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Realistic or Modern Second Chances - A Totally Normal Dating Sim

Sub Genres
  1. LGTBQ
  2. Magical
  3. Mystery
  4. Realistic
  5. Romance
  6. Slice of Life

➳ The Arrow of Love ➳

Hey there, and welcome to Cupid’s Arrow: a cafe known for attracting the cutest of customers and workers alike! You are Quinton Jones, and you’re one of the four baristas currently working here. But despite being employed at one of the top romantic hotspots in your town, it seems Cupid has decided to throw you to the wayside! Having recently gone through a heartbreaking breakup with your boyfriend, |̸̇͊r̸͗́|̸̼͗|̷͌̐u̷̍̐s̵̔̇, you’re left to struggle with your sadness alone and loveless. But with the arrival of your new coworker, Bodhi, your world gets turned upside down as you start seeing the guys around you in a new light! Will you get your second chance, and finally achieve the true ending you’ve always dreamed of? There’s only one way to find out!


ღ Meet the Guys ღ
Boy, oh boy, are the guys who come into Cupid’s Arrow cute as heck! So many boys to fall in love with! Will you romance the darling Tristan, whose scars still run deep? Maybe you’ll woo the gentle Dhairya? Perhaps the enigmatic but bold customer, Athanasius? Or would you prefer the spunky and flirtatious troublemaker Zephyr? And of course, let’s not forget the chatty Bodhi, who seems very eager to get to know you! Who shall be your Second Chance, Quinton? And why do you feel like you’ve been through this before…?

Quinton Jones
Orpheus Graham
Tristan Hubert
Dhairya Srinivas
Athanasius Clementine
Zephyr Tornado Strike Alpha Team3 Rousseau
Bodhi

[1x1 between smolfluffball and AreSneksSly]
 
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A fizzling fuzzy crackling noise hissed in my ears so softly, like a secret. It reminded me of bug buzz or soda popping from carbonation or the tingling shiver that races up your spine whenever you get scared or excited. It was not very pleasant to listen to, but it cut off so quickly that I startled awake.

Dark. It was dark. Something was on my face. I was laying down on something that was not my bed but it was comfortable and I had my head on a pillow and something covering my legs. Okay. Okay. Got it. I must have passed out sometime last night watching TV, or something. I didn't remember actually falling asleep or even going to bed. Or feeding Eve, or changing my clothes into pajamas, or putting my phone on the charger, or brushing my teeth. I also didn't remember putting the cloth or blanket or whatever it was over my eyes.

My eyes, which were puffy and swollen and probably bright red, were so tender against the fabric. The feeling, the delicate sensation of soft fabric against sore eyes, was really fraying my nerves. That new splitting headache literally first thing after I woke up from my sleeping and my terribly cracked heart were not helping my mood any.

Yeah. Yeah, yes, decided: I really did not want to go to work. I hadn't even taken whatever was on my face off yet, I had not even looked outside yet, and I already was considering calling in to say I was feeling like shit. Because I was. I really, really, really was.

But where did I put my phone? Would my boss be okay with me calling in to say I couldn't make it in today? Duh, of course he would be, because he'd also be feeling pretty crappy. Since yesterday my heart broke, shattered, crumbled into a million little shards, and I knew he also had to be hurting. He had to be feeling the same way. I needed to believe he was feeling the same way. I didn’t want to even consider that he was fine while I was breaking. Wait, but, why? What? Huh. What. Who was I even thinking about? My boss? I was friends with him so why did I want him to be hurting too? Wait. Wait.

What?

Oh, God, my head.


One step at a time, Quinton.

First order of business was getting whatever was on my face off of it. I reached up and felt it was one of the hand towels from the kitchen, but kind of damp. Okay. Yes. Wet towel over eyes to help with redness and swelling. Right.

Except I didn't grab a towel from the kitchen and wet it last night. I hadn't even thought about doing that because I was too busy drowning in tears. And I didn't remember turning off the TV or turning on the fan I could hear whirring somewhere else in my apartment.

And the weird fizzy sound. What was that? My ears were still working fine if I could hear the soft whir of the fan. Maybe it was just a bug Eve didn't manage to catch, or maybe it was something left over from a dream.

I pulled off the cloth that my fingertips had just been resting on and squinted against the light coming in through the window. That was the living room window. I was on my couch. The light made the crevice in my head split even further apart. This morning already sucked so hard and I hadn't even sat up yet.

I did just that and tossed the towel onto the coffee table. The TV was off and the remote was next to it on the stand, instead of where I always left it on the corner of the table. I scanned the room, confused and just a little bit concerned. My head was seriously killing me and I felt very much not like myself so maybe I just turned the TV off and put the remote over there accidentally last night and didn't realize. I also probably turned the fan on for some white noise and curled up on the couch to fall asleep because I was too exhausted to get up and go to my room.


"Shhh, kitty."

I froze when I heard the voice. No. What the fuck. Who was that? Did one of my coworkers come home with me last night? No. No, no. That wasn’t Tristan’s voice and Zephyr would be chatting with Eve instead of trying to keep her quiet. It wasn’t accented, so not Dhair, and I didn’t know any of the customers well enough to invite them over to my apartment.

And I didn't recognize that voice.


"No, Eve! Don't bother him!" the voice hissed.

My cat came around the corner to me, tail sticking straight up, happy instead of fluffed up with concern like she should be. She was rumbling with a purr because she clearly had no sense of danger. She hopped onto the couch and moved to come onto my legs but I ignored her because there was someone in my house that I did not recognize the voice of.

I stared, wide-eyed, at the place Eve had just come from, waiting to see if whoever was in my house would show themselves. I heard a sigh and quiet mumbling then the intruder appeared around the corner too. I startled and grabbed my cat, clutching her protectively to my chest.

Wait. No. I released my cat when she whined at me and stared at the guy. He had pink hair and an easy smile and the way he was leaning his shoulder against the wall seemed way too familiar. I knew him. I knew him? Did I?

Well, I did recognize his voice, so I had to know him. He knew my cats’ name and I obviously wasn’t scared of him since I wasn't screaming. Yeah, no, I did know him. Duh. He was...?


"You look so miserable, Quinton," he said, tugging at the skin under his eyes. "Did you get any sleep?"

I kept staring at him, trying my very best to remember who the heck this guy was. A friend, I think. He knew my name and my cat and he was so relaxed and he looked familiar and his voice was something I heard everyday when I got home from work.

Or? Something was not right. Was it? No. No? I had no idea what was happening. Who was this person standing in my apartment who knew my cat and my name but who I didn't know? Unless I did know him? I did know him. But did I actually?

Jesus, my head was screaming at me. My brain was pounding against my temples, trying to escape the confines of my skull and the stupid body it was in charge of. I wanted so badly to let it free so it would leave me alone so I could figure out what was happening.

I squeezed my eyes shut and pressed my fingers to the pained points on my head, rubbing circles to try to make my headache go away.
"Who are you?" I asked, opening an eye to watch the pink haired guy with the cocky smile and lax pose.

My roommate. He was my roommate. He helped me last night. He got Eve catnip even though I told him to never get her any because she became too feisty after she ate it but he told me she was just expressing herself. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe?

He gasped and pressed a hand to his chest.
"Were you that traumatized from last nights events to remember the name of your lovely roommate? I'm offended, Quinton. I thought we had a special bond." I frowned. "Wow, you look so suspicious." He crossed his arms, pouting. "Guess that's the last time I ever take care of you when you're emotionally distraught."

"Sorry, Bodhi," I mumbled, closing my eyes again. His name was Bodhi. Right. I breathed out through my nose and pushed harder against my temples. "I just have this awful headache even though I just woke up. What even happened last night? I can't really remember."

He crossed the room and came over to me, holding his hands out.
"You broke down crying over something," he answered, moving his hands to where I was rubbing. "Let me help with that pain."

I felt the soft touch of his fingertips against my temples and my headache numbed, then disappeared entirely. I pulled away from him, frightened. That wasn't normal. Headaches didn't go away instantly. How did he do that? I stared at him, feeling the blood racing through my veins. What was this guy doing in my apartment? Who was this person?

Something bubbled up in my throat, some kind of silent cry or warning. I felt the rock lodged in it, cutting off my voice. My palms started to get clammy, and something was fuzzy and stifling and unusual in my chest. My heart was going so fast that I knew it was trying to tell me something. I was shaking. Was I shaking? No, I wasn’t even trembling, but I felt so shaky. What was happening?

Oh, but, no. No, I was fine. It was just Bodhi. I let out a breath and felt the trembling leave my body, falling away from me in sheets and waves.

My roommate knew pressure points and stuff like that so he always helped when I got these dumb headaches. I got them so often ever since I moved to this town a few months ago. Stress headaches. Anxiety induced stress headaches. Anxiety, yes, that was that feeling. Anxiety that caused headaches, right. Although someone else told me that the headaches were migraines. And I specifically remember not actually going to see anyone about them because I didn't have them but obviously that wasn’t right.


