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Ravenclaw
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PostSubject: poly!verse   Wed Sep 05, 2012 1:20 am

There was a knock at the door, and before Seth could even respond, the person burst into the room.

"I don't even know why you bother knocking anymore, Josh," Seth commented. "It's not like you really care if I'm busy."

"You never know," Josh said. He shut the door and walked over to Seth's bed, moving Seth's pillow so he could lean back against the wall comfortably. Seth knew that was a sign that Josh planned to stay a while, so he turned around, facing away from his desk.

"Okay, what's up?" Seth asked.

"I went to a baseball game today."

"Missing your dad?"

"A little," Josh admitted. His bottom lip was firmly between his two teeth, and he was looking a bit twitchier than normal, his fingers idly toying with the frayed sleeve of his hoodie.

"What else?" Seth asked. He was a bit nervous about his friend's tone. Seth suspected that something was seriously wrong--Josh was fidgeting, and his tone seemed normal enough, but his expression was unnaturally subdued.

Finally, Josh's face broke into a wide smile, though his enthusiasm almost seemed forced. "I made a new friend!"

"Male or female?" Seth asked. He was even more nervous now, but for different reasons. He recognized that tone of voice.

"Male."

"Is he attractive?"

Josh looked at Seth sheepishly. "Maybe a little."

"A little?" Seth asked, his suspicions finally confirmed.

"Okay, a lot," Josh admitted, his earlier enthusiasm diminishing.

"Again?"

"Again what?"

"Josh," Seth replied, his tone surprisingly even. "Come on. We both know better than that."

Josh was quiet for a second. "Yeah, again."

"That's why you're here, I'm presuming?"

"Yeah. I can tell already. I've got it bad."

"When don't you?" Seth asked, but he stopped himself from continuing that line of conversation. Josh had come to vent, not to be judged. "So what do you plan to do"

"Nothing," Josh responded instantly.

"And you can handle that?"

"It'll fade," Josh insisted.

Seth just looked at him.

"Okay, maybe not," Josh said after a second or two of silence on Seth's end. "But what else can I really do, Seth? I'm in a relationship. I'm in a happy relationship with two people I love to death. I'm not fucking that up over a hot baseball player."

Seth really couldn't argue with that, but Josh's uncertain tone was sending up red flags. "You want to, though, don't you? Do something, that is."

"Not in a million years if it is going to upset what I have right now. Cody and Colette make me happy."

Seth steepled his fingers. "So are you going to spend more time with this mysterious, unnamed baseball player?"

"RJ, and... yeah."

Seth raised an eyebrow. "I don't know about how it seems bouncing around in that crazy brain of yours, but doesn't that sound counterproductive?"

"We're just friends!" Josh said defensively.

"Does he know that?"

"Yes! I told him right off the bat. He... uh... he might have tried to hit on me." Josh blushed.

"Josh," Seth said, "You're not going to like me saying this, but you're being particularly stupid."

Josh visibly winced. "I know, I know. I... I probably seem masochistic or something."

Seth shook his head sadly. He knew that Josh was a bit naive when it came to relationships, but Josh clearly wasn't thinking things through properly, and it was actually concerning Seth. "You're not only masochistic, you're walking a really dangerous line. He likes you, and, whether you plan on doing anything or not, you like him, too. Spending time with him will make your feelings grow, which is risky by itself, but you aren't taking into account that you can't control his end of things. You just met him. For all you know, he might be picking up on your mixed signals and try to make something of this."

Josh looked upset. He seemed to be considering his words carefully. "Look, Seth... I just can't not... You know me. I can't just ignore him. He's... I can tell...."

"Use your words, Josh."

Josh shot him a Seth a helpless look. "I'm trying."

"I know. I'm sorry. Continue."

"You may not believe me, because you have to meet people and get to know them before you trust them. RJ... I think... I'm better at snap judgments, and I trust RJ. I met him once and he's a flirt, but he's a good person. I told him I was taken and he backed off."

Seth sighed. "I suppose that if you trust him, I can't do much. You've always been stubborn. Just be careful, okay? Don't do anything stupid."

"'Don't do anything stupid' is always your advice!" Josh protested.

"With good reason," Seth teased. "Also, you should proably tell Cody and Colette about this. They deserve your honesty, even if it is upsetting."

"I'm bad at that, though."

Seth looked Josh squarely in the eye. "Not telling them this runs a higher risk of this ending badly."

Josh didn't seem happy, but his sigh of defeat reassured Seth that he at least acknowledged that Seth had a point. "You're right. I can't do that to them. It's scary, though."

"Relationships are scary. You should know that, with you dating a werewolf and a repressed angst monster, and all."

"Be nice!" Josh protested, but he cracked a smile, and Seth knew he had cleared the tension in the room.

They let the conversation naturally fade into another topic, with Josh grilling him about how Jessie was doing. Seth still had a bad feeling about everything, despite Josh's reassurances. Really, though, there was little he could do. Josh trusted him, but, ultimately, Josh always did what he wanted.

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PostSubject: Re: poly!verse   Tue Sep 11, 2012 4:53 am

Jodette - Early Freshman Year
On the day Josh's mom died
______________________________________________________________________________

Josh didn't tell them.

He knew he should have. He knew Seth was constantly saying he should tell Cody and Colette, that it would be a huge relief to have it out in the open.

The day drew closer, and Josh never said a word.

He told Cody and Colette that he would be out for the day. He told them he was skipping classes to go visit his dad. It was early on in the school year. He wouldn't be missing much.

Neither of them questioned it.

The day came, and Josh apparated over to his dad's. Not long after Josh arrived, they left to head over to the cemetery. They stopped on the way at the flower shop to get lilies; they were always Josh's mom's favorite. Josh and his dad knew that flowers often had some sort of symbolism, and he didn't know if their choice was really appropriate or not, but neither he nor his dad ever bothered to look it up.

Once they had the flowers, they drove out of the city, taking the back roads the rest of the way. The weather was nice. The trees were just starting to turn vibrant colors, and the weather was cool enough that Josh's dad left the windows rolled down. If it weren't for the tension in the car, the forced calm of Josh's father's face and the ball of sadness and dread lodged in the pit of Josh's stomach, it would have been a peaceful morning drive.

They pulled into the parking lot at the cemetery and climbed out of the car. Josh led the way to the grave. Both of them knew the location by heart, but Josh knew it was a sort of small kindness towards his dad. It was easier on him if he did not have to think as much about where he was going, if he could just follow his son.

When they stopped in front of the headstone, neither of them said a word. The only noise was the breeze rustling the trees, creating an eerie silence that neither of them wanted to break.

Josh's dad kneeled down in front of the grave, placing the lilies at the foot of the headstone. It was then that his expression finally changed, his face crumpling in on itself. Josh automatically moved in to hug him, hold him, remind him he was not alone.

They had done this for a long time after she died, and once a year every year since they publicly moved on. Josh knew his presence wasn't enough, that nothing could replace the vibrancy and warmth and life that was his mother. She was gone. That was that.

It was something, though. Having another human being there, someone who understood. They had been through everything together. They had meticulously sorted through her belongings, their hearts breaking in half as they gradually filled donation boxes. Josh went with his father whenever he had any sort of business at the funeral home. He helped his dad write the obituary.

Josh slept next to his father when the empty bed was just too much.

Over time, the pain had faded. Josh knew she would never be back. Josh knew he was supposed to get over it. Josh knew that others had it worse. Josh knew that he was lucky to have such a wonderful mother for as long as he did.

He knew that, objectively.

It didn't make things any better.

Josh used to think his dad was logical and remote, but he learned how wrong he was. Josh knew his dad still hurt, too, and that there were those days that he couldn't just block it out, either.

The two boys allowed themselves some time to grieve, sitting together in silence in front of the grave, Josh not caring one little bit that his jeans were getting muddy, not even really noticing. All there was was longing and emptiness and the void that was his mother. He and his father clung to each other.

All they had left from those days was each other and a hollowness that never entirely faded.

When they had gotten everything out of their system, the two stood up and returned to the car. The drive home in silence completed their yearly ritual, and when they walked back into the apartment, the quiet lifted. They made lunch (or, at least, attempted to) and caught up, pretending they had not just broken down over something that happened seven years ago.

Finally, it started to get late, and Josh returned to school. He felt exhausted and drained, but the pain that always resurfaced every year had faded back to its usual dull ache. He met Cody and Colette with a tired smile, and the three went to bed.

Snuggled between Cody and Colette, he let himself relax and drift off. He loved his couple so much, and on days like that, they were warmth and safety and comfort. He felt loved and wanted and he knew that what he had with them was completely real.

As he fell asleep, all he could think was that his mother would love them both so much.

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PostSubject: Re: poly!verse   Fri Sep 14, 2012 4:23 pm

Josh, early freshman year.
____________________________________________________________________________

There were times when Josh wanted to hate RJ.

Josh was in a relationship. He was happy and things were good and he could not have things any better. Cody and Colette were probably the best thing to have happened to him in his entire life. He loved them more than pretty much anyone.

So, he reasoned that he shouldn’t be noticing the way RJ’s quick, easy grin illuminated his entire face. He didn’t want to notice the way RJ would casually touch him, slight brushes and soft touches that left Josh’s skin tingling, wanting more.

He couldn’t help but notice the way RJ’s eyes always seemed to linger, and when Josh caught him looking, RJ only responded with a wolfish grin.

Josh was ashamed to admit that he was caught staring more times than he could count.

If it were just physical attraction, though, Josh probably could have handled it. That he could push past, easy peasy. There were lots of attractive guys in the world.

But, no, RJ had to be the whole package. In his head, Josh equated RJ with a firework, unable to be anything but bright and colorful and unapologetically alive. RJ left so much light in his wake, and Josh worried that when RJ realized he wasn’t worth the effort (which he fully expected to happen relatively quickly), the absence of light would leave him blinded.

Josh had everything he could possibly ask for. He was the happiest he had been in a very long time, and wanting anything more felt wrong. He wanted to just forget RJ’s stupid athlete’s build and his fucking huge hands and his stupid green eyes and his stupid stubble which Josh didn’t even KNOW could be attractive and his stupid teeth…

He found the guy’s TEETH attractive. If that wasn’t a sign that Josh had fallen fast and hard, he didn’t know what was.

It bothered him. A lot. Sometimes, late at night, he’d get caught up in replaying their time together in his head, and guilt settled in the pit of his gut. Josh knew he should cut ties. Josh knew he was tempting fate, being such close friends with someone he liked so incredibly much. Seth had informed him of this several times.

He couldn’t help it, though. If RJ was light, he was the moth that swarmed as close as it could, trying to soak in as much heat and warmth and brightness as it could.

Josh was the idiotic moth who was starting to fly too close, and he was just waiting to get burned.

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PostSubject: Re: poly!verse   Tue Sep 18, 2012 7:15 pm

Melody and Josh, early to middle of Josh's sophomore year

It was late morning, and Melody was bored. Toby was out doing some kind of music thing, though she didn’t know any of the details (beyond the fact that it dragged him from her bed too early in the morning). She tried to fall back to sleep, but by that point, she was already far too awake for it to work.

That left her with a few options. She could get some work done around the apartment, but she was not really keen on that idea. She could make herself some breakfast and wait for Toby to come back home, but she was feeling impatient.

So, naturally, her brain turned to the other genetically gifted boy in her life. She decided to visit Cody and say hello, possibly drag him out away from his lovely little dog.

Melody did not bother to text before she popped over to Cody and Colette’s apartment. She knew she did not need to; he would be happy to see her no matter what.

