that it might be Baldur after catching who she could only guess was Bellamy popping up behind him
It was then that a peculiar sight caught from behind her lens.
Harper AND REED!!!
She had to press her lips together to keep herself from smiling too big, a giddy pride warming her chest as she filmed. Inwardly squealing in joy, the type of joy she knew very well, and often attributed to some drama she was watching or the old fanfictions she read in high school. If not for her camera needing to be steady, she would flap her hands a bit. For now, she had to take a deep breath and contain those motions for now.
You go Harper!
As the highest point of her day so far, the lowest soon came after when all of a sudden Bishop appeared. Totally ruining the vibe and from what she could see was floundering awkwardly while just verbally dumping as many words as possible out before leaving pink in the face and his tail between his legs.
An unheard-of option for Bishop from what she remembered of him. It was those unpleasant memories that made her glare at him through the viewfinder when out of nowhere, she heard it.
That accursed nickname...
But the voice was not one she knew-
Her brows furrowed as she unhooked her camera from her so she could hold it from the hand at the top, and allow her to look around without it impeding her vision. By the time it was safely in her hand around her hip did she hear the rapid footsteps of the tiny being running toward her.
The redhead felt so many emotions in those few moments as she watched the small child zoom toward her.
In a shark onesie.
At full speed.
He might wanna slow down a little-
On very loose gravel-
HE ISN’T SLOWING DOWN!!!!!
The panic set in very quickly, and thank goodness her reflexes were faster than her brain, otherwise, she might have just dropped her camera in favor of stopping the child from slamming into her or falling down and hurting themselves. So instead she put her camera down gently, but quickly while kneeling down to his level so he didn’t ram into her shins.
But he did have plans of slowing, as she found at, if not a little late. Baby Shark had almost stuck the stop but tipped over at the end leaving her with her hands halfway out to help him when he popped back up like everything was fine.
So there she was, head slightly tilted to the side, mouth open to ask if he was okay, and looking completely baffled at the picture being shoved into her view by the boy in the shark onesie who was barely tall enough to reach her knees.
He was speaking so fast and panting so hard that it was a little difficult to understand what he was saying, but she could piece it together. Piecing what he was saying sent her through another round of emotion roulette, though all of them pleasant this time. If not a little embarrassing since anyone could look in their direction and see that confident persona crumble like sand under the weight of his cuteness and sincerity.
And the more he talked, the warmer her cheeks began to feel and her sympathy for Bishop rose.
“Uh-” A false start as she gently took the drawing, looking between it and the boy who stared up at her with the prettiest green eyes. If it was possible to melt, she was doing it, as a warm smile grew on her lips.“T-Thank y-you.” She cringed deeply in her soul, though it didn’t show on her face, at her voice stuttering a bit while she stared at the ground for a moment to recollect herself.
“Yes, I am Persephone-” When her hazel eyes looked up at Eric, the smooth voice she did have immediately started to turn into the sweet, slightly higher pitched baby cooing voice that was the epitome of everything but Bad Bitch Material and absolutely something she did to anything cute that crossed her path. And in a mostly empty parking lot of only a few cars and people that were talking quietly, hearing a few teachers coo didn’t help either.“It’s so nice to meet you, Eric.”
“And I think you’re very handsome in your little baby shark onesie.” Persephone cooed, gently booping the boy on the nose with a soft giggle before she lifted the drawing up for both of them to look at. “Awww, you’re such a good artist, and I’m so happy that you thought to give my bunnies treats and Boba a hat in your drawing. Now this will help me not be so sad from being away from them during the trip, so I better keep it super-duper safe.” She made a small show of carefully folding the paper and placing it into her backpack for its safety. Her lips pressed into a thin line as she took a deep breath as she mourned the loss of what was supposed to be the first step of all of her classmates getting to know her new self.
“You really threw me off my groove there, Baby Shark.” She murmured to herself, sighing softly in defeat at being bested by a toddler.
“I’ve been good, busy, but good.” He answered softly as he leaned slightly on the bus behind him. Harper would be lying if she didn’t get the slightest bit nervous, she was listening, but her mind was running a mile a minute. Is that the saying? Is it actually a mile a minute? Or–
”I have a game shop now and the first anniversary of its opening was a few months ago.”
“Oh, I know.”