"Is that better?" Bodhi asked, grinning and waggling his fingers at me.

No, it didn't seem like it was. I still had no idea what was happening. I didn't know Bodhi but I knew his name and he was my friend and I knew he had sisters and brothers and he loved Valentine's Day and he wanted to own a ranch one day but... But I also knew nothing about him. I had no idea who he was. I didn't put my TV remote over in the stand and I didn't go into my kitchen last night so I had no idea how the towel had gotten put over my eyes. I hadn't turned my fan on for over a month ever since the AC was fixed.

It wasn't adding up.


"Are you feeling okay?" Bodhi asked, pressing his hand to my forehead. I flinched away from him, then felt myself frown, confused. "What's wrong, Quinton?" The concern on his face was real. He knew me. I knew him. He was my friend. I was his friend. "Maybe you should lay back down and get some more sleep."

“No, I’m fine,” I said quickly, shaking my head. “Sorry for being weird. I think I hit my head or something last night. I was just freaking out and thought I didn’t even know who you were.”

“Wow, that sounds horrible. Not knowing who I am! How could you possibly survive without me here?” He ran his hands through his hair too dramatically and tossed me a loose and easy grin. “But your head is on right now, yeah? You know who I am?”

How could I forget. I rolled my eyes and tossed the blanket aside, then rubbed the spot next to my eyes. “How horrible do I look?”

“Uh, not that bad? Why are you asking?”

“Didn’t you just say I looked miserable?” I asked, frowning.

“Hmm.” He considered this, then shook his head. “I never would have said that to you, my friend. You always look exceptional.”

I scoffed and got up from the couch, moving around him. Eve hopped off the couch and followed after me into the kitchen.
“You don’t have to lie to me, Bo. I know I must look horrible. You wouldn’t have said I looked miserable unless I actually did.”

“Right, which is why I didn’t say that.” He also followed me into the kitchen. “Maybe you did hit your head, since you think I said something that I did not actually say.”

I paused and turned back to him, scowling. He held his hands up and took a step back, all innocent looking with his wide eyes and concerned expression. I tried to see the lie on his face but there was nothing there. Just worry and a pout.

He did say it. He said it and pulled at the place under his eyes and asked if I had a restless night. Didn’t he? Or did I really make it up? But wasn’t that the first thing he said to me when he came out to greet me?


“Whatever,” I mumbled, turning and heading back to the kitchen. I was not going to try to get him to tell me he was lying, because I knew he was. I hadn’t imagined him saying that. He was just trying to trick me to get a laugh.

We passed the bathroom and I stopped in front of the door, then nudged Eve forward with my foot. I had on star socks and my pants were the same ripped ones I wore yesterday at the live performance. Gross. I must have broke down crying after I got home from it. So that meant I could never wear this outfit again, because it was now cursed, which sucked. I really liked my socks.


“Can you be kind and helpful and feed the beast?” I asked Bodhi, who nodded. “And maybe get some fruit out for me, please?”

“Sure thing! Fruit salad is a better breakfast than a handful of trail mix,” he said, then nodded twice. “Just be quick in the bathroom. I don’t want to be late, since today is my first day.” He swerved off while calling Eve after him.

I watched him for a moment, lost. Late for what, exactly? His first day where?


After I heard the sound of Eve’s food container being opened, I went into the bathroom. I looked into the mirror but froze. The pain in my head surfaced again, but muffled and barely even noticeable. This made no sense. None of this was making any sense.

My eyes weren’t that puffy or red or swollen as they had felt literally less than five minutes ago. There were gray streaks running down my cheeks from the makeup I had on last night and my tears, but they were smudged and faded. My eyes weren’t bloodshot or rimmed red, but my eyelids were just a tad bit pink. Not puffy. Not swollen. My nose was barely red and didn’t even feel sore even though I rubbed at it so much last night. It looked like I hardly broke down at all, and I distinctly remember crying so much that I was too tired to even grab tissues anymore.

I really didn’t look miserable. I looked almost totally fine, even though I absolutely totally wasn’t.

This was too weird. I washed my face and brushed my teeth quickly, then tried to make my already curly mess of hair look at least somewhat decent. I considered putting on some concealer to hide the minimal redness on my face but decided against it. If I had to be suffering and broken hearted then I’d let him see me miserable and try to make him feel bad for ending it all in a single sentence.

Him... Him who? Who was I even upset with? Who was it that made me cry, exactly? I couldn’t remember. I could not remember, even though I just saw him yesterday. Last night. At my live. He was there, then he talked with me after the performance and broke my heart while I was holding my guitar and after I sang a song for him during the show. That happened. That happened last night but I had no idea who he was. He was missing from my memory of last night. The conversation was there and the tears and agony and hurt but he was missing. I had my leftover heart and so much more I wanted between us but he was gone. I wrote so many songs for him and texted him every day and we snuck around because it was a secret and we had so many private kisses and conversations and I was still in... I still liked him but... but... who...? His name was just there, at the edges of my mind but unable to be grasped. The image I had of him in my head was too foggy and blurry, too obscured.

Maybe it was a sign I needed to just move on and not dwell on it. I felt the same odd feeling in my chest and the muffled numb pain in my head felt like it was inflating, ballooning, swelling, but I tried to tamp down all of the weird shit going on with my body. I had no time to deal with this and I, really, truthfully, seriously, sincerely, and terrifyingly did not want to deal with it.

Because it kind of seemed like I was going insane. I was nineteen. I was not going insane. I must have just hit my head sometime last night. Amnesia. It had to be amnesia. Maybe I took too much cough syrup and it knocked me out last night and messed with my brain.

Or maybe this was what happened after people experienced their first break up.

I turned on the faucet and splashed water onto my face to try to wash away that thought.


“Quinton!” Bodhi called for me, sing-songy and annoying.

I toweled dry my face quickly and took a quick breath, then let it out in a huff. I was fine. I looked fine and I was fine, even though my heart was in shards and I did not want to leave my house to face the world or any of my friends or newfound ex. But I was not going crazy. I was just sad and broken hearted and I needed to put on breakup songs and get the fuck over it because I was too young to let this bring me down.

I left the bathroom and went into the kitchen. Eve was chowing down on the wet food she got for breakfast and Bodhi was sashaying around the island humming a melody I immediately recognized.


“Why are you humming my song?” I asked, squinting. “Why are you dancing around so happily? You do know that it’s not meant to be a happy song, right?”

“I’m just in a good mood, dude!” Bodhi hopped onto the island and kicked his legs back and forth, grinning. “You’re fruit is in a baggy in the fridge. I know yolo, but it’s my professional opinion that you really need to consume more food than three slices of apple and six grapes and four chunks of cantaloupe as your only food for the day.”

“You’re a professional at what, exactly?” I arched an eyebrow. He smirked and shrugged very animatedly. I went over to the fridge and grabbed the fruit. “If you were actually a professional, I don’t think you would call me dude and say yolo like its an actual word.”

“You know what I have to say to that, Quinton?” He grinned.

I wasn’t in the mood to humor him.
“What place hired you?” I asked, changing the subject so perfectly and deftly that he would absolutely not notice.

“Oh, rejected! Shot through the heart!” He grabbed at his chest and fell back against the island counter, almost knocking over the paper towels on it. He noticed my change in subject. “He doesn’t care about my thoughts, guys,” he said, to the ceiling, because he was so weird. “However will I do this when the chosen one is so abrasive?”

“I’m not abrasive,” I said defensively, frowning. “I’ve just had a bad morning.” I sighed, deflating. I set the fruit on the counter, giving up on this stupid conversation. I had no desire to argue with anyone this morning. “Didn’t you say today was your first day?”

“Yeah!” He sat up and beamed at me. “My first day as your co-worker!”

My brain paused, grinding to a halt. I blinked rapidly then shook my head. I tried to restart my brain but it was frozen in place.
“Excuse me?”

“Oh, come on, Quinton!” He groaned and ran his hands down his face. “You got me that job at Cupid’s Arrow because you thought it’d be nice to work together. Don’t you remember? I was so grateful you talked to your boss for me because he, like, really scared me.”

I stared at him, not... not remembering. Nope. I had no recollection of doing that. I didn’t ever talk to my boss about letting anyone else work at the café except for myself, back when we first met, back when I first moved here. I didn’t even know anyone in this town except for my co-workers/friends at the café and, like, three regulars.

Bodhi wasn’t a co-worker or a regular. He also wasn’t a friend. He... was... who, exactly?


“You really don’t remember?” he asked, wide-eyed, pleading. “Dang. I think you really did hit your head. That expression on your face is kinda scary. Come over here.” He beckoned me over to him, arms out like he was expecting a hug.

I didn’t move. I had no idea who this was. I didn’t recognize him. He was not ever in my life before this morning. He was a stranger. He was a stranger in my house and he was acting like he was my friend and I thought he was. But he was not.

He was not.