She popped into the kitchen of their apartment to find the other boy, the one who was dating the baseball player. He had a big bowl of sugary children’s cereal in front of him, and Melody couldn’t quite mask her disdain. She knew that Cody and Colette were rather hung up on Josh, but she didn’t entirely get what they saw in him. He was awkward, and he was the kind of boy that she could see every single day and never entirely notice. She could see a certain appeal in his physical appearance; his eyes were a nice color, and he had a nice skin tone.

Melody wouldn’t ever date him. She did not even really think he was worth Cody’s time. She viewed Josh as more of an annoyance than anything, an overly expressive, overly attached kid who got lucky and landed two pretty people.

Josh looked up and met her eyes. “Oh, it’s you,” he said. His tone was flat and his eyes were narrowed suspiciously. It seemed almost out of place on his face, and Melody suspected it was not a look he often gave people.

“How are you this morning, Josh?” she asked sweetly. She did not like the boy, but she knew that she had to tread carefully, regardless. Cody and Colette actually paid a certain amount of attention to Josh’s opinions. She knew Josh disliked her, but she was almost positive that his “don’t rock the boat” attitude would prevent him from saying anything. Melody did not go out of her way to antagonize Josh quite yet. She could push him towards decisiveness before she had her claws sunk into Cody deeply enough for her to not have to worry.

Josh completely ignored her question. “Where’s Toby?”

“He’s working.”

Josh nodded and took a bite of cereal. Melody stood in the middle of the kitchen, waiting for the boy to continue. It was obvious from the look in his eyes that he had something else to say, but until he opened his mouth, the uncomfortable silence would linger.

Melody hated that about Josh. There were very few people who could make her feel uncomfortable and out of place the way he did. She did not let it stop her, but she definitely did not enjoy the feeling. She wondered if he was always that socially awkward, or if he just played it up around her.

Finally, he spoke up. “Cody and Colette are asleep, so you can leave now.”

“Oh, I can just wake Cody up. I wanted to spend some time with him. I know he’s been so busy lately…” Melody smiled sweetly again, willing Josh to believe that this was all out of a desire to spend time with someone she cared about. Surely he understood that.

“Which is why you’re leaving,” Josh insisted, his voice surprisingly firm for a boy dressed in superhero pajamas and eating Fruit Loops. “He’s been working hard lately, and you are going to let him sleep in, because he definitely doesn’t let himself do it often enough.”

Melody walked over to the table and sat down across from Josh, arranging her skirt carefully before looking back up at him. “Josh, mind your own business, honey.”

“Cody’s wellbeing is my business.”

“Oh, but I make him happy,” Melody said, finally letting some of the feigned sweetness fade from her voice. “I wouldn’t underestimate that, if I were you.”

“What do you want from him?” Josh blurted out. From the blush the broke out across his cheeks immediately after, Melody figured he might not have intended for it to come out of his mouth. She did not know why he was so embarrassed—it was a valid question, though his tone was a bit odd. He sounded more curious than accusatory.

“I don’t want anything from him,” Melody replied. “I want him. You and I both know that isn’t unreasonable. He’s an attractive, sweet guy.”

Josh looked like he wanted to say something, but he didn’t. Melody decided to press her luck, standing back up and heading towards Cody and Colette’s bedroom.

She ran into a barrier right in front of the doorway.

“Nope,” Josh said. “Not waking him up. You can stay here in the kitchen until they’re up, but you’re not going in there.”

Melody knew she could easily just dispel the barrier, but ultimately, she decided it was not worth it. How long could Cody sleep in, anyway?

So, she sat back down across the table from Josh, and the two sat in an uncomfortable silence.

It did not take long for Melody to decide that, at some point, she was going to have to make Josh’s life a bit more miserable.

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Last edited by caught in the middle. on Thu Nov 15, 2012 4:17 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: poly!verse   Fri Oct 12, 2012 4:00 pm

Josh and Seth
After c!g, their sophomore year
____________________________________________________________________________

Seth and Josh had agreed to meet for dinner. Josh had been incredibly busy within the last week, and Seth felt like he was barely seeing his best friend at all anymore. He knew Josh had a lot going on, but the frazzled expression that seemed permanently affixed to Josh’s face was really scaring him.

Josh was that kid who couldn’t ever sit still, who was always full of life and energy and enthusiasm.

Seth had never seen him look as worn down as he had lately.

It all started with the RJ mess, of course. Seth found that particularly painful, because Josh putting himself through hell would have been solved much more quickly if he had just gone and spoken to RJ. When Josh apparated into Seth’s room six days ago and told him that things had been resolved, Seth sat him down, talked things out with him, and expected everything to move forward.

He expected the movement to be halting, though. He expected Josh to be a little awkward and insecure, but for life to move on.

Seth should have known that Josh wouldn’t have settled for that. Josh seemed to be powering forward, full steam ahead.

It was like Josh to try and do everything at once.

So, when Seth popped into Josh’s apartment to meet him for dinner, he was concerned, but not surprised, to find Josh sitting at the kitchen table, passed out on his chemistry book.

Frowning slightly, Seth walked over to the table. He was tempted to just let Josh sleep. He probably could have used it. Seth knew that Josh would be more stressed out if he woke up alone or late at night, though, so tapped Josh firmly on the shoulder until Josh’s eyes fluttered sleepily open.

“Are you okay?” Seth asked gently.

Josh lifted his head up from his book, the edges of the pages leaving imprints on his face. He looked around for a second, getting his bearings, before turning his full attention back to Seth.

Seth could tell Josh was trying to look awake, but it was just concerning Seth even more. He knew Josh well enough by this point that spotting Josh’s overcompensation was a piece of cake. Josh was brushing the sleep out of his eyes and holding them open as widely as possible, which, for Josh, was startlingly wide. He was sitting up in his chair, instead of adopting his usual slouch.

“I fell asleep again, didn’t I?” Josh asked, a yawn escaping his mouth. Although he was trying to look awake, his sleepy voice betrayed him.

“Has this happened a lot recently?” Seth asked. He kept his tone neutral. He did not want to put Josh on the defensive.

“Maybe.”

Seth sat down at the table across from Josh. “How was your day?”

Josh looked at Seth, his head tilted to the side. “What, no Seth Lecture or anything?”

“We’re getting there,” Seth promised, enjoying the groan that Josh did a terrible job of suppressing.

“I had classes in the morning. We had a quiz in Spellcasting 101 that was the easiest thing in the world. I really don’t know why they even require that class, any person who has known about their magic for more than like two minutes can do everything we’re learning in that class. The professor is super, super old and I don’t even think he knows—“
Seth cut Josh off there. “So you had a quiz and it went well. What did you do next?” he prompted.

“After that I came back to the apartment to grab lunch and hang out with Cody and Colette for an hour or two.”

“That sounds nice,” Seth said.

Josh’s face started to light up in the ridiculous way it did whenever he was about to start rambling about Cody and Colette, so Seth decided not to pursue that line of questioning. He did not mind hearing about Cody and Colette; he was friends with both of them, and they were good people. However, once Josh got started on the subject, it was hard to stop him.

“Something tells me that wasn’t all you did,” Seth said.

“I went and hung out with RJ after that.”

From the pink that was settling onto Josh’s cheeks, Seth figured that Josh and RJ’s “hanging out” that afternoon involved a lot less clothing than Seth and Josh’s “hanging out” typically did.

“Did you two have fun?” Seth kept things as vague as he could so that Josh did not feel the need to go into too much detail.

“We did,” Josh said enthusiastically. “We walked around for a bit and did touristy things in the city before we headed back to his apartment and—“

“I get the point.”

Josh just grinned.

“It sounds like you had a busy day.”

“It’s not over yet,” Josh admitted. “After dinner I have a lecture to go to. My English professor’s husband is giving it, and she says that if we go, we get extra credit. It’s on some magical creature book he wrote, so it could be interesting. After that, I need to study more for chemistry because I have a big test tomorrow.”

Seth looked at him. “Josh, are you okay?”

The question seemed to take Josh by surprise. “Of course I am!”

“Josh, you look dead.”

“They stopped the outbreak of zombies during the Lincoln administration, Seth,” Josh reminded Seth.

“We both know that isn’t what I mean.”

Josh didn’t say anything for a moment or two, like he was collecting his thoughts. “I need to do this, okay? Yeah, I’m tired, and yeah, things are a little bit busy right now. I can’t drop any of it, though. I love Cody and Colette and RJ and I love spending time with them and I love making them happy. I know RJ was feeling neglected, so I’ve been trying to spend a lot more time with him lately to make up for it. As hard as college is and as boring as some of the classes are, I love being here at school. I love my friends and I love my profs and I love learning, and my dad would be really disappointed if I left him alone at home for two years only to fail out. I can’t drop you, of course. You’re Seth. That’s like expecting to function with like… half a brain or something. It doesn’t work.”

Seth got up from the table and walked over to Josh, pulling him into a hug. “Look, it is a good thing that you are doing the things that you love. It is a good thing that you understand that people and responsibilities are equally important. Running yourself ragged trying to manage everything, though… well, it’s not a good look for you. The more you try to do stuff like this, the more your loved ones are going to worry about you and your health.”

“I’m perfectly healthy,” Josh objected, squirming out of Seth’s grasp so that he could look at his friend’s face.

Seth raised an eyebrow.

“Okay, maybe I am a little bit tired,” Josh admitted. “I can handle it, though.”

Snorting, Seth said, “You do realize that almost every time I have heard you say that, you have been wrong, right?”

“I need to get friends with shorter memory spans,” Josh teased.

“I don’t think that’d work. Imagine you being friends with someone just like you. I do not think that would work well.”

“They wouldn’t always be right, though,” Josh said stubbornly. “Maybe I could even be the one who is right sometimes.”

Seth laughed. “Okay, when is your chemistry midterm?”

“8:30.”

“Is that your only class of the day?”

Josh shook his head. “I also have a 10:00 class. I’m done by 11, though.”

“I’ll meet you here at 11, then,” Seth promised. “You’re going to have a mental health day. No cell phones allowed, since I know you will just spend the entire time texting Colette and RJ. Just you and me, relaxing and not thinking about school and life and keeping everyone happy. How does that sound?”

“It sounds really, really good.”

“Perfect,” Seth said. “Then it’s set. Just warning you, though, at some point there will be an obligatory ‘let’s talk about Josh’s priorities so that we can stop him from dying young’ discussion. Other than that, no stress.”

Seth expected some sort of protest, but, instead, Josh nodded and calmly stood up from his chair. “Now that that’s all worked out, can we eat?” Josh asked. “I’m actually kinda starving.”

“Let’s go,” Seth agreed.

Josh grabbed his key and put his chemistry book back in his backpack, and the two headed out.

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PostSubject: Re: poly!verse   Sun Nov 11, 2012 5:29 am

First year at SAS

Josh had been coming to the pool every day for the last two weeks to distract himself.

Although he could easily pop back in and visit his dad, he knew that he shouldn’t. He knew that he went away to school, and that constantly going back and forth and back and forth would not make the transition to living away easier.

Or, at least, that was what his dad had told him.

For the first week of school, Josh had almost spent more time at his father’s house than he did at the Salem Academy of Sorcery. He visited for meals, he visited before bed. One night he even tried to sleep in his bed back home, though that was largely because his roommate did not seem to like him already.

Josh didn’t like leaving his dad alone. It wasn’t that he was visiting home because he was getting homesick. He just really, really hated leaving his dad in an empty house once they were finally starting to find some semblance of balance.