“Because of Juni… and…”
Not that… Harper kept tabs on her ex-best friend, but… she sort of did. It’s just something you do, you know! Not in a weird, creepy way, but when Juni and Harper chatted over coffee a few years back, it was obvious she had things going on in her life.
Things that Harper wasn’t aware of, and a bubble of guilt formed in her chest.
“So… what’s the new… developments in your life?” She asked, looking down at the painfully obvious baby-bump.
“Just talk to me.”
That was probably the last time they actually talked, like… really talked. It was like nothing had ever changed and… Juni went back home, Harper got the job in San Francisco and… they just stopped trying.
They say a phone works both ways, but…
She didn’t blame her for not reaching out, Harper didn’t either.
They just drifted apart. It happens.
Harper shook her head, a slight smile forcing it’s way onto her lips.
“Congratulations, though. I hear it’s a real hit for cookies.”
“But enough about me, what about you?” Reed waved her words away and gently nudged her with his elbow which earned a genuine smile out of Harper, rolling her eyes, not to brag to anything but she knew exactly what he was going to bring up.
“I heard you went viral and wrote a book? You’ve been doing so well for yourself. It’s amazing how far you’ve come-
A voice had interrupted them and Harper turned to the voice of the man… who she didn’t expect to see, for some reason, despite knowing that he RSVP’d, Harper’s worries were mostly set on Brielle and Juniper– although Bishop was pretty high on the list of ‘people I hope to never associate with again’
Yeah, she was dramatic.
She was a writer, of course she was dramatic.
“Harper, sorry didn’t mean to interrupt.” Her smile thinned and she awkwardly swayed on the balls of her feet, “Hey,” was all she said before Bishop had suddenly spiraled into a string of… compliments?
“Hi, good to see you! I read your book, it was kinda sad–”
“Well, being that it was based on a true–” She attempted to cut in, but he just continued.
“But sad is good sometimes. Not that the book isn’t good all the time, it is, I read it on the train in Greece. It’s probably one of my favorites, but I don’t really read that much so I guess that’s not really like a big deal,”
“Uh–” And continued,
“I mean it is because it’s really good just,”
“It’s fine, you know–”
… And continued.
This wasn’t really the Bishop she remembered, but it was certainly more-welcome than their old interactions. Childhood bullies weren’t something Harper liked to dwell on but they are… people she might’ve had a small grudge on.
It’s not like she ever had the guts to do anything about it, though. Harper was all talk.
“I don’t really have a lot to compare it to is all. I liked it a lot is what I’m trying to say. Hi.”
A breathy chuckle escaped her, not that she found this conversation amusing at all, but it was mainly shock that he had the ability to not… be a dick?
“Hi.” She greeted him again, the conversation starting to lull into a deep silence when the slightly older man spoke again.
“Sorry, I’m a little jazzed right now. If you couldn’t tell. Anyway, I can like fuck off I don’t like want to interrupt your reunion, I’ll talk to Reed later.”
“Jazzed?” She mouthed questionably to herself.
She wanted to tell him he wasn’t interrupting anything or… say that she’d probably just leave herself, but Harper found herself unsurprisingly silent while Reed comforted him, Bishop walked off and they were alone once more.
“I guess everybody is a little nervous about the reunion.”
“Yeah? I don’t know, I kinda think I’m killin’ this thing. I got at least five actual words out, pretty proud of myself and all.”
It was much easier to just slip back into her comfort zone now that Bishop was gone.
Harper locked eyes with Reed again and she swore she felt those nerves pick back up again, clearing her throat like the many times she’d done as a freshman in high school whenever she was around him.
He probably thought she had a cold 24/7 from how many times that went down, especially that one time she–
Her old crush on Reed wasn’t anything that she needed to be reminded of, despite Persphone’s many therapy sessions she had forced Harper into…
The girl was crazy, lovable, but seriously crazy.
But she wasn’t exactly wrong about his looks.
“I like the beard,” Harper’s hand gestured towards Reed, a moment of panic seeping through her next words.
“Makes you look… not ugly.”
Her heart felt like it dropped to her stomach and Harper chucked in disbelief.
“Hold on, I didn’t mean it like you were ugly before— I just—“
“I like the beard. That’s all I meant— I hate myself, you’re not ugly, I apologize… and uh, I’m just gonna— I’ll shut up now.”