The stranger pursed his lips and slid off the counter, coming over to me, studying me like I was something for him to dissect or some new problem. I moved away from him, desperate to keep some space between us. I didn’t know him. I had no idea who he was. There was a stranger in my house and he was manipulative and he tricked me somehow and- and-


“Well, this is interesting,” he murmured, ceasing his movements. He became so still and I felt like I couldn't breathe. “It’s unraveling, isn’t it? That really is not supposed to happen. I wonder if this is foreshadowing or if I just screwed it up already, somehow. Oh, that’d really suck. I don’t think I’m that bad at all of this.”

“Who are you?” I croaked out, choking on the scratchiness in my throat.

“I’m your friend.” He took a step toward me. I tried to move back but ran into the counter. “I’m your co-worker.” He was getting closer. “I’m your roommate.”

“You’re a stranger,” I whispered, trying to find something to use to defend myself. The knives were too far away and all that was near me were some bagels that would be useless against him.

“No.” He smiled wide. My heart nearly left my chest. “My name is Bodhi.”

The fizzling fuzzy crackling noise hissed in my ears again, but this time I heard the snap that silenced it.



𝗥𝗢𝗨𝗧𝗘: 𝗦𝗧𝗔𝗥𝗧!

Cupid’s Arrow had become something like a safe space for me the past few months. It gave me a sense of community and belonging that I really, really needed. I loved going inside and talking with my co-workers, and chatting with the customers. Some of them recognized me from my YouTube channel and they told me that I made them laugh or cry or that they loved my songs and that validation gave me so much serotonin that I drifted on cloud nine on those days.

Today was not going to be one of those days. I felt nothing but dread and dreariness looking up at the sign, with the cherub Cupid holding the bow and the arrow piercing through a cartoon heart. The rumors were true: this café was the place where love could be found.

But it was also the place where love could be lost.

I didn’t want to go inside.


“What are we waiting for, co-worker of mine?” Bodhi asked, giddy, bouncing on the balls of his feet. I gave him an exasperated look. “Oh, see, that frown! This is why I told you that you should eat more. Maybe next time you should listen to my professional advice.”

“My exasperation has nothing to do with my diet,” I grumbled. “I just don’t want to introduce you to everyone else. You’re like an annoying overeager dog that hops up onto people and gets its’ slobbery tongue all over them.”

“You’re worried I’ll get my slobber all over them?” Bodhi asked, smirking. “I’ll only do that on the second date, don’t worry.” He winked at me. My mouth fell open and he cackled.

“If you talk with any of them like that then I will need to find a hole to hide in for the rest of time,” I said. Bodhi laughed harder. “Don’t talk to any of them like that, please. For me. Please?”

He held a finger up and tried to catch his breath. His chest was heaving. “I can’t make any promises like that, Quinton,” he said between breaths. He breathed in deeply then let it out and shook his head. “But I think they’ll all be used to it, right? Since they all already met me. You know, since we’re roommates and everything.”

Right. Right, yeah. Of course they met him. I was dreading this for no reason.


“You look awfully charming in your cute little outfit, by the way,” he noted, moving a couple steps away from me and looking me over. “Maybe today will be your lucky day and Cupid will get you with his arrow.”

“His bow would have to be aimed at me for that to happen,” I muttered. I had no desire to be struck by any of Cupid’s love arrows. I had no desire for any new love. I wanted my old one back, but better. A lot better. More affectionate and open and not a huge fucking secret. If Cupid could give me that, then I’d be immensely grateful.

Or maybe a new love would be interesting, maybe. But I was not really looking for it. Wasn’t that when it always snuck up on you, though? Ugh. Maybe I needed to actually be looking so that nothing happened. Okay, fine. I was absolutely totally looking for a new love! Yes!

Bodhi pointed his fingers at me, finger gunning and grinning so foolishly.
“Annnd now a bow is pointed at you!” He retracted his finger guns. “Get it? Because I’m Bo?”

I smiled.
“But you don’t have any arrows and last I checked you weren’t Cupid.”

“And when, exactly, was the last time you checked either of those facts?” Bodhi asked, giving me a new, weird look. Like he knew some kind of secret. His smile was more knowing and not as casual on his face. He shrugged before I could even come up with an answer and spun to face the cafe. “Do you want to lead the way or shall I?”

I was so tempted to let him go in front, but I didn’t know who was already in the store getting ready. Zephyr wasn’t here yet because his motorcycle wasn’t parked around the side, but Tristan or Dhair or the boss might be in already. I probably needed to act like a buffer between Bodhi and everyone else.

I moved around Bodhi and crossed the street, not bothering to check to see if he was following me. I saw only one very tall person through the window and felt the tension in my shoulders relax. If it was just Dhair, then that’d be good. He was a lot easier to deal with than...

Than who? The boss. Our boss. Who had a name. A name that I remember attributing to some character from some story. But what was the name?

I shoved the scary dangerous thoughts away and pushed the door open. The bell chimed and Dhair looked toward me, then smiled. His smile fell when he noticed the pink haired fool behind me and he glanced between both of us. I went over to him and slid into the stool his regular normally sat in, spinning it around.


“I don’t think O̸̒̓|̵̈́̿p̵̊͗ĥ̴͋ wants people who don’t work here in before we’re technically open,” Dhair mumbled, eyeing Bodhi.

I stopped spinning my chair and looked at him. What was that? That garbled staticky noise that came out of Dhair’s mouth? How? What? No way. There was no way he just said something and it came out as weird as it just did.
“What did you say?”

“Just that I think Ȯ̷̚r̶͈͠|̵̎͘|̶̀̽e̴̍͝|̴̄͑-̴͂̈́ won’t-”

He kept speaking but I didn’t hear the rest of whatever he was saying. No. This was not okay. My head. Light and floaty. Muffled. Cloudy. I was still spinning. I stopped moving and grabbed onto the counter to make sure I didn’t fall out of the seat. I was not spinning physically but I couldn’t stop spinning round and round and round.

I couldn’t hear it. Whatever that word was. It was garbled and distorted and broken to me, but it was obviously fine for him. He was continuing on with whatever he was saying like nothing was wrong. But something was wrong. Something was wrong.

I knew what he was saying, I understood it, but the word was blotted out from my ears. It wasn’t like they were stuffed full of cotton or like I had water in them or anything. I was not actually floating and there were no clouds anywhere near me. I could hear everything just fine. The cars going past the building and the soft whisper of the AC above. But that word was like a smudge or smear or scratch on a record. It was scratchy, grating, garbled, squashed, impossible to figure out.

The weird feeling in my chest was back. When did it leave? When did I even feel it before now? This morning, right? But this morning was so weird and fractured. I couldn’t remember waking up or preparing the fruit I had for breakfast or feeding Eve, but there was fruit on the counter and food in Eve’s bowl before I left.

No, not me, by myself. Bodhi had been with me.

Bodhi. Bodhi. Bodhi. Bodhi. Bodhi. There was something about him, about this pink-haired grinning person. I felt something faint in my head, some strange ghost pain or some memory my brain was trying to make me remember. He was my friend and my co-worker and my roommate and his name was Bodhi.

But was that all he was?

Oh! Right. Yes. Of course. Duh. I needed to introduce him to everyone else. Of course. That was all it was.

I made sure Dhair was done speaking and ignored his searching look, clearing my throat. I pulled up a smile and gestured to my pink-haired roommate. Both he and Dhair glanced at each other but I also ignored whatever that look between them was.


“Meet our newest co-worker,” I said, still smiling. “I know you don’t really know him but-”

The door to the back swung open and I lost my train of thought. Oh.

Oh? What? It was just Tristan and the boss. They were my friends. I didn’t need to be faltering and stammering and all weird around them. There was no reason. They both knew me and we all liked each other. So why did I feel like I really needed to hide all of a sudden?

I couldn’t really look at either of them. I moved closer to Bodhi and kept my eyes away from them, wanting that stifling feeling in my chest to go away.

Bodhi, thankfully, picked up where I fell off and held a hand out to Dhair. “But it would be nice if we could get along.” He pulled his hand back, not even waiting to see if Dhair would take it, then he angled his head toward the boss and Tristan. “Hello, new co-workers!” He waved cheerfully, moving away from me, abandoning me. “Which one of you might be
|̸̇͊r̸͗́|̸̼͗|̷͌̐u̷̍̐s̵̔̇?”
 
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AreSneksSly

Dork #2
Morning came, and with it arrived a horrendous headache.

I gently lifted my head from the soft downy white of my pillow, leaving a trail of shining saliva that married the dark, wet spot and the edge of my lips. Pain shot through my skull like an awful dose of reality, and with a groan I shoved my face ever deeper into my now stained pillow.

A bad idea, in hindsight. But to be fair I was half-asleep and experiencing a bad pain in my general forehead area.

Lifting up from my bed, I wiped the drool from my cheek where I’d unfortunately thrusted my face into the damp water spot, grimacing as I pulled away my shiny hand.