Josh’s dad eventually put his foot down. “Josh, you’ve gotta stay at school,” he told his son. “You can visit on the weekends and during emergencies, but, for the first few months, at least, you’re better off there. I’ll be fine.”

Although Josh didn’t like it, his dad seemed serious, so he listened.

It was almost a month and a half into the school year, and Josh was starting to get into the rhythm of things.

Josh was forming tentative friendships in his classes, though he hadn’t really found anyone he really, really clicked with yet. He liked most of his classes, though he was already bored in some of them. He liked a lot of his teachers.

Salem Academy of Sorcery still did not really seem like home, though. Salem was missing his dad and his old friends and the bustle of the city. He did not like the hot, muggy air that seemed to stick to his skin when he walked outside.

Josh was adapting, though, because that was what Josh did. He didn’t like it, and he didn’t always do it quickly, but he was incapable of staying stagnant forever.

One of the ways he found worked best was finding little things. He could deal better with huge changes if he could find little similarities to keep himself grounded. He needed places where he could feel safe and where he felt like he was back at home.

He joined his school’s GSA. He figured that there would be people there he could make friends with. He figured that was a safe place. He didn’t have to hide who he was. He didn’t have to worry about people judging him.

He started exploring the school, searching for all the extra little nooks and crannies on the grounds of SAS. Exploring was comforting. If he could learn the place inside and out and flesh out its secrets, he would feel better. He would be able to establish which places where his, secret locations that no one else knew about where he could go when he was feeling down. After all, it was a really old school. It had to have some secret places, right? What kind of wizarding school would it be if it did not have a few secret passageways and hidden rooms stored away?

In his exploration, he stumbled across the pool. In the early mornings, it was usually pretty empty. People came in the afternoon, when it was hot outside, and people came in the evenings, when they were not in class.

Most people did not come in the early morning. Josh hated mornings, and dragging himself out of bed was miserable.

Still, he went to the pool early. It was a taste of the way things used to be back home. His mom loved mornings. His mom loved swimming. His mom loved getting him up at ridiculously early o’clock and dragging him to swimming lessons at the pool.

So, despite the fact that Josh would have rather been in bed, passed out, dreaming of god knows what, he found himself actually getting up to his alarm and trekking across campus to the pool. Even though he didn’t like mornings, he had already decided the pool was a safe place. He could be alone in the empty, echoey building. He could smell the noxious chlorine fumes and sit with his feet in the water and just think.

Or, not think, because that was what made the pool safe.

So, day after day, Josh found himself with his legs dangled into the cold pool water.

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PostSubject: Re: poly!verse   Sun Nov 11, 2012 5:36 am

As another week passed, things changed, and Josh was starting to realize that the empty, safe pool was rarely ever empty in the mornings anymore.

One morning, Josh was sitting on the edge of the pool, just like always, He was staring off into space when he heard the sound of the door to the pool opening. Josh started, accidentally creating a small wave of water that sloshed up against the side of the pool, getting the edges of his basketball shorts wet. Josh turned and saw a relatively short boy with dark brown, curly hair.

The boy disappeared into the locker room and appeared a moment later wearing dark blue swimming trunks. He stretched a little bit before putting a pair of goggles on and easing himself down into the water and started to swim.

Josh watched as the boy swam back and forth. He started out swimming freestyle, but after about six or seven laps back and forth, he started swimming breaststroke.

Josh tried not to think too much about it, although he could already feel curiosity bubbling up. Josh knew that was silly. It was just a guy (an admittedly attractive guy, though not really Josh’s type) swimming laps in the pool. There was no reason for Josh to be curious.

But Josh had that feeling in his gut that he should be curious. There was that familiar tug in his stomach that told him that this was a guy that he should get to know.

After about an hour, the boy finished swimming, got out of the pool, grabbed a towel, and headed back to the locker room.

Josh never said a word to him.

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PostSubject: Re: poly!verse   Sun Nov 11, 2012 5:40 am

It became a daily ritual.

Every weekday, Josh would come in, dip his feet in the pool, and sit for about 15 minutes before the boy (whose name Josh still had not learned) came over and started swimming. The boy always seemed so focused on his swimming, and although Josh wanted to talk to him, it almost seemed rude to interrupt him.

In the water, the boy looked a bit scary. He looked very composed and focused and serious and everything Josh wasn’t.

In and out of the pool, his movements were always so fluid, like the world just came naturally to him. He wasn’t made of awkward, flailing limbs and uncoordinated movements, like Josh. He wasn’t spontaneous bursts of energy and movement.

He always moved calmly and deliberately. It made Josh want to go up and poke him in the face, just to see if he was real. Josh wasn’t convinced he was real. Josh often had fun coming up with possible explanations in his head for what the guy was. The boy had to be an alien. Or he was a mermaid! Josh liked that theory, particularly. It explained why the boy always looked so comfortable in the water (although he was suspiciously lacking a tail).

Josh and the boy did not really acknowledge the other’s presence formally. Every once in a while, their eyes would meet, and the boy would give a small smile. Josh found it reassuring. Although the boy was focused and serious, when he smiled, even if it was just a little smile, it was incredibly warm.

It just reaffirmed Josh’s belief that he really, really wanted to get to know the kid.

He didn’t know how to do that without being weird, though. They had been keeping up the same routine for a while by that point, and Josh felt silly for wanting to break it.

So, Josh waited.

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PostSubject: Re: poly!verse   Sun Nov 11, 2012 5:50 am

Ultimately, it was the other boy that made the first move.

They had been keeping up the same routine for almost a month. Josh was so used to the other boy being there that he was once again able to stare out into space, not really distracted by the boy doing laps.

So, when the boy swam out of his lane and up to Josh, Josh was very surprised.

“It’s nice, isn’t it?”

Josh started and looked down at the boy. His voice was clear, and slightly lower than what he had expected.

“Huh?”

“The water,” the boy clarified. “It’s nice.”

“Yeah,” Josh agreed. That did not require a whole lot of thought. The boy was looking at him, though, and the expression made Josh comfortable. He found himself talking before he was really thinking about what he was saying, just to fill the silence and satisfy the mild curiosity he saw in the other boy’s face.

“I like it here. It’s familiar, you know?”

The boy nodded. “Yeah. The pool is like a second home to me.”

“It’s my safe place,” Josh said, matter-of-factly, not realizing that his words probably sounded a bit odd until he noticed the boy’s eyebrow was raised. “Here on campus. It’s my safe place.”

“You only have one?”

Josh blinked. “Uh, well… not exactly. This is just my favorite.”

He started getting fidgety. He fully expected the boy to question him further. He expected to have to deflect answers. He did not want to explain why it was his favorite. He did not want to talk about his mom.

To his surprise, the other boy didn’t ask him to. Instead, he pulled himself out of the pool and sat down next to Josh, dangling his feet in the water, his skin wet and his hair dripping.

“My favorite is this patch of woods out behind the football fields. The trees are really nice, and it’s shady and not so hot,” the boy said calmly.

“Ugh,” Josh said. “It’s hot everywhere here. I mean, I thought NYC was gross during the summer, with the sun reflecting off buildings and all, but nope. This place has to be in some butthole part of the country.”

The boy raised his eyebrow again, although, this time, he looked like he was trying not to laugh. “Are you from NYC, then?”

“Yup,” Josh responded. “Born and raised.”

“Yankees?” Seth asked.

“Mets,” Josh responded firmly. “This is going to be the year, I’m sure of it.”

The small, warm smile from earlier was back, and Josh found himself talking. “I mean, we’re already most of the way through the season, and it was a rough season, so this year is probably not actually going to be the year. Next year, though, they’re going to be great! I know they will be.”

“Do you go to games a lot?”

Josh shrugged. “Not a lot, but my dad does sometimes get tickets through his work. What about you? Do you follow baseball?”

“Some,” the boy said. “It isn’t really my favorite sport to watch, but I know some. I should be a Cleveland fan, since I’m from Ohio and all, but I just can’t really get behind them.”

“You should be a Mets fan,” Josh said, as though this were sage advice.

“I don’t think that I can really get behind the Mets, either,” the boy said, smiling slightly.

“Everyone can get behind the Mets!”

“I suppose I can adopt another team,” Set commented, “if it is that important to you.”

Josh’s grin was blinding. “Thank you… er… I should probably know your name. You know, jot it down on the list of people who were awesome and converted.”

“I never said I converted,” the boy said calmly. “But I can tell you my name. I’m Seth.” He held out his hand. “What is your name?”

“Josh,” he said, sticking his hand out to shake Seth’s.

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PostSubject: Re: poly!verse   Sun Nov 11, 2012 6:00 am

The longer he and Seth talked, the more Josh realized he was silly for worrying before about screwing up their routine. He found that he and Seth actually slipped into a new routine quite easily. They’d come to the pool, Seth would swim, and they would talk afterwards for a bit.

Josh learned that Seth was training for swim team tryouts in late November. Josh insisted that he would make it easily, and Seth always had this careful smile, like he agreed, but did not want to hedge his bets.

It took a lot less time for Josh to trust Seth than he expected. Something about Seth just felt right, and, although it unnerved Josh a little, he found that there was nothing he couldn’t say around the boy. It was easy to feel comfortable and safe around Seth, because he was never judgmental. He was okay with Josh not giving answers if he didn’t feel comfortable. He was okay with Josh not wanting to talk about things.

He seemed to genuinely care about Josh’s answers, and to Josh, that meant a lot.

It didn’t take long before the two were hanging out together away from the pool. Josh spent more time in Seth’s room with Seth and his roommate than he did in his own room. When Josh went exploring around campus, he would bring Seth with him, because, although Seth was calmer and not as likely to get himself into trouble, Seth liked new places, too.

Seth claimed that he wanted to be around to get Josh out of trouble, but they both knew he enjoyed it just as much as Josh did.

There wasn’t much Josh hadn’t told Seth.

Seth knew that Josh was gay. Seth knew all about Josh’s dad and his friends back home. Seth was already starting to get the hang of Josh’s numerous quirks, and Josh found that he was only slightly unnerved when Seth finished his sentences when his mouth and brain parted ways and he started to ramble.

There was one thing that Josh hadn’t told Seth yet, though.

They had known each other for a while by the time it finally came up. The swimming season had already started, so Josh had stopped his daily, early morning pool visits. The swim team was in the pool early in the morning.

Sometimes, though, he would come in the late evening with Seth to get a bit of practice in before the end of the day. Josh would swing his legs back and forth and get lost in his thoughts as Seth swam back and forth, just like the good old days.

When Seth swam to the side of the pool, Josh said, “This place still feels safe.”

“It does,” Seth agreed, sounding slightly out of breath.

Josh handed him his towel. “My mom dragged me to swimming lessons growing up. It was Mom and Josh bonding time.”

Seth looked at Josh, and Josh looked towards the water. He didn’t talk about his mom, and, although he trusted that Seth would be okay to talk to about it, the topic still made him a little uncomfortable. It was enough that Seth could tell something was seriously wrong.

“What happened?” Seth asked.

“Multiple sclerosis happened.”

Seth frowned. The expression on his face seemed concerned, but unsurprised. Josh should have known that nothing would throw Seth for a loop.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“No,” Josh said honestly. “But I probably should, anyway. I haven’t talked about it in a very, very long time.”

“What happened?” Seth asked, having been given a tentative go-ahead.