Reed’s eyes widened a bit at Harper bringing up Juni, he had avoided directly bringing her up after finding out that they weren’t as close as they once were. As far as he knew they were strained at best, but he could have easily missed more of what happened from being busy with Viviene and walking on eggshells around the topic of their friendship with Juni.
Maybe later he would ask, but now it was best that he kept things light. Something Harper was excelling at.
”I can see that,”
He responds as he gives her the fingers of support.
”More than five and still going strong. It’s pretty incredible.”
And like that, the levity was back, and he noted a lot of it was from just Bishop leaving. He grinned back at Harper when their eyes locked and she cleared her throat. He was not at all bothered by it, since he had time to acclimate to it in high school. However, now that it had been a while, maybe it was a cold?
She started to speak before he could ask.
At the mention of the beard, he touched his facial hair in question a little confused at first before it hit him.
”Oh thank you-”
Reed sputtered the second she added the part of not ugly, a hearty chuckle starting as he hunched over slightly as she tried to walk it back. Only after she was done, did he straightened up and took a deep breath, wiping the tear that had formed by his eye.
”Oh no, you don’t need to spare me Harper, It is a step from being nerdy.”
” He finally managed to calm himself enough to say a full sentence before humming a bit to keep his composure.
”You shouldn’t hate yourself over that. You wouldn’t be the first person to tell me that my beard is weird to see.”
”You are a lot nicer about it than my niece. But if you insist, I’ll keep it for now.”
He winked as he spoke but soon let his hands fall to his sides as he shook his head.
” Oh no, I cannot simply let your streak die out because of my marvelous not ugly beard.”
His gaze flittering around her face as he looked for a detail about her to compliment.
There were so many, but maybe he should go for hair too? Not facial hair, that would be a bad idea even if she did have a sick beard.
”The darker hair color makes you not ugly too. It looks very nice on you.”
The previous night in her humble abode was so relaxing. It was just her and her best friend Juni drinking, giggling, and looking through old yearbooks gossiping about the good ole days. What better way to welcome in a three week trip with said people? While clearly some things never change she was slightly curious as to what had.
Originally Vi was uninterested in going because she had a shop to run. There were bills to pay after all, but then she was convinced that a break would be nice. She also was originally afraid that her husband would show as well if she decided to go. There were still only separated, and she had no desire to share quarters with him again, or ever again. However he had a game during that time so he couldn't attend, which gave her the green light. Technically they were just separated, but as far as she was concerned he was her ex and she was practically free to do as she pleased. He certainly was.
Vi volunteered to drive them to the high school even though in hind sight an uber would've been best? It was fine. If someone was going to car jack them they'd do it whether it was parked at a the school in in front of their place. In fact it might be safter around here cause at least there were cameras.
Stepping out she already saw so many familiar faces. Thanks to their group chat some were easier to recognize after all this time. The glow up was real for some of them. However anyone could appear better online. It'd be interesting to see who actually changed and who would soon fall back into old habits. Honestly she was curious as to who she'd be in a van with. Of course she'd prefer to be with Juni, but she also lived with her so maybe having a three week break to experience something different would be fun. Plus they'd of course still see each other the hole time.
"So tell me Juni who are you most excited to see?" She chimed giving her a playful nudge. Her eyes specifically scanned for a face or two she really hoped would pop up. "I'm gonna go see which RV I'm on. Might as well spoil that surprise right off the bat." She giggled holding up crossed fingers because she really hoped she didn't have a bad bunch. Everyone seemed to be dreading having Jane on their bus. Personaly she didn't care, but she hadn't been one of the girls many victims back then. She wasn't then and she wasn't about to now.
"Thanks!" she smiled a bit bashfully at the compliment. She hoped she didn't look as bad as she felt, or as drained as life had actually made her. "You do too Ani." She hummed in return.
She really did. She seemed happier now then she remembered. She was glad to see her friend in this kinda state. It was heart warming to see not just her but several of them seemingly living their best lives after high school.
If the chatting from the group messenger was any indication they'd all grown up so much. It also brought back so many fond memories... and some not so fond, but she was determined not to focus on those. It made her feel a tinge of guilt tho. How had she let such amazing people, people how had meant so much to her when she was low just...fade away so quickly? Sure she supposed it was a two way street, but she could've done more.
Perhaps this would be her second chance.