Shiny, wet, and reeking of regret. Just like always.

Extracting myself from the bed was not easy, far from it. I could feel my muscles ache and my bones groan with every movement as my body twisted to sit up. I gripped my pounding forehead, grimace still present and quickly growing dour. Golden hair hung loose and knotted from my head, dancing around my vision like a cruel joke. “Fuckin’ genes,” I cursed to myself, quiet and spiteful. I knew my father couldn’t hear me from my apartment, but I cursed him out all the same.

Then again, the bastard couldn’t even bother to listen to me even when I was staying with him, so what would a few hundred meters of distance change?

I shook my head violently, clearing my mind of thoughts. Granted, it made that headache return with a vengeance, but I couldn’t be thinking of my father. Not this early in the morning.

Pushing off from the bed, I carefully slipped my legs out from under the blankets and swung them around to dangle over the side, toes hovering inches from the ground. The headache ebbed and flowed in my skull, rising in intensity and pure, unadulterated agony at random intervals with no rhyme nor reason. My eyes felt dry and ugly, which is an unusual way to describe your eyes, but when you exist as me for a while you start to get used to it. I could feel myself teetering ever so slightly, bouncing between this horrible state of absolute consciousness and blissful sleepiness.

I didn’t move for a while, content to just sit and stew in my own morning misery, but I knew I had to move sometime.

I was just dreading it.

Finally, as the stars and blots and ugly black spots danced off-stage, I took a sluggish glance at my bedroom.

It was trashed, to put it lightly. Clothes were strewn all around the room. Worn and brand new mingled in piles, gathering volume near those hidden dark corners that always stayed blurry and unclear in the corner of my vision. My blankets were in a similar state of discord, haphazardly thrown to the ground in what I could only assume was a state of unconscious kicking. The smell of sweat drifted off my bare chest, and I didn’t dare look down to see the mess at my feet.

Standing straight, I heard a muffled crack as my posture righted itself, followed by a low grumble from my throat. I stretched as far as I dared, those small clicks and crackles sounding like music to my ears. When I relaxed, my hands automatically drifted to grip my sides, having been trained from years of trying to look intimidating and commanding around the other co-workers.

I took another casual glance at my room, before a crooked smirk lifted my lips.

God, what would they all think if they saw I lived like this?

I looked to my side, where my alarm clock sat on the nightstand, idly telling me that it was 4:30 in the morning. My features drooped, and that headache I’d been feeling for the last minute or so throbbed, as though it was reminding me of its presence.

Walking to the bathroom was a slow, methodical process. My apartment was pitch black, but my eyes had long adjusted to the darkness. Wrappings crunched and papers crinkled as I continued to make my way through my living room. I could feel every little bump and ridge on the wall where I dragged my hand, rubbing my palm against the texture.

I could get a sense of where I was, at least. I was lucky the entrance to the bathroom and my bedroom were on the same wall, else I probably would’ve been wandering around the room for who knows how long before inevitably yielding and turning on a damn light.

I took a moment to pause in my epic journey, a second to acknowledge that if I had turned on a light this whole thing would’ve been so much easier.

The thought was easy to forget, however, when I felt the smooth plaster of my toilet door against the palm of my hand.

I grappled with the doorknob for a bit, mumbling about how I should’ve stayed in bed for the rest of the day, when with a pop, the door swung open. I fumbled for the lightswitch until that searing, painful glare of light turned on with a twang, burning my eyes.

Instinctively, I shielded my gaze from the brightness, using a dark hand to cast a shadow over them. I blinked once, twice, thrice, until those spots in my vision cleared.

When I lowered my arm, I could see the white of my bathroom tiles much clearer now. I took careful steps inside, making sure to avoid the knocked over toilet rolls.

Looking up gave me the severe displeasure of seeing my ugly mug, courtesy of my wonderful cracked mirror.

I looked like shit, plain and simple. My hair stuck out at unflattering angles, and I could see the slight glistening of my bottom lip. Brown eyes glared back at me through my reflection, cursing me out from beneath hooded lids. My grimace from earlier had morphed into my usual unwelcoming frown, serious and displeased as always.

With a sigh, I rubbed one of my eyes, reaching for the lone green toothbrush that stood solitary in a clear glass cup at the lip of the sink.

Alone.

Forever.

“At least I didn’t cry,” I muttered to myself, turning on the faucet. Freezing cold water shot out, making me pull my hand back with a hiss. I waited for the temperature to balance itself, before sticking the bristles of my brush under the running liquid. I continued to rub at my eye, silently letting the pain subside and allow myself to return to my normal routine.

The rest of the day continued without incident. I brushed my teeth, I took my shower and I wore my clothes. The only time my route was interrupted was when I reached for my phone.

It was sad. Sad, and pathetic. I shouldn’t be dwelling over him.

“I think we should break up.”

It was for the best.

“I think we should break up.”

I didn’t deserve him.

“I think we should break up.”

I was doing the right thing.

“I’m sorry, Quinton.”

My face twisted away, face scrunching up in frustration and anger. My chest ached as sadness and fury sloshed around my chest, pushing against my ribcage and heart and the tears in my eyes.

Violently, I shook my head, shaking away the little droplets of water that had begun to gather. I barely noticed the subtle static that crackled behind my eyes, snapping and clicking in protest. It all just melted away into the headache, after all.

I shouldn’t be thinking about things that already happened. Especially not on apologies I never uttered.

Of course, the human mind was never that simple.

My eyes softened as the tension in my shoulders subsided, and I couldn’t help but think about him.

Quinton. He looked so betrayed, then. When you date a guy for that long, you can’t help but learn to read their emotions. Sad, betrayed, hurt. But never anger. Because Quinton could never be angry at someone.

Because he was Quinton.

My hand curled into a fist, my shoulders coming to crawl up to my ears. That same sloshy cocktail of a million different emotions returned to torment me, filling up my lungs.

I am a horrible person.

My chest was tight around my heart. It ached, god it ached as regret coursed through my and flooded my brain.

I shouldn’t have broken up with him.

A broken sob echoed throughout my apartment, unpleasant and uncalled for. It was so foreign to my ears, unused for so long.

He deserves someone better.

A familiar phrase. My scapegoat.

As though a switch was flipped, the pain eased away. It didn’t leave, no. It could never leave. But it was hidden. Locked in that vault in my brain that I refused to let anyone see. My tears dried in an instant, the anchor locking in place and my mind coming to wrap around my heart. Keeping it hidden. Keeping it safe.

Right. He deserves someone better.

Better than me.

He wasn’t going to break up with me.

So I had to do it myself.

Show him he could do more.

And if that made me the villain, then fine. Because I was doing the right thing.

For him.


The lump in my throat sunk back down, settling comfortably in my stomach. Calm draped over me, covering that uncomfortable pain with a blanket feeling of control.

Of course. I was doing the right thing.

I turned back around, staring at my phone with a neutral expression.

The right thing.

For the cafe.

For the rest of the baristas.

For him.


I picked up my phone from where I’d left it on the nightstand, easy and casual. My face was the picture of neutrality, unfeeling as my fingers wrapped around the cold metal.

There was a subtle glitch in the mask for a moment, when I stared into the murky darkness of my phone screen. A moment of weakness. Of temptation. Or was that temptation just because of habit? I’ve been texting him every morning, after all. At least, up until recently. It would make sense if I just felt that urge out of the body’s natural ability to become accustomed to daily actions. You can get used to anything, right? So was it so crazy to think that I was just letting my body’s memory take over for a second?

With the sense of control over my emotions successfully regained, I easily pocketed my phone, letting it glide into the back pocket of my jeans. Yes, I was fine. I felt no desire to text Quinton at all.

I was okay.

I was fine.

And I was going to make it through today.

Like a mantra, I muttered those words over and over in my mind, never letting those devious thoughts take over. I refused to look at my phone throughout my whole morning. I went through the motions of my routine, same as always. I didn’t even glance at my screen once. I wasn’t waiting for the subtle vibration of my phone from my pocket, alerting me to the possibility of a certain guy wanting to take me back.

I wasn’t.


. . .
Eventually, I reached Cupid’s Arrow. The cafe appeared to mock me, then, staring down at me with that cheesy cartoon heart and that stupid fucking baby, with its bow and arrow and dumbass smile.

I wasn’t bitter. Not at all.

With a huff, I stuck a hand into my coat pocket. It was getting warmer by now, the sun peeking over the horizon. I stepped inside the already unlocked shop, listening to that familiar little jingle above me. My nervousness seemed to fly away as I walked in, letting the unset tables and empty cafe scene ease my worry.

I didn’t live in the cafe, but it still felt like home. The crappy air conditioner that randomly shuts down every month or so. The weathered, pastel pink paint that covered the walls. The smoothness of the front counter. All of it was so intimate to me, so comfortable. If you told me to draw a map of this place without looking, I’d be able to do so with ease.