Josh shrugged. “She died. It was long, and it really sucked. She was a really active, really wonderful person. Mom had more of a sense of adventure than I did. She had so much energy and she was basically my best friend. Then, MS happened. It was slow and painful, and she died. My dad and I were left all alone.”

“That sucks,” Seth said quietly.

“Yup,” Josh agreed. “I miss her. It’s been a few years, now, and I still miss her. I’m bad at letting go of people, and she was just this brilliant, energetic person and I miss her. My dad misses her, too, which is why I go visit him every weekend. I don’t want him to have to be alone. When I’m there, we can miss her together.”

Seth looked at Josh for a second before wrapping him in a hug. Josh leaned into it, relaxing slightly. Seth wasn’t a huge hugger, but he knew that physical contact was incredibly comforting to Josh, and it would help him. It was a way of saying, “I’m sorry,” without actually saying the words. Seth figured they probably sounded trite.

“If you ever want to talk about her, you can,” Seth said quietly. “Whether it’s talking about sad things or happy things or things that upset you, I’m always here.”

“Thank you,” Josh said genuinely.

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PostSubject: Re: poly!verse   Sun Nov 11, 2012 7:27 am

Later on Josh's First Year

Although Josh knew next to nothing about competitive swimming, he went to almost every single one of Seth’s meets. Before Josh knew it, he found himself going to other sports teams’ games, as well. It was kind of exciting, and Josh liked watching sports. He wasn’t great at playing them, but it was fun watching people who were.

The football season was almost over before Josh finally started going to games. The team wasn’t doing the greatest, but they managed to fill the stands every single week, regardless. Josh was curious what made people keep going to the games despite the team’s terrible record.

So, Josh decided to see what the buzz was about. He texted Seth and informed his friend that he was going to the next game (whether he liked it or not). Seth responded that his schedule was clear, and the two made plans to grab dinner and head over together.

They arrived early enough to get decent seats in the stands. Josh bought them both popcorn, and they settled in to wait. The weather was finally starting to cool off to the point where Josh could head outside without feeling like he was going to melt.

The game started. Josh knew the very basics of football; he watched the superbowl with his dad every single year, regardless of who was going. He knew enough that he could talk about football with a casual fan and sound like he knew what he was talking about, but if he was talking with someone who actually understood football, he knew he would flounder.

Even someone of Josh’s knowledge level could tell that the SAS team was not the greatest.

The other team scored a touchdown within the first ten minutes of the game, and things only went downhill from there. Josh and Seth watched the game, drowning their sorrows about their team’s humiliating loss by working their way quickly through the popcorn.

Josh did have one thing to say about football, though; it was good in terms of eye candy. There were a lot of very attractive men running around the field.

The one that caught Josh’s eye most, however, was not a guy that was on the field at all. There were a bunch of guys sitting on the bench. Seth informed Josh they were not on the a-string, which Josh took to mean they were probably freshmen.

During halftime, they stood up to join the team huddle, and Josh was able to get a good look at them for the first time. Most of them did not have their helmets on, so Josh was actually able to see faces.

Most of them were okay, but nothing special, in Josh’s books.

There was one, though, that caught Josh’s attention. He had very pronounced cheekbones, and his hair was on the borderline between light brown and dirty blonde, though Josh couldn’t tell exactly which it was from his seat in the stands. Josh couldn’t see a lot of details, but he could see that the guy was fairly thin and fairly short for a football player.

Seth saw Josh’s staring and raised an eyebrow. “See someone you like?” he asked.

“Yup,” Josh said. He checked the back of the boy’s jersey. “Number seven.”

“I recognize him,” Seth said. “He is in one of my classes. I believe his name is Cody.”

“Cody is hot,” Josh said. “Do you know anything else about him, Magical Knowledge Haver?”

Seth shook his head. “I know he always turns his work in, but something tells me that isn’t what you were asking.”

“You know me so well,” Josh commented as he turned his attention back on the boy. “Do you know his house? His last name? His relationship status?”

“No, no, and—“ Seth shook his head, not even bothering to answer Josh’s question. “You’re doing that thing again, Josh.”

Josh’s forehead wrinkled slightly. “What thing? Ogling boys? I’m allowed to do that.”

“No,” Seth said wryly. “You can ogle to your heart’s content and it wouldn’t be a problem from way up here. I’m referring to the fact that you’re already stumbling headfirst into feelings about a guy you have not even met.”

“Wanting to know his name and house are hardly feelings, Seth,” Josh said, but he wanted to immediately take back his words when Seth looked him in the eyes. Seth was wearing that one expression, the one where it felt like he was staring right through Josh, and Josh couldn’t lie to Seth because that expression and that face spelled out, “I will call you on your bullshit if I need to.”

Josh had decided a while back that Seth wasn’t a mermaid. He was probably some sort of Jedi.

“No, they’re not,” Seth agreed. “Something tells me there is more there than sheer curiosity, though.”

Josh pouted slightly. “Spoilsport. Are you saying I have to actually know someone to crush on them?”

“No,” Seth said reasonably. “It is preferable, though, that you don’t be creepy. I can already tell what’s going to happen. This is going to start out completely harmless, just noticing the guy and saying he’s cute and asking me questions. In another month, you’ll be noticing him everywhere and you’ll be mumbling about his habits that you’ve observed. In another few months, you’ll be enamored, and you might not have even spoken to him. You’re going to convince yourself that he’s good for you with nothing to draw on but your own admittedly decent but nonetheless insufficient gut instincts. You’ll—“

“Okay,” Josh muttered, cutting Seth off. “I get the point. You shouldn’t even know that, by the way. I haven’t had a real crush since I’ve been here.”

“It’s the look in your eye,” Seth explained. “I may not have seen it turned towards another person, but that’s the look in your eye that you always get before you spend two weeks in a row staying up until two in the morning every night researching the history of house systems in magical schools. It’s the same look you get when you start exploring a new area of campus, and you just cannot stop until you’ve seen everything there is to see. You aren’t generally a focused person, but when you fixate on something…”

“Not fixated yet,” Josh argued.

“Give it a month.”

“Thanks for your hope in me,” Josh said, poking Seth.

“Just telling it like it is.”

Halftime ended and the game started back up. The rest of the game was a disaster, with SAS losing by a landslide.

When the game finally ended, Josh and Seth walked down off the bleachers and headed back to the dorms. As they walked by the players, Seth caught Josh glancing to see if Cody was there. Josh’s eyes were bright and his hands were fidgeting, and Seth knew.

This was not going to be a fleeting fancy.

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PostSubject: Re: poly!verse   Fri Apr 12, 2013 2:28 am

"I'm making cookies. You wanna help?"

Josh's mother poked her head into Josh's bedroom, a spatula held loosely in her hand. Her eyes were bright, and for a second, Josh was stricken by how much she looked like herself.

"You know that's a bad idea," Josh reminded her. "I'm banned from the kitchen for a reason."

"How bad can it be?" she asked carelessly, waving the spatula and almost knocking it backwards into the door frame. "After all, what's life without a little chaos?" Her grin was mischievous and disarming, so different from the weary, haggard expression that had been present on her face for the last few months.

Josh couldn't say no to that level of exuberance.

"Just know that if this goes wrong, I'm blaming you when Dad asks," Josh teased, setting his computer down next to him on his bed.

"That's fair," she conceded. "Now let's get cracking."

____________________________________________________________________________

An hour later, Josh had managed to get most of an eggshell in the cookie batter, had dropped a bag of sugar on the kitchen floor, and had stolen at least a third of the bag of chocolate chips in what he thought was a discrete maneuver. There was almost as much flour in his hair as there was in the mixing bowl. His mother had done most of the mixing, because she was having a good day, and Josh's twiggy arms got tired quickly.

"I hope you end up with someone who can bake," his mother teased. "I'm pretty sure you're hopeless."

"If we're both bad at it, we can kidnap you and have you cook for us," Josh insisted. When his mother set the bowl down to get the cookie sheets out, he stole a handful of raw cookie dough.

She stole the cookie dough and started putting it on the cookie sheet. "Nope. Someday, you'll be on your own, kiddo."

Josh just didn't realize just how soon that someday would be.

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PostSubject: Re: poly!verse   Sun Apr 14, 2013 11:41 pm

Beginning of fifth year, SAS

A few days had passed, and Jessie’s project was finished and turned in. They had agreed that she would be the one to initiate for the first date, because the scheduling was up to her.

Four days later, Seth got a text.

Jessie: Hey, Seth! This is Jessie. How are you?

Seth waited 10 minutes or so before responding.

Seth: I’m good. How did the project go?
Jessie: I think it went ok. I’m just glad it’s done.
Seth: I bet. Projects are worse than tests and papers.
Jessie: Really? I like tests least. Anyway, I don’t want to think about it anymore. I was wondering if you were up for going out sometime this weekend
Seth: Well, I’m working at La Fontana tomorrow from 9-7. I know this weekend is the fourth-years’ turn for Fairview. We could grab dinner and hang out when my shift is over
Jessie: That sounds perfect! :) I’ll meet you at La Fontana at 7
Seth: I’ll see you then!
_______________________________________________________________________

Seth was heading to the back room to store his apron when the bell on the door went off. He turned around to see Jessie, dressed in a pretty purple dress. Seth waved, rushed back to the back room, changed out of his work clothes, clocked out, and met her by the door.

“You look nice,” she commented warmly, and Seth laughed. “You stole my line.”

“Nope,” she said, beaming and opening the door for him. “Pretty sure that’s my line. Though I must admit, you look surprisingly good in your work clothes.”

“It’s just black pants and a white dress shirt,” Seth commented. “After a few years, it has lost its appeal.”

Jessie laughed, and Seth couldn’t help but smile at the bright sound. “So you’ve worked there a while?”

“Yeah,” Seth said. “It’s a steady job, the owner likes me, and I get good tips. I’ve been working weekends there since third year.”

“I bet you get good tips,” Jessie teased, eying Seth quite unsubtly. Seth grinned unabashedly. He knew he wasn’t bad looking. He didn’t exploit it, but he wasn’t going to go denying it.

“I’m very popular with the little old ladies.”

Jessie laughed again. “So where are we going?”

“I was thinking the place down the street,” Seth said. “I would take you to La Fontana, since it’s nice and good for dates, but it’s a bit stuffy, and I’ve been in the kitchen too many times to trust some of the food they make.”

“Sounds perfect to me,” she responded, and they walked down the street together. Conversation flowed relatively easily, and Seth liked that he didn’t feel like he had to try with Jessie. It wasn’t like she bowled him over in a rush to get words out (like Josh occasionally did), but she was energetic and bright and cheerful, and Seth found it hard not to enjoy her company.

Time flew by, and before they knew it, Seth was getting his wallet out and paying the bill. Jessie and Seth walked out onto the street and held hands as they walked back towards the school.

Finally, they reached the end of the street and zipped back to school. They were standing outside of the Remington dorm when they finally stopped.

“I had fun tonight,” Jessie said.

“I did, too.”

They stared at each other for a second or two before Jessie burst into giggles. She leaned over and kissed Seth. “Let’s do this again. Text me?”

“Definitely. Night, Jessie.”

They parted, and Seth returned to his room to find Josh sitting on the edge of his bed.

“Well?” he demanded eagerly, knowing from the smile on Seth’s face that it went well.

“Thank you,” Seth said simply.

Josh beamed. It was obvious he was chockfull of questions, but he decided to put them off for later. “That’s what friends are for.”

“And you’re a very good one.”

Josh smiled and hugged him. “Well, I’m off to bed. Night, Seth.”

“Night.”