"Thanks, you make some of the best snacks" she giggled. "Then again I guess that's to be expected huh?" She hummed taking a couple to nibble on.
She knew about her career, and had seen some of her tv appearances. Oddly enough she looked more in her element there then she ever had all those times they had their noses stuck in books. Neither of them were really doing what they were expected to be at this point in their lives, and there was a sort of ironic peace to that. Each of them had such high hopes thrown on them from such an early age...tho clearly she'd found a healthier way to cop with that then Gen had.
"Have you found out which bus you're on yet?" She asked curiously before taking a bite. Gen kind of hoped they'd be together.
That got a smile out of her, a genuine one, probably. Those had been pretty rare in high school but talking a bit with Reed had reminded her that maybe not all of it was bad. At least the first years were decent before everything went downhill junior year.
She hated being reminded, but Harper was the one doing the reminding half the time. It was like her brain was self-sabotaging every second it got.
Distractions helped a lot, it’s probably what she’s been sticking with these past few months– the main distraction? Her book.
The book that wasn’t going anywhere, but at least the nerve-racking, blinking bar that begged her to write a few words down, taunted her more than her brain did most days.
”You shouldn’t hate yourself over that. You wouldn’t be the first person to tell me that my beard is weird to see.”
“I don’t hate myself over that,” Harper muttered to herself, so low that Reed probably didn’t pick it up. That was an entire can of worms that she wasn’t planning on opening anytime soon.
”You are a lot nicer about it than my niece. But if you insist, I’ll keep it for now.” His wink had gotten her off-guard enough for Harper to roll her eyes at his antics. If this was a step up from being nerdy…
He might have to re-evaluate the entire dorky-hot-shot personality he seemed to possess– it was sort of comforting to know he didn’t change entirely, looks-wise, obviously after almost eight years, Harper was confident that Reed’s still the person she’d would prefer to be around instead of everyone else.
Of course, exceptions were made for some friends.
“My streak?” She asked, a playful glint in her voice, the back-and-forth compliments from… Bishop had definitely made an impression. Maybe not a great one, but an impression nonetheless.
”The darker hair color makes you not ugly too. It looks very nice on you.”
Her smile faded a bit at that, a faint blush appeared onto her cheeks and she waved his compliments away. Harper had actually liked her hair in high school a bit more, but as she got older– it had started to darken.
Much like her mother’s did in high school, looking in the photo album at home along with Freya had proved that Harper had gotten most of her looks from her mother.
A hand lifted to pick up a strand of hair, letting it fall back down to her shoulders. “Genetics. They’re both a blessing and a curse.” She wasn’t going to get into all of that either, no thank you.
It didn’t matter if Reed know about…
Hopefully he’s been so busy with his own life that he didn’t have enough time to read up on hers.
“Did you wind up getting anyone fun on your RV? I mean…” Harper put her hands up in mock defense, shaking her head.
“Tsk, I know I’m not there, but don’t be too disappointed. I’m actually known as…”
Don’t Harper, don’t.
“Harper The… parti-er…” Her lips thinned in a failed attempt to hold back the now-furious blush that appeared on her cheeks.
“Shut up, don’t laugh at that. It’s… true. I’m actually the queen of raves.”
It wasn’t true, but at this point Harper was just speaking nonsense in a horrible attempt to be humorous. She just hadn’t expected it to come out so awkward.
People never really change, huh?
“Forget about my partying tendencies… you think you could handle three weeks being away from home? I’m sure your niece is gonna miss you a ton…”
This was a really bad way to get information. Harper didn’t even know why she was asking! Okay, maybe sixteen year old Harper might’ve taken control and needed to ask for scientific reasons.
But she’s only been in town for barely a month! Harper didn’t know anything about Reed’s current life other than he shared a cafe with Juni.
“I’m… sure your girlfriend will too…”
Wait– what if–
“Or boyfriend, or partner, whatever you’re…”
Harper went silent, deciding that saying nothing might be better off than saying something she’ll definitely regret in the next five seconds.