I always found comfort in coming to the cafe, and this time was no different. Yes, it was a Monday and I was supposed to come in anyways, but I probably would’ve dropped by even if it wasn’t a working day. The cafe was my safe-space. Right now, it was my little coven, hidden from the world. A place where no one would encroach upon, because it honestly wasn’t worth it. A place where I could just sit and bask in the sunlight as it shone through the floor-length windows.

This was my home.

And just for a moment, I let myself forget about the rest of the world.

But it never lasted. In a few hours or so Tristan would come in for work, followed by Dhairya, then Quinton. Zephyr wouldn’t be coming in, he at least had the decency to tell me that, but things would go like they usually do. The guys would work, I would stay sequestered in my office, and the cafe would stay as stagnant and idyllic as always.

Nothing would have to change. Not now, not tomorrow, and not ever.

It’ll just be like always.

I slowly pushed open the back door, letting the wood creak out into the empty cafe. Walking down the hall to my office was easy, I’d done it a million times before, after all. And while things mostly went as I predicted, there was just one small difference.

Because on that beautiful Monday morning, he arrived.


ROUTE: START!
“Knock knock,” a gentle voice said from behind my office door. I glanced up from my paperwork, eyes meeting with those familiar bright blue eyes. “Hey there Orph,” Tristan greeted with a smile, his voice low and careful. I could tell he was worried about something. But I could still feel the subtle throb of that headache from earlier lingering in my mind, and I was too tired to deal with both it and him at the moment.

“You knock with your hands.”

He laughed at my dry retort, melodious and easy. God, he made everything look so easy. Talking, smiling, working, all of it. I couldn’t help but feel a small bit of envy niggle at the back of my brain, but I ignored it. He was walking into the office, after all, and it was rude to not pay attention to your guests.

“What do you want, Tris?” I prodded.

“You didn’t come to greet me and Dhairya this morning.” There it was. That sharp undertone Tristan always took when he was serious about something. “Thought you died or something.” The last words were tacked on, but he was smiling through them.

Fuck, it really was impossible to hate this man.

“Good to know you were thinking of me, at least. I assume you thought you would’ve found my body lying face down on my desk?”

“Shoved into a stack of papers, gripping your pen like it was your lifeline.”

I couldn’t help the smile that tugged at my lips when I leaned back in my chair. Tristan was smirking as well, the sharp expression unusual on his soft features. It was peculiar, how the two of us grew so weirdly familiar with the other despite rarely meeting outside of work. Hell, I'd even made an exception to my ‘only address my employees by their full first name’ rule for Tristan.

“Any other reason you came into my office? Or did you just want to see my rotting corpse?”

“Well, I was thinking of stealing your books if you were dead, but since you’re not I guess I’ll just have to chat with you instead.”

“Hah, I’m glad you’re just as compassionate as you usually are.”

His smirk faltered for a moment, and I could see that worry slip into his face. “Are you sure you’re okay?” he asked, slow and gentle like before.

I offered a careful nod, crossing my arms. “I’m fine,” I replied, arms tightening. It was ludicrous to think he could physically overpower me, wrench open my chest and pull out my heart like he was some sort of barbarian, but I felt nervous under his gaze all the same. He might be shorter than me, but when he wants to, he can carry himself with the same level of confidence and intimidation as a stern parent.

Neither of us said anything. I knew he was staring at me, trying to pick apart the smile I was giving him, but I’ve been playing this game of pretend longer than he has. My expression was still, and I raised an eyebrow at him.

“So…?”

Finally, I saw him sigh. I wasn’t good enough to tell if it was out of relief or frustration, but the grin he gave me looked genuine. “I’m glad you’re okay, then. If you’re feeling better, could you drop by the front to give me and Dhair a little encouragement?”

“Of course,” I replied, chuckling under my breath. I rose from my chair and followed Tristan down the hall, already feeling far better than before.

With a hard slap of reality, I was reminded that good things could never last.

When Tris opened the door, my eyes met with Quinton’s first. Call it fate, call it unlucky, but it still happened.

Like a coward, my eyes shot away. Maybe if I kept his gaze, I would’ve noticed that slightly lost look in Quinton’s eyes, or the blurriness that lingered when he stared at me. But I didn’t, turning to stare at the bright pink man instead.

“Hello new co-workers!” he chirped, cheery and sing-songy. “Which one of you might be Orpheus?”

“I am,” I answered automatically. “And you are…?” I couldn’t help but feel annoyed at his cheeriness. He wasn’t the earnest sort of cheery, not like Tristan or Quinton. Instead, there was this strange… uneasiness to him. Something slightly off about his countenance, or the way he held himself. I couldn’t place my finger on it, but I knew I disliked him almost instantly. My shoulders tensed, and I instinctually brought my arms closer to my chest.
 
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I watched the boss greet Bodhi, expecting the worse, but thankfully all he did was say hello, in his weird way where he literally did not say hello. I could feel Dhair’s eyes on me and I briefly wondered if he had asked me a question back when I was freaking out, but then Bodhi moved.

It was a near thing, moving to stop him. I did not do that and instead kept very still. I studied both the boss and Bodhi, waiting to see if anything bad happened. Something told me this was not a good idea. It was there, in my head, somewhere. Why was it not a good idea though? Bodhi already was hired to work here and the boss met him and everyone else already knew him.

Right? Right. Yes. Mhm. I really needed to stop doubting myself and making my brain panic because there was, like, only one thing that was really actually wrong with this morning.

And the breakup. So, two things. But that was better than three things!

Bodhi went around the counter and stopped a little bit too close to the boss. Dhair gestured with his eyes for me to move around the opposite end of the counter to give them space, but I kind of needed to see what was going to happen.

“Who am I?” Bodhi asked. He tapped his chin thoughtfully, as if he was pondering the question, then he broke out into a grin and snapped.

I flinched. Tristan moved closer to me and I felt both him and Dhair watching me. Thank God Zephyr wasn’t here, because he’d be stupid and ask me what was wrong instead of being tactful and polite. And double thank God that there were no customers in yet. I needed to get my weirdness under control before we opened or else today would be misery.


“Cupid!”

I covered my eyes with my hands. He was so stupid. Why did I bring an untrained dog into a civilized building?

“Or, well, most people call me Bodhi, so I guess you can too. I’m you’re new hire. Don’t you remember the interview? All your questions? All my excellent answers?”

Tristan frowned, then glanced at me, then at the boss, then at Bodhi, then back at me. He looked like he wanted to say something so badly.

Yes, I know, I know. My stupid roommate. I was so embarrassed that he was like this.

“New hire,” Dhair mumbled. He turned his attention to me. “Isn’t he your roommate?”

“I am!” Bodhi spun to face the three of us spectators. Dhair jumped and stepped away from him. “I’m glad at least someone remembers. I almost had to take my lovely roommate over there to the hospital because he kept staring at me like I was a stranger or something.”

A hole. I needed a hole to crawl into. I didn’t even need to look at anyone to feel their eyes boring into me. See, yes, normally, that would be fine. Attention was grand. Loved it. I was a singer and a YouTuber because I adored socializing and being in the spotlight. Pictures were great and I had a very easy time being shoved to center stage. But this situation was not like any of that.

This kind of attention was not the kind I enjoyed. Not this concerned attention. Not this ‘something is wrong with him’ attention. Not this ‘how can we help him’ attention. Not this ‘is he okay?’ attention. Not this unwanted attention.

I had such a strong urge to strangle Bodhi.

“I just had a bad night,” I mumbled, taking a careful step away from everyone else.

The door would be my escape route. I needed to get ready. I had to take a break from my pink-haired roommate and everyone’s eyes and the weird inability to hear my boss’ name. I glanced at him quickly, needing something from him, something, something, something in the back of my head, something from this morning or from some different time or...

I was not able to keep my eyes on him.

“I’m fine,” I said to the floor, but I brought my face up to look at my friends. “It was just a weird dream state or fugue or, well, okay, not fugue, but like, something. I’ll be ready in, uh, two minutes. Sorry for him.” I gestured to Bodhi, but moved further away from everyone else. “I’ll be right back.”

I couldn’t go to the back without walking around everyone else. I didn’t really even want to go to the back, for some reason that I couldn’t quite pinpoint. It just was a bad idea, I knew, in my brain, somewhere. It would hurt.

Why would it hurt? Why was I scared to go back there? Was there some terrible secret back there or something dangerous?

Whatever. If I didn’t want to go to the back then I wouldn’t.

I spun around and headed back to the front door.

"Aw! I sure hope he’s actually okay!" I heard Bodhi exclaim. “This morning really was so terrible. He was so spooked. I don’t think he should be left all alone. But, oh well. Boss man, what do I have to do for my job?”

I pushed the door open and walked away from the entrance before I could hear anyone else say anything. Bodhi needed to shut up so badly. I didn't want anyone to come out and chase after me. I had no desire to talk with any of them about this morning or my weirdness and my stupid roommate bringing it up would only cause them all to be worried about me. I really wanted them to just treat me like they always did. I wanted to move past this morning and just be normal and laugh and have fun with all of my friends like I did every day.