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PostSubject: Re: poly!verse   Mon Apr 15, 2013 6:57 am

October of Josh's freshman year of college

Josh knew from the beginning that RJ was trouble. Seth had warned him of that several times (as if the way RJ was so blatant in checking Josh out that even HE noticed it wasn’t a big enough sign). RJ was attractive and confident, all broad arms and open smiles. He was reckless without being completely stupid and charismatic without being sleazy.

It was a little bit overwhelming.

The more time Josh spent around him, the more he had to attempt caution. Not getting swept away by RJ’s sense of adventure required a conscious effort. Josh would accept RJ’s invitations to go hang out most of the time, but he tried so hard to be careful and say no when RJ’s plans would put him in a sticky situation.

However, Josh didn’t always succeed. Sometimes, his natural thoughtlessness got him into trouble.

This was one of those times.

After the first round of midterms for the semester, Josh was sleep-deprived and stressed, and RJ decided to make it his own personal mission to get Josh to relax. Part of this, apparently, was dragging him to a house party one of his baseball friends was throwing.

Josh had planned on saying no. He knew that alcohol and Josh shouldn’t mix. He knew that alcohol and RJ would probably be an even more deadly combination for him.

The truth was, though, that he WAS stressed, and he could use the release. So, for once, he did not give RJ a flat out no. Instead, he ran it past Colette, who encouraged him to go. She was thrilled with the idea of him having friends outside their nice, little bubble of domesticity.

Once Colette was happy about something, it made it very, very hard for Josh to say no. So, he found himself texting RJ and asking for the details.
____________________________________________________________________________

Josh was sitting with half-naked on his bed, engaged in a staring match with his closet when Seth popped into the room to check on him. Josh’s hair was dripping wet, and he looked distressed by the closet full of clothing.

“So it’s tonight, then?” Seth commented from the doorway. He was completely unsurprised by Josh’s state—he had been around for Josh’s first few dates with Cody and Colette, and he knew how Josh got when he was going out with people he genuinely cared about.

“Yeah.”

“I’m guessing you’ve been there a while.”

Josh blinked and checked the clock on his phone. “About a half an hour.”

Seth rolled his eyes and walked over to the closet, sliding hangers around to see what was there. “How much time do you have left?”

“About a half an hour,” Josh repeated.

Seth took stock of the situation. “So, you’ve already showered. Do you just have to blow-dry and get dressed?”

Josh nodded.

“Okay. Then you go dry your hair,” Seth said firmly, “and I’ll take care of your outfit.”

Josh smiled weakly with relief. “You’re a lifesaver.”

He went to dry his hair, and when he returned, the room was empty, the door was closed, and a dark blue t-shirt and jeans were folded neatly on his bed for him. He dressed quickly, grabbed his phone and wallet, and headed to the kitchen, where Seth was seated at the table.

“How do I look?” Josh asked.

“You look fine.”

Josh sat down across the table from Seth. “I’m suspicious of your tone. That’s your ‘I’m about to deliver a speech and you’d better listen’ tone.”

Seth grinned. “That tone doesn’t exist. You’re right, but that tone doesn’t exist.”

“Yeah, yeah. Get on with the lecture, Mr. Responsible.”

“Right,” Seth started. “You know the drill. Be smart if you drink. Don’t puke on anything important, if you do. If anything goes wrong, you and RJ both have my number. I told Colette that you’d probably be crashing at my place, since you’ll be getting in really early, so we should be set there.”

“And,” Josh said once it sounded like Seth was winding down, “don’t do anything stupid, right?”

“You know that part of the speech so well.”

“I’ve only heard it a million times…”

“And yet you never seem to listen to it,” Seth teased. He checked the clock on the microwave. “You only have five minutes. You’re meeting RJ at his room, right?”

Josh nodded. “Yeah. I should probably get going.”

With a hug and a reminder to be careful, Seth sent Josh off.
____________________________________________________________________________

When RJ and Josh arrived at the party, the house was already mostly full of people, the carpeting already had a few new stains, and at least one bedroom was already occupied. Although Josh was a bit lost, RJ seemed to know exactly where he was going. He led Josh through the house, stopping in the living room, where they both grabbed drinks.

“Just remember,” Josh said as he took his first sip, “whatever happens tonight, I warned you ahead of time.”

RJ made some sort of comment about pacing himself, but it was mostly drowned out by the music. They both realized that hanging out in the room with the most noise was probably not conducive to much conversation, so they walked around until RJ found a group of people he knew.

Once they settled in and started talking, things picked up quickly for Josh. At the end of his first drink, he already found himself looser and more comfortable in the unfamiliar setting, and by the end of his second, he was already feeling tipsy. RJ introduced him to dozens of people, but he lost track of most people’s names pretty quickly. He tried to slow down his drinking a little, so he didn’t get completely hammered, but people kept offering to bring him drinks, and he was just drunk enough to feel like refusing would be unbearably rude. He would have small sips from lots of different drinks, setting them down and forgetting about them when new ones rolled in.

Because he’d stopped drinking out of one cup at a time, he quickly lost track of how much he’d drank. It wasn’t until he stood up to go pee that he realized just how unsteady on his feet he was. He decided to grab some water on the way back from the bathroom, but he got distracted and pulled into a conversation with a strange girl with a shiny, magical fish tattoo on her face, and he forgot.

Forty-five minutes and most of a drink later, Fish Tattoo headed out, and Josh realized he was missing RJ. He didn’t know where RJ was or how to get to the room where he last saw RJ, so he walked around the house until he found a good couch and sat down. He finished up his drink and talked to a few strangers about baseball, since it seemed to be a safe topic for small talk there. Josh noticed that something was vibrating, but it took the dude next to him tapping him on the shoulder and pointing at his pocket before Josh realized that it was his phone.

Josh fumbled the passcode a few times before successfully unlocking his phone. There were three new messages, one from Seth asking how the party was going and two from RJ asking where he was. Josh attempted to tell Seth he was having fun (his text didn’t turn out quite the way he wanted, but he sent it anyway), and he provided RJ with the helpful directions “on the coach” before tucking his phone away.

Fifteen minutes later, RJ walked into the room, and Josh lit up. He scooted over on the sofa, making room for RJ to sit down. It didn’t take long for Josh to start sprawling all over RJ, though, invading RJ’s space with his long, gangly limbs. Within twenty minutes, Josh was carrying on the conversation from RJ’s lap.

There was a break in the socializing for a bit, and Josh took advantage of the fact that RJ now had nowhere to focus his attention but on Josh himself. When Josh wasn’t nuzzling into RJ’s neck, his glazed eyes were fixed on RJ’s face.

The alcohol (and the party, by extension) seemed to achieve their goal. The more Josh drank, the more he seemed to relax into himself, becoming loose-limbed and pliable. He normally spoke rapidly, his words tripping over themselves on their way out, but when he was drunk, he took ages to get full sentences out. Sometimes, he’d stop in the middle of a sentence, like he was so caught up in the way a word sounded that he forgot there was anything that should come after it.

Although he normally lacked much of a filter, alcohol only made things worse. At one point, when Josh had tired of wrapping his arms around RJ’s waist and nuzzling into RJ’s chest, he moved one hand up to RJ’s face. “Can I touch your stubble?” he asked slowly. “I always wonder ‘bout your stubble. Like, is it soft, or…?” Josh trailed off, and, not seeming to care that RJ hadn’t exactly answered, he started rubbing his hand against RJ’s cheek. “Oh,” he said dazedly.

“What?”

“Feels good,” Josh said, sounding pleasantly surprised as he continued the rubbing motion. “I mean, it’s prickly, but I like it, you know? You aren’t a cactus face.”

“Of course not,” RJ said, his grin only widening. “Did you think I would be?”

Josh had to think about that one for a second. “No,” he finally said, “not really. I thought it’d be nice. Your face is nice because all of you is nice.”

RJ’s grin widened, and he looked like he was going to say something, but Josh felt like he should elaborate before RJ got a word in. He moved his face close to RJ’s, but he covered RJ’s mouth with his hand. “You’re just NICE. Like, all the time. Or, maybe not nice, but you’re good to me, and I like you. You’re.... pretty. But, like, the jock word for pretty, because jocks probably don’t like being called pretty, and you’re too hairy to be pretty, but I like your face, and I wanna kiss it a lot.”

It took Josh a minute or so before he realized his hand was still covering RJ’s mouth and had the presence of mind to move it off.

“I think the word you’re looking for is ‘handsome’,” RJ commented, and Josh’s face burst into an enormous smile. “Yeah, that’s the word! You’re handsome, and I like you.” Josh repositioned himself so his mouth was pressed against the crook of RJ’s neck.

“I like you, too,” RJ said. He put his hand on Josh’s head, working his fingers through Josh’s hair.

“That feels good,” Josh mumbled into RJ’s neck. “I don’t feel so good, though. I might’ve had too much to drink.”

RJ pulled back slightly to look at Josh. “You wanna get out of here?” he said. It took a second for him to realize how that sounded in context and backpedal. “To Seth’s?”

“Mmhmmm. Seth makes everything better.”

“Okay, then let’s go.”

They made a brief detour to say goodbye to one of RJ’s friends before skipping back to Seth’s dorm room. Seth was still awake and working at his desk.

“How’s he doing?” Seth asked.

“I can talk,” Josh said petulantly, “but I’m not feelin’ so good.”

“Do we need to move blankets into the bathroom?” Seth asked, and Josh nodded. “Okay, then, let’s get you situated.” Seth grabbed blankets from a drawer under his bed and set them up in the bathroom. “Josh, can you get over here on your own?”

“Think so,” Josh muttered, but RJ held up most of his weight as he stumbled to the bathroom. Seth eased him down to the floor and helped him get comfortable.

“Thanks for looking out for him,” Seth said to RJ as he rubbed Josh’s back soothingly. “I’ve got him from here, though. He didn’t do anything too stupid, did he?” Seth would have felt bad talking about Josh when he was right there, but he was quite clearly not paying attention. His face was tinged slightly green, and he was leaned over the toilet bowl.

“Nah.”

Seth looked RJ in the eyes for a second before sighing. “He said something, didn’t he? It’s Josh, I know better than to think he got out of this with all of his dignity intact.”

RJ shrugged. “He told me he liked me, and he was a little clingy, but that was it.”

Seth sighed. “I don’t suppose that was much of a revelation for you, was it?”

RJ shrugged again. “It is what it is, man. What can I do?”

“Just… be good to him, okay?” Seth said. “Josh probably won’t remember much of tonight. I’m leaving it up to you whether you want to tell him later what went down. If you do decide to tell him, be prepared for damage control.”

“I won’t tell him,” RJ said quietly. “Better off for both of us, yeah?”

Seth nodded. “Anyway, thanks for getting him out. I’ll see you around.”

With that, RJ took off, and Seth refocused on the boy puking in his bathroom.

It was going to be a long night.

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PostSubject: Re: poly!verse   Fri May 03, 2013 9:04 pm

So, I was reading the PV stuff and realized that I did not do enough research on MS. So, I did some research and am editing Josh's history a bit. Here's what I ended up writing about that (note: part of this was originally written as a series of texts, so it's not exactly literary material):

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is kind of really horrible. It is an autoimmune disease that has no cure. It is typically treated through a combination of drugs (which can help ease symptoms). Having a healthy lifestyle (i.e. eating healthily and exercising regularly) can help slow progression, as well. Depending on the individual and on the severity of the disease, it can cause fatigue and muscle spasms and memory loss and sexual dysfunction and bladder dysfunction and loss of motor skills and loss of vision and difficulty speaking.