The figure ducked with a curse, hands curled into fists defensively before relaxing at the familiar voice. Hands going to grip the strap to their shoulder bag instead 'til their fingers turned paler then before, turning to face their jump scarer. Bellamy had been right in their deduction. It was him, from the playful furrow of his brows to the shared grin between the two of them. Even the t-shirt he wore, plastered with the 1986 movie poster of 'Little Shop of Horror' screamed that this was him. Baldur had definitely changed from the last time they had seen him. If they hadn't known him so well, he'd be a total stranger compared to the few photos in the past that he had permitted. Had a thing for not wanting to be posted to the internet except in a controlled manner to keep his nosey family from sound the alarm on him. Finally having the opportunity to medically transition, if the beard growing on his chin was evidence enough. His glasses not barely hanging onto his face for dear life. Studs in his ears that his Disney Villain of a mom woud have never approved of. Gained some weight, but considering their Joy Vacuum of a mother wasn't super model thin. It was a beautiful, a healthy step in the right direction. Even now, the tension beginning to show was no where near what it had been... When he... When he left... But it wasn't like Bellamy hadn't changed either, as the first words from Baldur was:
"You're taller. How dare you?"
Bemoaning the now many short jokes he would have to endure, Baldur still couldn't resist giving his good ol' cursory 'what do I got to patch for you now' scan-overs. Bellamy looked like they had done well for themselves. New tats. Piercings. Not too many scars to raise an eyebrow at. All in all, they felt like the same person that stared curiously over their own bloody knuckles after punching through the wall for a spider. Unsure of his intent on bandaging them up. God, it was a relief to see them before anyone else... Even if he wasn't sure were he stood with them anymore. Out of everyone in the group, he was sure Bellamy would have been the most upset by his loss. Baldur never got to explain why he left, and his 'birther', as hateful and stupid as she could be, would never openly discuss anything with 'future gutter trash, if not already'. Even years being away... He never reached out. He couldn't. Not knowing if the people he had left behind were targets. Or if his intervention would make them ones... Heck, even now, he felt like he was doing it again. Tempting fate to come back and bite him in the bits. Only this time. It wouldn't just be him...
"Hades huh? Wish I thought of that. It's Baldur now. Hopped Mythologies."
One of his hands released the strap. Offering itself, to shake or for a well deserved bite, Baldur had no idea. But if Bellamy had something bigger then just a plain old handshake... He kept the arm wide and let go of the strap entirely, the bag dangling heavily beside him. The look he mustered towards Bellamy was one of the softest they'd ever seen. More then all the times he's silently patched them up after finishing a fight... He's finally home.
When Harper smile, Reed could feel his own grow brighter in response, the eye creases and dimples coming out in full force at how he succeeded in getting her to relax and enjoy the moment for just a second.
It was a rare sight, but a wonderful one that he had tried often to repeat when they were just students at the high school. A shame that he didn’t get to see it at all when it was getting closer to the end of his senior year. In fact, now that he thought about it, he hadn’t seen her much at all.
So lost in remembering the things that didn’t happen, he almost missed something that did. It was a murmur, something she undoubtedly didn’t want him to hear her say.
"I may not be a Harper expert, but I like to think I know enough to say that you are someone that I’m very glad to have met even once in my lifetime. The second time now is a gift."
Reed was not trying to come off as overly complimenting, BUT---
He meant every single word.
Not staying on the small compliment, he moved along with the shifting topics, purposefully avoiding making eye contact when she rolled her eyes at him. But did go back to paying attention to her when she responded just as playful as he had been and he pressed his lips into a thin line to keep himself from laughing as he let out a breath to keep his composure. Missing out on seeing her face turn a slight shade of pink as she waved his compliments away.
”Well genetics do make up how you look, but just because a new shade to your hair looks nice, doesn’t mean that it wasn’t nice before too."
He began, thoughtfully stroking his beard before peering over to Harper with a lopsided grin.
”Personally, I was a fan of the whole Harper look throughout high school. Braces and light hair, included."
He looked down at his hands for a moment, rubbing at his knuckles.
”But the opinion of some nerdy dork probably wouldn’t have meant much to you back then."
Reed joked seamlessly as he shoved his hands into the pockets of his pants, nodding his head along while he listened to her ask about the RV.
Admittedly, he didn’t know who he was with. He just knew it was the second bus. Before he could even get the words out to match his unsure shrug, she just continued to rattle on. Making a joke of her own, that he was sputtering trying not to laugh at.
He held up a single finger as he tried to make it just seem like he was coughing. But she could probably tell that he wasn’t because of the corners of his lips being up in a wide smile.