I went around the building and ducked into the alley, then fell against the wall and slid down it.

I was already so tired and the day hadn’t even started yet.

My heart: weird. My brain: weird. Everything: weird. I should have just stayed home and slept all day. I should have just camped out in my bed and watched happy movies and cuddled with my cat. Or maybe I should have stayed home and collected up the shards my heart and called with my sisters, because they were my backbone and they always knew how to get me out of my funky moods. I should have tried to tackle tomorrow head on instead of trying to deal with my heartache all in one single night.

My heartache. My broken heart. My head was too scrambled to even feel that pain. Thank God, I guess, but that wasn't normal. I had been so fucking attached to him and to us and last night had been devastating. I should have been feeling like crying and broken and angry and sad and confused because who even was it? Who was he? My ex? Why couldn't I remember who he was? His name? His face? Why did we break up? Was I not good enough? Was the relationship dying, even though I tried so hard to make it work? Did he break up with me because I was too fucking much he didn't want to deal with it? Or was he just scared so he ran away? I couldn't shift through my emotions enough to even get to the hurt. There was too much confusion and my head was muggy and I couldn't even remember who the fuck he was. I couldn't remember who I had been in love with. How the fuck couldn't I remember that?

And how was this morning broken up into chunks and pieces instead of being solid and smooth? I had no idea how I woke up or when I fed Eve or when I ended up in the kitchen talking with Bodhi. I didn't even remember going to sleep last night. Yeah, normally, people don't remember actually falling asleep, but the stuff leading up to that? The night time ritual everyone had? I had no recollection of doing anything. Not getting changed into pajamas or locking my front door or texting him a goodnight message or-

Texting who? Who? My ex. I always texted him at night and he always texted me in the morning. But that no longer was going to happen, because he ended it and it was broken and that totally threw me off. Who was he?

I really hated this.

I really hated that I couldn’t laugh off what Bodhi said, because maybe he should have taken me to the hospital. I hated that he pointed out my freak out this morning, because maybe I did need to see a doctor. I hated that he said he wanted to take me to the hospital, because now I was thinking I actually needed to. Had he really wanted to? Was this morning that bad? Did I need to go to the hospital? Or was he just blowing this morning out of proportion like he always did? Was I actually fine? Was there just something abnormal about this morning that was messing everything else up, or was I just trying to create some excuse so I didn't have to deal with my fried brain?

I kind of hated Bodhi, honestly. The way he had acted and the way he made light of this morning. But he was my roommate and I knew he was just saying all of that to help me, somehow. Right? I thought so. I really did, but it did not seem like he was actually helping me. It seemed like he was just exposing the secret of this morning so that everyone else could see what a disaster I was.

I wanted to go home. I didn’t want to go back inside and deal with everyone’s looks and whispers and tiptoeing around me. I kept all of my negative shit a secret because I was actually fine and I knew that I’d get over everything eventually, after I fully adjusted to this new town and my lack of friends and all my loneliness. My brain was not actually fried and I was not actually fucking insane.

There was just something, something, something, some fucking thing that was ruining this morning and I had no idea what it was. A breakup would not cause all of this. A breakup would not affect me like this. It wouldn't make my morning this shattered and my last night that muddled. It wouldn't make me think that I was insane or make me doubt myself this severely. I had enough awareness to know that all of these feelings could not be attributed to the breakup with him, because even though we might not have worked out, we still cared about each other and it hadn't been poisonous. It had been happy and easy and a secret, but the end of it would not end up making me this messed up.

Bodhi was a bad idea. Bodhi. My friend and my co-worker and my roommate. I shouldn’t have agreed that him working at Cupid’s Arrow would be a good idea. He had no filter so he’d say all kinds of stuff that he only knew about because he was my roommate. He'd expose all of my secrets that I didn't want anyone to know about. He'd be a problem. Hell, he already was a problem, and he hadn't even gotten his apron yet.

Maybe I could talk with the boss about firing him before he ruined my life even further.

Even further?

There were footsteps and I brought my legs closer to me, pressing my forehead into them. If I stayed still then whoever came out after me might not even notice me and my despair and spiraling thoughts.

Though my bright orange hair was honestly like a neon sign. Why did I even dye it such a bright color? I couldn’t remember.


“Quin?”

It was Tristan. I kept my head down.

He sighed, then I heard some more scuffling and felt him sit down next to me. I still didn’t look at him. I knew he followed me out because he was my friend but I really didn’t even know what I’d say to him. I was kind of confused that he had followed me out instead of Dhair, since Dhair had seen me being weird. I wasn't feeling confident enough to actually question it. And, honestly, I didn’t want to question it, because if I did then my head might get all weird and fizzy and achy again and I wanted to stop freaking out.

Several seconds passed, then I felt Tristan move. Not closer to me or further away from me, but I was pretty sure he leaned back against the wall. “You’re roommate is still as eccentric as always, huh?”

I let out a breath I intended as a scoff but it came out as a snort.


“I don’t think -̸͌͐r̶̈́̊p̵͊̑|̷͛̈́ likes him very much. Did you see him get all defensive?”

I lifted my head and studied his face. He had no idea. He said that word and it came out distorted, but the hopeful smile told me that the word sounded perfectly normal to him. I knew he was referring to the boss and his grumpy attitude. Why couldn’t I hear his name? Why was my head so full of clouds? Why was there a dull throb in it? Why was this entire morning so awful?

Tristan kept watching me, with his bright blue eyes that were always lighter than mine were. I looked away from him. He was out here with me, instead of inside prepping for the start of the day. I tried to swallow my guilt down.

“Did you have breakfast yet?” he asked, smiling when I eyed him warily. “If you had a bad morning then I think having something tasty might help make it a little better.” He got up and moved in front of me, then held his hand out for me to take. “Come on. Let’s go back inside. I think I know how to turn this morning into something fun instead of something awful.”

Take his hand? > Yes.
> No.

> Yes.

He pulled me up and smiled, then squeezed my hand softly. I looked down at it but before I could even say anything he pulled me back around the front of the building. I let him drag me after him, trying to shove aside all my dreary thoughts and focus on fixing this morning. If Tristan could actually help with that then I'd be incredibly grateful.
 
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AreSneksSly

Dork #2
“Who am I?” the man pondered, tapping his chin. I couldn’t help but feel that he was mocking me, and I tightened my grip further in response.

Finally, he grinned. “Cupid!” he exclaimed, answering his own question.

I raised an eyebrow. So, another guy with a weird name, huh? What was it about this place that attracted oddly named people?

I tilted my head to nod, but I stopped when the man continued to speak.

“Or, well, most people call me Bodhi, so I guess you can too.”

Wait, then was his name Bodhi or Cupid? I never call my coworkers by their nicknames, just as a rule. But was his nickname even Bodhi? He was smiling pretty wide when he said it. It would make sense if he was just joking about that. Cupid’s Arrow, Cupid, you know. Though he does seem like a really smiley guy, anyways.

But how were Cupid and Bodhi even related as names? I could see him being called Bo, but I had no idea how that related to Cupid. Cupid’s bow? Cupid’s Arrow?

Oh god, was he making a pun?

My frown deeped.

“I’m your new hire. Don’t you remember the interview? All your questions? All my excellent answers?”

“Honestly? No, I don’t,” I muttered under my breath, just quiet enough so he wouldn’t hear it.

I couldn’t quite capture his face. There was something so uncanny about it, both familiar and not. Looking at him made my head throb, like it was staring at something impossible. Like a color that’s simultaneously blue and yellow and why was this man so pink?

The subtle crackle in my head snapped and popped, annoyed.

And behind my eyes, I felt something snap.

I opened my mouth for a moment, barely hearing Dhairya’s words over the white noise that was fuzzing at the edges of my vision.

I couldn’t help but flinch back when the man before me twirled around, taken off guard by the sudden movement. “I am!” he sang, seemingly addressing Dhairya and Quinton. “I’m glad at least someone remembers. I almost had to take my lovely roommate over there to the hospital because he kept staring at me like I was a stranger or something.”

Roommate? When did Quin get a roommate? Why was this man so familiar, yet so not? When did we have an interview? What was happening?

I felt so unusually dizzy. Did I get enough sleep last night? Tris would be furious if he knew. But I did get enough, didn’t I? Why was everything after the breakup so fuzzy now?

Talking. Quin was talking. But my head hurt and I felt like I was about to fall over and Quin was looking at me.

He was staring me straight in the eyes, and he looked lost. Confused. At me? Most likely. But not… sad. Not like I expected him to be.

Which… which should’ve been good, right? If he wasn’t sad that meant we could all go back to normal, didn’t it? So why did I want to hold him? Pet his hair and hold his hand and hug him and never let go?

What was wrong with me?

“I’ll be right back.” The words were so faint. I felt like I was submerged, drifting in the ocean and listening to something from the surface. Something fuzzy, something barely decipherable. Something, something, something.