The average patient with multiple sclerosis lives with the disease years. It is not a fatal disease for the majority of people, though it makes life much more difficult. For most people, it takes an average of 5-7 years off the person's lifespan. However, MS is also a very individual disease. There are more severe forms, and when there are complications, MS can be fatal.

There are four types of MS, the most common being relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS). The kind that Josh's mom suffers from is primary-progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS), which affects only 10-15% of MS patients. Instead of having periods of remittance, where the symptoms are less severe (and sometimes actually improve), and relapses, where the symptoms worsen, PPMS sufferers have continuous symptoms. The symptoms progress consistently over time.

PPMS most strongly affects movement, and leg spasms and loss of mobility are incredibly common. Drugs that are intended to help those who suffer from MS often do not have a significant impact on the symptoms of PPMS. The drugs typically help ease inflammations in the brain, which are common in other types of MS, but are not the primary cause of PPMS (PPMS typically causes more lesions in/around the spinal cord, hence the mobility problems). People with PPMS often have a later onset of the disease than patients with other types of MS. Josh's mother is very young for a PPMS patient.

It is difficult to diagnose the specific type of MS, because doctors often have to wait to see how the disease is behaving over time. Often, it isn't until years later that the doctor can track it well enough to diagnose PPMS.

Most people who have very severe cases spend the end of their lives in hospice or similar live-in care centers. Near the very ends of their lives, many MS patients have difficulty chewing and swallowing. A sizable percentage that die end up dying of pneumonia.

Originally, I planned for Lisa to get sick when Josh was in third grade, roughly, and to die when he was 11 (sixth grade). However, after doing research, it seemed highly unlikely that she'd die in three years. I am starting to suspect that she had it through all of Josh's childhood, and his parents just never told him until it started getting really, really bad

Going into it, she only really wanted one kid, so Josh was it for her. Having a baby made her healthy, for a while. Or, well healthier. Women with MS often find that their symptoms lessen during pregnancy.

Things got much worse much more quickly, though, after that. The first five years or so, things weren't great, but she was able to get out and rest and exercise and eat healthily and do all the things her doctors advised, and she probably even worked the first few years of it. She was a preschool teacher. But I think she was going to stop working when she had Josh.

So she got pregnant with Josh, and things were slightly better for a while, but then he was born and he was a ball of energy and she was steadily getting worse, anyway. She tried to be energetic and to take care of her son and keep up as well as she could, but it was HARD. Josh was a handful and kept her busy, and over time, it got harder to maintain the healthy diet and to take care of herself as much as she should have been, because she had Josh to deal with, and she didn't have much time for anything anymore.

She and Josh's father realized things were getting worse, and the symptoms worsened a lot earlier than I originally thought; I think that by the time Josh was in school, Lisa probably using a wheelchair and seeing physical therapists, and she had days where she was in so much pain. And Josh knew that his mom was in a wheelchair, and that she sometimes got tired, but she usually tried so hard, and her words would get fumbled and she was forgetting things more and more frequently, bigger things, but she'd always been forgetful, as long as he'd known his mom.

Once he was in school, he was spending more time with his friends from there, and he wasn't always around at home to notice that his mom was getting worse and worse and worse. By first or second grade is actually when Josh starts REALLY causing trouble, between his magic and his ADHD and his natural curiosity and tendency to poke his head in places it doesn't belong. But, by that point Lisa is really starting to get to be in poor shape, and Josh is so young and he doesn't understand that him getting into trouble is putting a strain on anyone (because his dad sometimes has to leave work early to take care of things, and his dad is exhausted all of the time because he works long hours as a lawyer as it is and then they have additional costs with Josh's mom's hospital bills). Josh doesn't realize how much of an additional stress it is until he overhears his parents fighting about it one day, and his dad sounds exhausted and his mom's words are slurred and he starts to realize.

So he tries to stop, but it's hard, but he's scared and worried a lot, and sometimes his magic just acts out, because now he knows something is really wrong, it isn't just some sort of minor sick-y thing, like his dad has tried to pass it off as since the first time he asked why his mom was in a wheelchair. And he doesn't know how to stop causing trouble and being loud and getting into messes because he's just a little boy and he's scared and it's finally starting to sink in that his mom might not always be around. His magic, which he still doesn't even know he has, is erratic because he's an emotional rollercoaster.

So things just get worse until fourth grade. By that time, Josh is still scared, but he's been talking to his parents more, and there's a lot he doesn't understand, but his parents are being slightly more honest, and they're trying to help him come to terms with his mom being sick. Josh just wants to spend all his time at home with her, but she doesn't let him, tells him he needs to run along and be with people his own age.

He's always helped out around the house, has since his mom got put in a wheelchair, but he's making even more of an effort now, because he doesn't know what else to do. He feels like he was a burden before, and he wants to make up for it and make things easier on his parents.

Fourth grade is also the year Dusty, who ends up being his best friend through the rest of grade school, moves into town, and he helps Josh get out of his head a little bit, which is incredibly important, because around Christmas that year Lisa moves into hospice. So, Josh now spends as much time there with her as she'll let him, and Dusty is always the one to drag him out and get him to climb trees and play sports and go swimming, just the way his mom used to.

Josh starts getting in trouble less at school, because now he has an outlet, and he feels responsible for making things easier on his mom and dad, since he can tell his dad is having just as hard of a time with this as he is.

Josh is at school in sixth grade when Lisa finally dies. He has known for a few weeks that it was coming soon; a lot of days, his mom doesn't really recognize him or his dad anymore. He visits her before school every morning and spends a few hours most nights with her, just in case something happens, so she doesn't have to die alone. The morning of the day she dies, he visits her, just like normal, and he thinks she might even recognize that he's someone important, that day, because he sees just a tiny spark of recognition there, and he tells her he loves her and he goes off to school.

He is in fourth period when he gets the call down to the office, and Dusty is teasing him, all, "What did you do NOW, Josh?" because he's been friends with Josh long enough to know that he's on a first-name basis with the school principal. And, for once, Josh is completely baffled, and that scares him a lot.

He walks into the office, and his dad is sitting on one of the little, neon orange, plastic chairs they have for when students are waiting in the office to see the principal, and he looks smaller than Josh has ever seen him. Josh immediately knows, Mom didn't make it.

You know, the way he handles balancing RJ and the C&C makes a lot of sense, when you look at his history. Because he's used to stretching himself to make things work, cramming a few hours of studying in a hospital waiting room or consolidating trips out with his friends with picking up the groceries because his mom is bedridden. He is used to shifting his own life to suit the needs of other people, so when RJ says he's feeling neglected, that is Josh's gut instinct. It's just that this time, it's not balancing caring for his sick mom and going to school and hanging out with his friends. This time, it's balancing college and extracurriculars and two separate relationships and his friends and he's a college student, so it's not like he was getting much sleep before, anyway, and it's just too much.

/fin

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PostSubject: Re: poly!verse   Sun May 12, 2013 1:57 am


Josh bounded into the room, plopping down on Seth’s bed before Seth could say a word. Seth rolled his eyes.

“So, you seem to be in a good mood. What happened today?”

“Cody talked to me!” Josh said, practically beaming. “I was talking to Colette, since we’re friends and all, and Cody came up behind us and, Seth, he TALKED to me!”

Seth was used to his friend being easily excited, but whenever Cody was involved, that only seemed to intensify. Sometimes, Josh would get excited over the sheer fact that Cody (might have) looked at him when walking down the hallway. Josh rambles on about how people like Cody never notice people like him, and Seth always tells him that he’s wrong; it’s very hard not to notice someone like Josh, all bright eyes and flailing limbs and barely contained energy and no sense of what is and is not appropriate to talk about very, very loudly in public.

It would honestly surprise Seth if Cody had never noticed Josh, with Josh and Seth’s newly formed relationship with Colette. Seth had met Cody once or twice, because Josh had been making an effort, and in the process learned that Colette was a werewolf and that the full moon sucked on wolfsbane.

For all intents and purposes, Seth didn’t mind. In fact, he was happy to help Colette, and he was happy to have her around. Colette seemed sweet and genuine and intelligent, and she was good with Josh. Josh fell into things with Colette remarkably easy (though Seth was starting to suspect that that was a sign that Colette should be close to Josh. Josh always fell face first into the important relationships.)

When Josh realized that his brand new friend was also the girl dating Cody, Seth was proud of how easily he took things in stride. Obviously, he had a bit of a meltdown about the relationship existing, because Cody dating a girl definitely meant that Josh and Cody weren’t entirely on the same page in the sexual orientation department, and Cody was no longer on the market. But, when he realized the girl was Colette (ages after everyone else already knew), Josh had a pretty hard time holding that against her. Seth vaguely remembered a high five going down.

So, Colette being around meant Cody being around Josh more than he used to. It was really inevitable that the two would have a conversation at some point. Josh stuck out in a crowd (whether he believed he did or not), and with Josh quickly becoming one of Colette’s consistent friends, there was no way Cody could not have at least acknowledged that he existed.

“What did he say?” Seth said, deciding to humor Josh.

“Hello!” Josh said, as if this were some sort of divine revelation. “He said hello to me when we passed in the hallway!”

“Is that all, then?”

Josh nodded quite seriously. “It’s the first time he’s ever talked to just me, Seth. Not like, a blanket conversation when you’re there and he wants to straighten out the full moon stuff. Like, he said hello to ME.”

Seth sighed, not even sure what to say to Josh on that front. “You are the only person I know who could get so excited about a one-word conversation.

“Hey, it wasn’t one word!” Josh said, almost sounding offended. “I said hello back!”

“Two words, my mistake.”

“Two words more than usual,” Josh pouted.

Seth took pity on him and gave Josh a big hug. “It’s progress.”

Josh leaned into Seth. “I just want him to notice me, you know? I know… I know he has Colette, and I want her to be happy, but…”

“But if you can’t have what you want, you at least want something,” Seth finished.

Josh nodded. “I know a lot of people… can’t watch someone they crush on crushing on someone else, you know? And, like, I thought I couldn’t, either. But the longer this goes on, the more I’m starting to realize that I’m genuinely not jealous of Colette. I’m just kind of sad, because Colette is wonderful and Cody is wonderful, and they’re wonderful together, and if they break up, I’ll be sad, but I can’t have it both ways. I can’t have them get out unscathed and have Cody run away with me and have everything work out. So, until the day when things work out for me, I just want some kind of recognition. I want some proof that I’m worth at least something to him, even if it’s just getting acknowledged in the hallway for being his girlfriend’s dopey friend. Is that pathetic?”

“No, it isn’t.”

Josh nodded and sighed. “Then that’s what I want.”

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PostSubject: Re: poly!verse   Tue May 28, 2013 5:25 am

Jessie

Jessie thought that when her parents told her, “You’ll be on your own someday, since we won’t always be there,” that they were talking about the far future, after her time at the Salem Academy of Sorcery. She thought that when they dropped her off at Grandma Roth’s with a suitcase full of clothes and her favorite doll, they would be back in a few days to take her home. She thought that moving in was temporary, like her parents told her. Then again, her father’s favorite saying was “everything is temporary.”