”I’m sorry--- Just need a second. The Parti-er.”
Shortly after that he cleared his throat and was bashfully smiling like they both were none the wiser to his laughter earlier.
”Yeah-- She um.. She wanted me to go since I haven’t really hadn’t had a chance to take a vacation since before I graduated from college."
His tone shifted from a joking one to a more thoughtful one as his brows furrowed a bit in reflection of the moments he had with his niece before getting there.
”Her name is Viviene, she prefers to go by Vivi though. And she made it very clear that if I didn’t pick up the phone when she called, I’d have hell to pay when I got back."
The small, fond smile on his face as he rubbed the side of his neck while he talked about his niece was almost fatherly, the love he had for her clear in how he didn’t even dream of missing a single call for a reason other than not wanting to be beaten by a ten-year-old.
Though being asked about a girlfriend had him immediately gobsmacked. His mouth opened slightly as he fumbled while trying to respond.
”Uh- Um… No, I don’t have any of those…”
The nervous chuckle that came out as he softly muttered to himself,
”I kinda forgot with all the studying and then the business."
Completely dumbfounded at how he had gone so long without even noticing how he had completely abandoned his dating life.
He didn’t really want to think about it any longer than necessary, though he would be lying if he wasn’t a little curious about Harper’s answer to the same question.
”What about you Harper? Is even the Queen of Raves single too."
The mischievous, shit-eating grin on Bellamy’s face as the familiar reaction of Hermes being spooked enough to curse while ducking. Sure he was ducking with his fingers curling into a fist, but he was willing to take the punch if it came. It was worth it.
No longer the awkward teen leader of the group, he was his own person now.
A very different person.
Physically at least, the tastes and personality seemed to be the same. He would know because he slowly circled him, taking in the whole picture, or his outfit at least. The ‘Little Shop of Horror’ shirt and grin was reminiscent of the one from high school and had eased some of his worries.
The beard, glasses, and studs were new. But his tol Hermes was now the shorter gremlin in their friendship. He wasn’t gonna bring it up, just live with only grinning, but Baldur had brought it up.
So now he could openly laugh.
A cackle that only years of being at the end of short jokes could give. And then it stopped abruptly with a shrug.
“Blame my unbridled rage for needing a larger container.” Bellamy murmured, his tone bored as he stopped at Baldur’s side, and for a moment, rested his elbow resting on Baldur’s shoulder though he didn’t put any of his weight behind it.
“TPing and Egging that atrociously demented woman’s house could only satiate me for so long.” Pulling his arm away and crossing them while listening to the male speak with a blank expression. A grimace was threatening to take over at even thinking of terrible woman who birthed the man before her now, but knowing she got her comeuppance did give him a lot of peace of mind. The fact it was also fun helped.
Brown eyes looked down at the hand being offered to him, before flicking up to Baldur’s face.
“Baldur, huh?” The tone left a lot to be desired. As disinterested as always, but rather than go for a handshake, Bellamy nudged him with his knuckles on the shoulder. Not quite a punch, but it had more strength behind it than a simple poke. Definitely not enough to hurt even with his strength.
“You choose a good one.”
He would have kept it at that if Baldur didn’t look at him with that expression. The soft one. It wasn't like the ones that were mildly concerned at the brash behavior Bellamy did in high school. Like punching a hole in the wall over a spider. He wrapped his arms around him and held him tightly, happy to have his quivering lip out of view that was slowly morphing into a frown.
“You can cut the sentimental crap. It makes you sound sappy.”
Despite his words, Bellamy didn’t let go anytime soon.
James arrived via uber and gave the girl a good tip as he flashed that famous smile at her. The girl practically went crimson as she fumbled taking the tip before walked towards the RVs. God it felt ages since he had been here. One of the popular kids because of his good looks and well to do family back then but not an asshole like most would expect. Spotting one of his of his old friends Violetta, his smile grew into a full on dopey grin. He dropped his duffel bag of clothes before running over to Violetta and picked her up suddenly. "Hey Vi, long time no see old pal" he said with a cheerful tone while spinning her around for a moment. Realizing that it was probably the best idea to put her down before she elbowed him in the face or worse, he set her down and sheepishly stepped back scratching his cheek. "You look really good, the years have been kind. How have you been since graduation?" he asked. God this was more awkward than he had imagined seeing old friends.