And then he was leaving. I lowered my hand. I didn’t even notice I was gripping my forehead.

I knew— or rather, I felt— that I should’ve been chasing after him. That’s what the movies say you should do, right? But my body felt like lead and all of my limbs refused to respond. I was just staring. Not at Quin, but at him.

Him.

That man, Mr. Pinky’s Perfect Puns over there, who was smiling and grinning and everything about him seemed fake. Why would you even dye your hair pink?

A part of me knew. It knew that this wasn’t really about Pinky or stupid puns or people that made me feel like a literal rock next to them. This was about the guy who was leaving through the front door, the same guy who’d been staring at me with that sad, sad look that I despised because Quin shouldn’t look like that. He should be smiling and laughing it off which wasn’t healthy at all and I wanted to tell him that but I was his boss now, and bosses didn’t judge their coworkers like that or talk to them like that or-

Spiralling. I was spiralling. Annoying man was talking to me.

Focus, Orpheus.

“...what do I have to do for my job?” He fluttered his eyelashes at me, waiting for an answer.

For a moment, I just stared in silence. I knew I was supposed to say something, follow the script and tell him the usual, but… something was off. He said, specifically, that I had interviewed him. Not my dad, me. And I would’ve remembered a face like that. Yet I didn’t, and something about that was just plain wrong.

“...would you mind following me to my office for a moment?” It was curt, probably considered pretty rude by most standards, but I didn’t know who this was. This wasn’t someone I hired, and I knew that. So why was he acting like he was, and why did everyone seem to know him?

I turned around, opening the door to the back before shutting it behind me. I reached my office in what felt like no time at all, and before I knew it I was shuffling through my father’s files and looking for anything that mentioned a Cupid or a Bodhi or whatever.

It was only when I heard my door crack open did I turn, snapped out of my confusion. “When exactly did you come in for your interview?” I asked, not even really checking to see if the person I was addressing was even Pinky. My brain was far too busy trying to remember anything.

Because I didn’t recall Quin telling me he had a roommate. And even if he didn’t, that would’ve been something I found out over the course of our relationship. Yet I never saw or heard of another person living with him. Not months ago, not a few weeks ago, not ever.

So why?

Why did Dhairya look at this man like he was someone he knew? Why did Tris not stare at him, confused and uncomfortable like I was?
Why didn’t I remember him at all?
 

AreSneksSly

Dork #2
Tristan


As I stepped out the back, I was greeted with a p̸̨͈̝͔̪̗̰̝̥̐͛̃̾̃͂͌͘͝l̷̦͚̓̈́̏͠à̵̛͔̤̯̟͍̱͙̄͊̓̑͜r̷̓̐̂́͗͐̇͋͌̆̚͘͠͠ familiar sight. Dhair was still behind the counter, accompanied by Quin and Bodhi. I offered the group a little smile and wave, happy to see all of them hanging out like usual. Like usual. Like usual—

“Hello new co-workers!” Bo sang, grinning wide and looking lively as always. I felt myself wince, just at his volume, but I quickly recovered with a sigh. Classic Bodhi, the eternal ray of sunshine.

“Which one of you might be Orpheus?” Bo asked, and something in my mind clicked. A puzzle piece out of place. I felt a surge of pain shoot up my spine and I cringed.

Confusion took a hold of me, and my vision seemed to warp.

Didn’t we already meet Bodhi?

He went in for an interview, right?

Why was he asking which of us was Orph, if he already—

Silly Bodhi.


What a jokester, pretending not to know us like that.

Of course he knows who we are. He’s met us, remember?

He’s just kidding around.


Classic Bodhi.

I found myself smiling again.

“I am,” answered Orph from my left, tone stiff and off-key. He was on-guard, though I had no idea why. Bodhi was probably the least intimidating creature on the planet, second only to Quin.

Quin.

Something about him seemed off today. Was it that he looked a little more uncomfortable? He looked a little more dreamy than usual. Worry took a hold of me, and I stepped closer to him.

“Cupid!” I heard Bodhi sing, probably answering a question Orpheus asked. Yet I couldn’t take my eyes off of Quin. He was burying his face in his palms, likely cringing internally at his own silly roommate.

I could tell he was mortified, and my hand moved to pat him on the back. I only became aware of it when I heard Orpheus mumbling something to himself.

Quickly, I pulled it back, choosing to cough into it instead. A warm flush covered my cheeks, and I averted my eyes to look at the trainwreck of a conversation between Orph and Bodhi.

And there. On Oprheus’ face. An expression of confusion. He looked weirdly lost, with a mix of defensiveness.

Directed at… Bodhi?

I couldn’t help but glance at Quinton and Dhairya, puzzled. I knew that neither of them were as close to Orpheus as I was, and that they probably weren’t even paying that close attention to him, but… but they could tell something was off, right? Like— like there was this fundamentally wrongness underlying the interaction. I knew from the moment Bodhi walked in that he would be like a foil to Orpheus, the eternal ray to his stoic rockyness, but… something was weird. I could feel it in my gut that this was off somehow. Because Orpheus didn’t look irritated or even tired.

He looked… perturbed.

“New hire,” Dhair sighed, turning to Quin. “Isn’t he your roommate?”

“I am!” Bodhi exclaimed, and I jumped when he whirled around to face us. I felt a twinge of embarrassment, like a child that was caught in the act of listening in on his parent’s call. “I’m glad at least someone remembers,” Bo continued with a huff. “I almost had to take my lovely roommate over there to the hospital because he kept staring at me like I was a stranger or something.”

All eyes turned to Quin.

I could tell he hated it, from the way he seemed to shrink down. And a part of me sympathised with that. No one liked being stared at like they were a charity case, an object to be pitied and worried about because something happened to them. I knew I didn’t, when I broke up with my ex-girlfriend.

“I just had a bad night,” Quin murmured, stepping back. I wanted so badly to reach out and hold his hand, reassure him that he wasn’t weird or unusual for having one bad night and being off his game.

His eyes were darting around. He was nervous.

That urge to hold his hand only grew stronger.

“I’m fine. It was just a weird dream state or fugue or, well, okay not a fugue, but like, something. I’ll be ready in, uh, two minutes. Sorry for him,” Quin waved a hand at Bodhi. “I’ll be right back.”

For a brief second, he paused, looking past all of us.

And just like that, he was gone, walking out the front door.

"Aw! I sure hope he’s actually okay!" Bodhi said. “This morning really was so terrible. He was so spooked. I don’t think he should be left all alone. But, oh well. Boss man, what do I have to do for my job?”

Attention was back to the two, and Orph was still just as lost as before. But I couldn’t keep my eyes on the two. I kept taking glances at the front door, worried about Quin. He looked legitimately troubled, and I wanted to help him out.

“...would you mind following me to my office for a moment?” I heard Orpheus say, short and blunt. It was barely even a question, because as soon as he said it, he was stepping into the back. I couldn’t control the sigh that left me. God, he was just as difficult as he was when he was 18.

“Don’t mind him,” I told Bodhi, taking a step closer to the man. I gave him a smile and a gentle nudge of the shoulder, just as a little act of reassurance. “He’s always that grumpy. You get used to it.”

“You should probably get going though,”
I added, gesturing towards the door. “He doesn’t like waiting,”

Stepping away, my eyes couldn’t help but wander back to the front door.

Quin. He must’ve been feeling awful.

Those caring impulses— or as Zep̶hy̷r̵ put it, mother bird instincts— took over.

I had to talk to him.

Turning to Dhair, I gave him a sheepish smile. “Hey, do you mind manning the station by yourself for a bit? I’m gonna check on Quin.”

He gave me a nod in response, and I returned it with a grin. “Thank you!” I said, walking over to the entrance as fast as possible without breaking into a run. I couldn’t explain why exactly I wanted to help Quin out so badly. It was just that when I remembered the way he looked when we all stared at him, I wanted to.

Stepping outside, my first instinct was to go around the back. From the way Quin was looking, he obviously wouldn’t have wanted anyone to see him, even if Mondays weren’t usually all that busy.

I took a glance down the alley to the left of the building, scanning the street for any bright orange heads.

And just as I was about to switch sides, I caught sight of him.

He was curled into a ball, hugging his knees and huddled against the building. His hair made him a lot easier to spot. I’m sure if his hair was darker, he would’ve easily blended into the background, especially with how close he was to the wall.

I always wondered why he’d dyed his hair orange. Orpheus never failed to brighten when he saw Quin’s old hair.

I walked closer to him, careful so as not to startle him too much. “Quin?” I called, hovering over his form.

He didn’t move.

I sighed, looking around the alleyway. It hadn’t been cleaned in a while, and it was still weirdly wet from last night’s storm, but I shrugged and sat down anyways.

Sitting there in silence was calming, at least. I didn’t want to force Quin to talk to me, so the least I could do was be there for him in case he did want to talk.