“Temporary” turned into years with her grandmother, interspersed with visits from her parents whenever they could find the time. Jessie grew used to the war, humid, erratic Florida weather and getting at least one bad sunburn per year when she got distracted playing at the beach and didn’t reapply. She grew to the faint smell of mothballs and her grandmother’s firm but kind chastisement when she had another magical episode and accidentally healed the skinned knee of her friend from down the street. Jessie got used to her grandmother’s impatience whenever she struggled with new words in books and the way the neighborhood kids tilted their heads when she explained that she was homeschooled but knew more about penguins and airplanes and trees and books than they did (this made her the de facto leader, even though she did not go to school with them).

Jessie’s grandmother, Winry Roth, was surprisingly no-nonsense for a former Remington, but she was also warm and supportive and understanding. When Jessie was in a state because she hadn’t seen her parents in a month, Grandma Roth always organized a meeting (and until they could meet, she would pull out the old photo albums and tell embarrassing stories about Jessie’s father and mother). Jessie’s parents would always take Jessie to new places, telling her that someday, she would have adventures on her own.

It wasn’t until Jessie was five years old that they gave her the first camera she ever owned. It was a cheap camera, a point and shoot disposable camera that cost all of ten dollars, but to Jessie it was exciting. She used up her first roll of film by the end of the day, and wouldn’t sit still or stay quiet until her grandmother took her to get it developed. Her fingers were clumsy, and the photos were blurred, but she proudly picked her favorite, one of her grandmother and her two parents, and taped it to the wall.

For her eleventh birthday, her parents got her a nice camera, one with fancy lenses and expensive film. She was scared to use it at first, so she kept it on her dresser in its case, only pulling it out every once in a while to stare at it adoringly. She didn’t finally start using it util her grandmother let her take a course in developing film at the community center, and she wanted to have something to develop. That summer, she spent more time in the dark room than she did at home, and the teacher eventually gave her a key to the room, because she spent so much time there.

Whenever she went on trips with her parents to Paris or Germany or New York City or Seattle, she would use rolls of film, and she would bring them back home to develop them and go through them with her grandmother. They would pick their favorites and pin them on the bulletin boards that they put up in her room.

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PostSubject: Re: poly!verse   Sun Jun 09, 2013 8:55 pm

JODY

Kat: My brain is writing Cody and Josh talking about RJ
Ells:Inform meeee
Kat:Josh in my head is really quiet because he feels guilty. Cody brings it up and I thought Josh was going to try to dodge around it but that actually isn't the case at all. As soon as Cody basically says there's something fishy going on, Josh finally mans up and tells Cody what is going on and that he didn't plan on doing anything because he loves them and they come first and I have no idea where it goes from there.
Ells:I have a feeling Cody just sits there for a minute. I think despite him being somewhat aware of what all the signs pointed to, and the relief of the fact that Josh isn't actually like sleeping with the guy behind their backs, he still....it takes a minute for him to know what to say, so he's just quiet.
Kat:Josh feels really offended that Cody would think that of him, but he knows he probably deserves that. He was being rather secretive. And yeah. I can understand him being a bit quiet. I mean, it's not an easy statement to really react to
Ells:I think Cody's first question is if RJ is worth causing this fuss over. It sounds hostile but at the time he doesn't mean it that way...he just wants to make sure that the conversation they're about to need to have is worth having.
Kat:Josh would say he isn't sure. He says that he really likes him, but if it upsets C&C too much, he can forget about it and just spend less time with RJ and hope it goes away. So, really, I guess the answer is that, yes, he is, but not if he is going to lose C&C in the process.
Ells:Cody says that losing them will only happen if Josh decides he doesn't want them anymore. It's more than he wants to admit, but it's true...they both love Josh so much and they all have different issues and flaws and stuff that they've managed to work around...he can't imagine either of them even thinking about ending things with Josh unless Josh wasn't happy with them anymore.
Kat:I think that is the first point when Josh starts to realize that there is a possibility that he might have both C&C AND RJ. Up until this point, he was thinking it was one or the other.
Ells:Cody is already trying to work out what he's going to have to say to Colette. Once Josh didn't put out an absolute 'no' on RJ he was resigned to it happening. He doesn't know how to keep the two of them 100% happy at the same time.

RJOSH

Kat:The problem with writing this scene that I want to is that in my head, I see it as Josh being really scared to bring it up and RJ giving him the usual RJ treatment and Josh being like, "Well..."
Ells:So basically RJ says something mildly off-color in his usual playful, suggestive way and instead of getting back the usual obvious block (if flustered and blushing) there is suddenly this different feel of Josh not playing it off?
Ells:Anyway, RJ would notice, but I doubt he'd really pounce on it. More like he'd kind of turn things up and instead of just making comments, he would shift to more sort of open-ended stuff or questions to see if he can get Josh to give something away
Kat: I was thinking they were out walking around and just hanging out and maybe we could start from there?
Ells:So kind of a 'we agreed to meet up and then we did but we don't really know what we're doing yet' thing
Kat:Yup
Ells:In fact xD if Josh were to ask what they were doing that day RJ would be like, "Well, I had a few ideas *eyebrow quirk*" xD
Kat:xD That would be perfect. And Josh would be all, "Uh..." Shifting uncomfortably all the while
Ells: RJ would be kind of caught off guard by Josh's reaction because he's supposed to be used to the flirty stuff at this point. He'd probably laugh and say something like he should know better than to even think about it by now
Kat:And Josh will be like, "Uh..."
Kat:Josh decoder: "Uh..." = "Well, I'm kinda thinking it by now"
Ells: RJ's like, "Did you wear your jaw out before you got here or what?" xD
Kat:Josh turns red and says that Cody's in class.
Ells:*fake offended look* Don't tell me you started hitting with someone other than the wonder twins and didn't tell me first. *shakes his head* (very clearly joking, just messing with him about his ums and ers)
Kat:Not hitting with, no.
Ells:I think RJ doesn't know what to do with that answer. He'd probably leave it for the moment and start talking about what their actual plans are
Kat:*snuggles RJ* What ARE their plans?
Ells:I have no idea xD what the hell do these two DO together before they date
Kat:I don't even know. xD You can only platonically soda drink so often
Ells:And movies are too date-y. So like. Lunch. Laser tag. RJ would always be suggesting the most insane stuff like base-jumping and then getting talked back down to, like, going to mini-golf for the pure purpose of fucking with everyone who is seriously there to play mini-golf. And then there'd be all the consequences of saying, "Yeah, dude!" to a whole baseball team. "Hey, I told Heron I'd show up at his nephew's birthday party. There'll be cake?" Heron's not even going xD Heron is the laziest guy, I don't even know how he's on the team. He was one of RJ's roommates and the party is baseball-themed and the kid's like 5 or something and he does NOT want to be there alone getting hit on by desperate housewives xD
(we decide on lunch)
Ells:Anywho. They go back and forth on what to eat for lunch and then they go there.
Kat:Right. They go to eat foodstuffs. Things probably fluff out a bit and they talk about the few things they have in common. Developments in the world of baseball, classes... They're done eating, they're getting ready to pay.
Ells:I have this vision of RJ leaning back and patting his stomach and saying something about being totally satisfied....then correcting himself..."Well, I'm not /hungry/ anymore." xD
Kat: Josh looks at him and completely seriously asks what would satisfy him
Ells:RJ almost says something shamefully explicit in public then catches on to Josh's tone. "*shrug* Nothing I can can have."
Kat:"What if you could?"
Ells:Long, long pause and very serious face, determining whether they're on the same page. "What ifs could make a guy miserable."
Kat:"What if the what if isn't just a what if?"
Ells:Are we setting up for Who's on First or are you going to actually say something?
Kat: "Uh... I should probably say something, shouldn't I?"
Ells:*shakes head* Not if you're going where I think you're going.
Kat:Oh. Okay then.
Ells:You....wouldn't do that. *looks away*
Kat:I talked it over with Cody and Colette. Cody noticed that I've been... er... he noticed that... it wasn't just the friendship thing I wanted it to be, so the three of us talked things over.
Ells:You....what? (oh god he's so thrown off his game right now oh god)
Kat:I like you. I like you and apparently I was doing an awful job of hiding it because Cody noticed and asked if you were worth it and... I couldn't really say no. He told Colette and the three of us talked things over.
Ells:....you really were awful at hiding it. *still processing this*
Kat:Josh turns red and looks down. He doesn't know what to say to that.
Ells:*skeptical* You had a talk with your boyfriend and girlfriend. About me.
Kat:Yes.
Ells:And they said....
Kat:Yes.
Ells:*ugly laugh* If I'd thought it was that easy, I'd have asked them myself.
Kat:It's... not a perfect agreement. They're not thrilled about it, and you have to meet them, before anything happens.
Ells:So why bother?
Kat:Because I like you. I'm not going to leave them. I love them and they make me happy and that won't change. I don't want to push you into anything, especially since I don't plan to give up Cody and Colette, ever. But... Cody and Colette know me well enough by now to know that these things don't just go away, for me. They want me to be happy.
Ells:(jesus i did not expect this to be such an interesting and conflicting set lf feels for RJ)
Kat:(?)
Ells:(he's sitting here and the one side of him is like live your fucking motto dude, you want it and it's available, take it and the other half is like 'so wait. I get to play backdoor lover to a guy who has made it perfectly clear that basically he's not going anywhere but he's infatuated with me?')
Kat:(Yeah. RJ basically gets the short end of the stick.)
Ells:(I mean he eventually realizes that there IS NO short end with Josh, that's not how it works at all, but as of now Josh is just a friend he's been wishing he could wrangle into bed. It seems like a pile of trouble to him. But...he always was getting into trouble.)
Kat:(Josh in my head has convinced himself that he read the situation all wrong and is like 99% sure that RJ doesn't want anything with him after all.)
Ells: So, what I'm looking at is....a loan. I have to get approved first, and I've got to give you back. Is that right?
Kat: Josh winced. "That... You... Okay. Message received. No. Got it."
Ells:*puts up a hand* Whoa. I'm not...I just need to know where I stand here. I'm not saying no.
Kat: When you put things that way, I can't help but feel like a jackass for suggesting it in the first place. I can't even argue with it.
Ells: It's not like I'm...I can't give you what you have with them, anyway. I'm not that guy. And if trying to get what you want makes you a jackass, I'm the biggest one there is. This whole thing should be making my day.
Kat: I'm sorry it's not... and I know you can't. I don't want you to be them. I don't want to plunge straight into anything long-term right off the bat, because that isn't how you are, and I know that. That wouldn't be fair to anyone. I just want... fuck, I don't even know what I want, but I know it doesn't involve pretending I don't like you when I do.
Ells:*sighs and then, slowly, nods* Right. So where do I sign?
Kat:*looks at him for a second, surprised* Wait, seriously?
Ells: You really think you're the only one who's been thinking about this being /more/? The reason I don't do regrets is I don't pass up opportunities. I'm probably going to get dropped on my ass, but at least this way I tried.
Kat:*blinks* I think this just went much better than I expected it to. If I actually had the patience to plan out what I was going to say, I would've focused more on what to say when this all went south. I didn't expect you to want... Okay. What now?
Ells:*raised eyebrows* You're kidding, right? Have you been, like, blacked out the whole time every time we hang out? And I guess I make plans to meet the Mrs. and Mr.
Kat: I figured you were just flirting out of habit? I don't know. We'll work out a time when we can all meet and then we'll hopefully go from there.
Ells: So, wait. You went through all this...with no idea that I dig you too?
Kat: Maybe?
Ells:*laughs* You're crazy. I can never get you to do anything fun but you'll pull shit like this. What am I gonna do with you?
Kat: Hopefully, when Cody and Colette give the green light, go on a date with me.
Ells: So you think they'll...okay me? Or whatever.
Kat: You'll have more trouble with Cody than Colette, I think, but... they should. I hope.
Ells: RJ has this sort of air about him like, "This is probably the second worst idea I ever had, but oh well." xD he's resigned himself to probable disaster but is hopeful that he'll at least get something good out of it, if only short-term
Kat: Like, the way RJ described the situation was so negative. He was basically like, "So you're on a loan" and he seemed not crazy about the idea at all and then everything flipped and he isn't sure what happened but he's not going to question RJ about it because he doesn't want him to change his mind.
Ells: It's just that....Josh's idea and RJ's idea of what sort of thing is negative is so different. The loan thing, from him, wasn't supposed to be anything hurtful or even negative...he was summing it up as it looked to him, and he's thinking that according his attitude and lifestyle...a guy on loan should actually be his dream. He saw what trying to put baseball first and having a mono, long-term relationship at the same time did. This way, it's fair to Josh if he's busy or tired...Josh has other people to go to that CAN be that round-the-clock system of love and support.
Kat: Josh doesn't think of himself as being on loan. He thinks of himself as a direct money transfer, because even though RJ is going to have to give him back at the end of the day, Josh isn't going to love him any less. And right now I'm reminded again just how much love Josh really does have for him. For all three of them.
Ells: RJ's head isn't on that level at all yet, though. Love is...love happens later. Love has all these strings attached. Right now he's hung up on the idea that every time they were out doing something goofy and he thought, "Why can't I just /have/ him?" ....well, he sort of CAN, if he's given the go-ahead.
Ells: I think it helps the whole situation that this whole possibility has occurred to RJ before. 'If he can date both of them....'
Kat: Josh isn't quite at love yet, either. xD But when he is, it's like, POW. *snuggles RJ* Is it mostly about the sex and physical stuff for RJ at this point? Like, I know how Josh goes through the process, but I don't know how things progress for RJ. Also, I figured out how the process went for Josh for Jodette.
Ells: I don't think it's necessarily a totally /sexual/ thing at this point, he's capable of just bouncing into bed but I think he knows that's not happening (“This kid is way too easily embarrassed to be a freak...'), but it is mostly physical with a side of....just...self-assurance. It's like Josh has had a big 'Do Not Touch' sign on his forehead and now he gets to overrule that and he's allowed to mean his innuendo xD instead of just trying to make Josh uncomfortable
Ells: Oooooh tell me about Josh with the Jodette process
Ells: RJ is totally not above an internal happy dance over swaying a taken man into his path xD it's like conquest except that he wasn't even really trying xD
Kat:*snuggles RJosh* would RJ go for kissing on the first date? And with Jodette, Josh was already physically/sexually attracted to Cody for the longest time so that is not much of a gap but he wants to make sure he can do that with Colette, too, before he does anything with Cody, because he doesn't think it's fair otherwise. I think after the first time when Colette kisses him is when he finally looks at her and he's like, "Okay, that was a girl, but I'm definitely getting butterflies in my stomach and that was actually pretty nice I can see myself doing that a lot."
Ells: honestly RJ is up for kissing as soon as he thinks Josh would allow it xD kissing might as well be breathing for RJ
Kat:I'm trying to decide how long Josh waits for the first kiss. I don't think it's incredibly long.