“Your roommate is still as eccentric as always, huh?” I finally said, breaking the silence.

Quin let out a little snort from his ball, and I couldn’t help but smile.

“I don’t think Orph likes him very much,” I said, glancing to the entrance of the alley. “Did you see him get all defensive?”

When I turned back around, Quin was staring at me. He looked so lost, and all I could do was offer him a smile of what I hoped would come off as understanding.

A beat passed. His eyes were always such a pretty shade of blue, I quietly realised. Sort of like Zephyr’s hair, just brighter.

Z̶eph̷y̵r̵.

Z̵e̸p̴h̶y̷r̴.̷

Why did that word sound so funny to me?

“Did you have breakfast yet?” I asked Quin, quickly shaking away that strange thought. I was helping Quin out right now. Quin. Focus on him.

“If you had a bad morning then I think having something tasty might help make it a little better.” I rose from my seat, walking around Quin to stand in front of him. “Come on. Let’s go back inside. I think I know how to turn this morning into something fun instead of something awful.”

I held out my hand, offering it to him.

He hesitated for a second, and I knew why. It could be weird trying to accept help from people who didn’t really get it. If he refused my offer, then that was just fine with me. But you never know how someone’ll react if you don’t take the first step to helping them out.

Finally, he reached out.

I tightened my grip, pulling him up to his feet. My heart felt light, and I was grinning through a blush. His hand was so warm, and as I wrapped my fingers around his, I felt my heart skip a beat.

Why was I getting so flustered?

I turned my face so he wouldn’t see my blush. I could feel the temperature rise around us as I suddenly felt embarrassed holding his hand. Maybe it was because he was so warm, but my body felt like overheating.

With long strides I started tugging him along, back to the cafe. I refused to dwell on stupid thoughts that my stupid heart decided to do stupid little flips over. This was about Quin, and helping him out.

Not how intimate holding his hand felt.

Pushing open the front door, I tried my hardest to ignore the way my heart danced to the tune of the bell that jingled above the entrance, didn’t dare look back at those pretty blue eyes.

My body instinctively pulled me to the back door, but I felt a tug of resistance when we approached. I decided to chance it and look back, where Quin was staring at the door like it was about to eat him up.

I squeezed his hand and offered him another smile. “If you’re worried about Orpheus being there, it’s fine. He’s talking to Bo right now, and he rarely tries to hang out in the lounge.”

Quin gave me an awkward grin, probably trying to tell me that he was fine.

I really had to help him out, huh?

I weakened my hold on his hand a little, letting him pull away if he wanted to.

Much more slowly, I tugged him along, bringing him to the breakroom-slash-lounge where we all usually hung out. I guided him to one of the metal chairs we had set up, letting him settle down.

“Alright,” I said, clapping my hands together. “Wait here for a bit, I’m going to go get something.”

I stepped back outside without another word, returning to the front counter.

Just as I walked out, I heard that same entrance bell tune. My eyes turned to see Athanasius walking in, early as ever with his arrival. I gave him a smile and a wave.

I stepped around the counter for a moment, letting Dhair talk to his regular. I bent down, opening the pastry display. It’d been my turn to bake the pastries, and even though Orph had told me not to sneak in little bursts of flavour without his permission, I wasn’t afraid of breaking a few rules.

Luckily, I managed to find a marked one. Carefully pulling out the cream cheese tart, I couldn’t help but giggle to myself in excitement. I’d added a bit of peach juice to this one, and I couldn’t wait for Quin to try it.

“Something on your mind?” I heard Athanasius say.

I turned to the pair of men, still grinning. “It’s nothing!” I replied. Athan rolled his eyes, pushing off the counter where he’d been leaning closer to Dhairya.

Gosh, those two were really cute.

I bustled over to the coffee machine, setting down my tart on one of our napkins. I took one of our plastic cups from the cupboard, all while Athan and Dhair continued to chat about the recent book that they’d been reading together. I saw Athan sneak a few glances my way, likely curious as to what’s got me so cheery in the morning, but I didn’t mind him. I was too busy trying to work Tatiana.

At last, once my cup was full I backed away, tart and coffee in hand. Dhair took his turn with the machine, continuing to idly chat with Athan about this and that.

Quietly, I sneaked away, tiptoeing to the back door.

I hummed a little tune to myself as I walked back to the breakroom, feeling weirdly happy. I hadn’t gotten any sleep last night, but for some reason talking to Quin made me feel strangely invigorated.

“I'm back,” I exclaimed as I opened the lounge door, coffee and tart precariously held in one hand. "Hope you didn't miss me too much." I tacked on, smirking as I set the treats down.

"Ta-da!" I gestured towards the cup and tart, grinning. "My treat. It might not be the most healthiest of breakfasts, but it's sure going to be delicious."

 
Last edited:
Bodhi
Ooh, the office! I never got to visit there before! Something about this man who was named Orpheus was not exactly clicking into place, but that didn’t matter all too much, since I got to explore the café and all it’s little nooks and crannies and hiding places.

The bleach blond boss didn’t even wait for me to follow after him as he vanished through the back door. He didn’t even hold it open for me! Rude!

I got it, though. I knew he was having a hard time processing all of this and all I really had to do was work with what was already in his brain to get him to go along with this.

Easy peasy.

“Don’t mind him,” the soft one said, smiling and patting my shoulder all reassuringly-like. “He’s always that grumpy. You get used to it.”

I pouted and batted my eyes at him, giving him my best puppy-dog eyes.

He’s always that mean and rude and hostile? How unpleasant! Why would anyone want to work for a man like that? Maybe he was secretly a softie underneath it all and one just had to crack him open to get to that gooey center.

Just like a cherry cordial. Ugh. Yum. I needed to find a place that had those so I could get some soon. I could not survive this week of love without chowing down on some very delicious but not nutritious fruit sweets.

“You should probably get going, though. He doesn’t like waiting.”

I watched the soft one move over to the tall dark and handsome one and say something about watching the store. Mhm. Yes. Like I thought. Run out to chase after your love interest. Wonderful.

It was nice to see at least that was working how it should.

I winked at the tall, dark and handsome, yet surprisingly quiet, barista who had an interesting name (Dare?) and gave him a two finger salute, leaving him to man the cafe by himself like the soft one just had implored him to do.

I darted into the back and let the door close behind me with a soft whoosh and I blinked thrice, then looked left and right.

Interesting. It was incredibly dull in the back of the café. A very big let down. So much wood, all over. It had to be very flammable.

Flames! Maybe a fire, to spice things up, if things became too stagnant. Yes. Good idea, me.

I poked my head into every room in the back (except the one that said Office) to see if there was anything hiding anywhere. Nothing exceptional in any of them, but I actually stepped into the lounge. Some interesting pictures were on a wall and I saw the stuff the boys brought to work, minus, of course, Quinton’s, since he brought nothing with him to work today except for little ole me.

Studying the pictures was not very informative. Lots of pictures of people I did not know. There were so many different faces that led me to believe they were reaching back years and years ago. I saw the one on the far right and moved closer to it, squinting.

Ah-ha! This was the picture from this year, or something. The quiet one and the soft one were in the picture, as well as the grumpy boss. There was also a vaguely familiar blue haired one that I was surprised to see with all of the other baristas.

That must have meant he was a barista as well. He also worked at this café. Perfect. Another face I’d at least recognize. Not a total stranger like the other two were. I could get him to believe that we were friends, too, since we met before and he was oh-so kind to me. That’d be easy. The other two baristas fell for it so quickly and without any protest and I had such little interaction with them before today.

See? I was not bad at this. I wanted to tell my boss so badly but I had to first go and talk with the fake blond boss and get through this week successfully.

I scooted my way over to the bleachy boss’ office and opened the door with no preamble or hesitation. He spun around to face me but wouldn’t look directly at me.

Maybe he thought I was like Medusa. How sad that would be for me.

Ah, but that was a question. Yes. I adored questions like this.

“You don’t remember when I came in? It was storming and my hair was totally ruined but you said you didn’t mind that I looked like a drowned rat,” I said with a smile, moving further into the room. I ran my hand through my hair, to further illustrate the narrative I was telling.

I closed the door softly behind me and turned my smile into a grin at Orpheus, ignoring his dark wood office (more wood! Flammable! A SIGN!) to approach his desk. “It was, like, last week, or two weeks ago, I think. I lost my calendar and I have a pretty bad memory so I don’t remember exactly.”

Slipping into the chair in front of his desk was so easy. And, wow, it was so comfy. I leaned back in it and kicked my feet up against the desk, moving to twirl something between my fingers, but I hadn’t grabbed anything to spin.

“Do you want to interview me again? Do you even have time for that? I think you’re going to be short-staffed today, since Quinton is struggling and a certain someone went and chased after him.” I smiled and dropped my feet, leaning forward in my chair. “Do you really want to do that, though? Because it’d just be a headache, wouldn’t it? You already hired me. All I need is an apron and a task to do for the day.”
 

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