/fin

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PostSubject: Re: poly!verse   Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:23 pm

Josh Snippet


Josh was just settling in at the kitchen table with his book bag when he got the text from Seth reminding him that their project for magic theory was due Tuesday. The two of them were partnering up to present for the class, and while Seth was almost done with his half, Josh had barely started his. He’d taken the books he needed out from the library (though the only reason he didn’t put that off was because Seth scheduled in time to search the stacks together), but he’d only read enough to jot down one page of notes.

After staring down the stack of books sitting in the corner of the kitchen for a minute and a half, Josh finally waved them over to the table. He gently opened the first book, intending to get down to business, but the book reeked of dust and ancient magic, and after sneezing five times in a row, Josh became curious. He flipped to the card in the back, which kept track of who checked out the book before the system became automated, and started searching through the names listed. He didn’t recognize any of them, but he was not surprised to see that the first name on the card had checked the book out in 1932.

When Josh’s phone vibrated again with a message from Seth saying, “Josh, concentrate!” Josh realized that he had wasted 20 minutes reading through the names and dates. Sighing, he turned back to the index of the musty old book, searching for the theory he and Seth were assigned.

As Josh was flipping around in the book, he kept running his elbows into the stack on the table. The chair was getting uncomfortable and stiff, and the table was slightly too high for his position to be entirely comfortable. So, he paused in the middle of the sentence he was in, marked his place with a corner he tore from his notebook paper, and moved all his materials to the kitchen floor.

The floor allowed him much more space to work, and he spread out as much as he could. He plopped down on the ground, laying on his stomach, his legs hooked around the wood of the chair he had been sitting in moments before and his elbows propping his head off the ground. For a few minutes, the new positioning was a vast improvement. He had perfectly arranged everything so it took minimal effort to read from the book and jot down his notes. He no longer had to keep shifting his weight and moving the book and darken the bruise forming on his elbow from knocking the stack of books as he moved back and forth between his book and his notebook.

It wasn’t long before that started getting uncomfortable, too, though. His elbows didn’t like being pressed against the cold, hard kitchen floor, and the lower part of his legs kept sticking to the ground, so he had to sit up. Even in his new position, everything was too low to the ground, though, and he had to bend down and strain uncomfortably when he had to write, so he shifted again.

Josh ran to the bedroom to grab a spare comforter to spread out on the floor, to avoid sore elbows and sticky legs, but then he started sliding around when he moved too much.

His book was on the floor, closed and forgotten.

But, as Josh was shifting his weight and tapping his fingers and flipping pages in his book, he started to think. He couldn’t find a comfortable way to sit using muggle methods, but what about magic?
______________________________________________________
The next day, Josh and Seth met to discuss their project. They still had a few days left to work, but Seth wanted to get in some practicing time before they had to present. Seth came with his slides finished, his research cited, and cue cards made.

Josh had a couple of pages of notes, but all that he had written on them were his discoveries about no-slip, anti-static magical cushioning mechanisms and their effectiveness.

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PostSubject: Re: poly!verse   Wed Jul 03, 2013 1:47 am

Ells: she's reading something for phil and Cody got really, really bored after doing all of the 'silently watching you be beautiful' a man is capable of and went off to see what Josh was up to
Ells: Cody just doesn't /get/ reading and Colette likes it and he regularly finds ways to busy himself when she's got her nose in something xD
Kat: Spending time with Josh is a good way *nods*
Ells: I feel like Colette would be the type to leave Cody in his room when she's planning to get into a book and texting Josh like, "Go surprise Cody in his room." xD Which would inevitably end in Cody answering the door in his glasses thinking Colette forgot something in his room or whatever xD
Kat: and standing at the door is Josh, grinning and waving
Ells: I don't think Cody remembers he's wearing them xD so he's just like, "Oh. Josh."
Kat: Josh is like, "Hi! Is it a bad time?"
Ells: Cody's a little bit confused about why it would be a bad time. So he's like, "No, no, I was just working on a....project," and he jerks a thumb over his shoulder toward a machine-in-progress and then he realizes he might be being rude and kind of opens the door wider and says, "Do you wanna come in?"
Kat: Josh beams and says, "Sure!" and goes up to the machine and asks what it is.
Ells: Cody kinda scratches the back of his head and looks down. "It's, uh....it's not finished. This-" he points to a little metal ball, "is gonna push this down." He points to the lever on a battered toaster down on the other side of the table. And he waves at the rest of the stuff in the middle, a pinwheel and some dominoes and stuff and he's a little bit red in the face. "It's...I just do it for fun. It's /really/ not finished."
Kat: Josh is impressed and asks if Cody can show him when it is done.
Ells:I think Cody's a little surprised because the few people who have seen them/heard about it that aren't Colette think it's really dumb. "Uh, sure, yeah. Yeah. You can do the first run, even."
Kat: Josh's face lights up. "Really? You're the best! That is going to be so cool!"
Ells: Cody feels a little bit proud of himself, partly because SOMEONE THINKS THIS IS COOL and partly because Josh is happy and he did that. I think he's already starting to get into the habit of trying to learn how to make that happen. He just smiles and kinda toys with one of the sections of the machine (where he'd been working before Josh came) and is like, "It's no big deal. So, um, what's up?"
Kat: Josh says, "Nothing much. Just thought I'd say hi."
Ells: Cody's all, "How did you even know I was going to be here?"
Kat: Josh grins sheepishly and admits, "Colette."
Ells:Cody laughs, because of course it was Colette, and he's like "She must be reading a /long/ book, then."
Kat: and Josh says, "She said it was something for philosophy. That was the point when my attention span went out the window."
Ells: Cody groans really dramatically and goes to put his hand over his eyes like oh my god why and then he feels that his glasses are on his face and he pulls them off and goes to folding them before he realizes how stupid it is he's been wearing them all this time and he's just kinda standing there holding them with like nothing to say. His glasses are now the elephant in the room
Kat: Josh reaches out his hand and asks if he can see them.
Ells: Cody is just like, "Uh....." and kinda holds them against his chest for a second but it's totally a lost cause so he just kind of thrusts them at Josh like he doesn't want to be touching them anymore xD
Ells: god he hates those things
Kat: Josh unfolds them and holds them up in the air in front of Cody's face, like he's looking at Cody with them on but they aren't on, and after a second or two, he folds them back up and he hands them to Cody and he says, "Not gonna lie, totally digging the glasses thing."
Ells: Cody wrinkles his nose and just kinda shakes his head. "Hate 'em. The few years I /had/ to wear them in grade school sucked so bad."
Kat: "You look good in them, but if there are not so happy memories associated with them..." Josh doesn't want to press
Ells: Cody shrugs. "It's not like anybody picked on me for them or anything. I just can't stand them. My contacts kill my eyes, though." He's purposely dancing around all these positive comments about him + the glasses xD
Kat: Josh shrugs. "I'm lucky. I have good enough vision that I've never needed them. I have a pair of fake glasses that one of my friends gave me for a Halloween costume a few years back, but I left them back home. Glasses don't look as good on me as they do on you."
Ells: Cody just has this look on his face similar to the look when Josh said picnics could be friend things
Ells: like, "Really? Are you deluding yourself?"
Ells: and he's just
Ells: "They must look /awful/ on you, then."
Kat: Josh tilts his head a little. "You're ridiculous sometimes, aren't you?
Ells: Cody just has this weird moment like....he means this, and that's weird, and he keeps liking all these things about me that I make a big deal out of no one seeing and it is WEIRD. Josh is weird. But he can't say he doesn't like it. And he's all, "I guess. Sometimes. Not about the glasses, though, they're stupid."
Kat: "Easy on the eyes, though," Josh says, and he has this grin on his face like, 'fuck yeah I just made a lame glasses pun'
Ells: I think Cody goes to protest for a second
Ells: and then the pun hits him
Ells: and he just kind of closes his mouth and shakes his head
Ells: like 'what am I gonna do with you?'
Kat: Josh just grins widely
Kat: He's so used to the head shaking
Kat: it doesn't even faze him anymore
Ells: Cody can't see for shit right now
Ells: and he's really, really not putting his contacts back in
Ells: so since Josh has already apparently signed off on them he just puts them back on
Ells: and he has a mirror over his chest of drawers
Ells: and he kind of glances at it
Ells: and he's like, "Seriously? You like these?"
Ells: with the implied tone of "What's WRONG with you?!"
Kat: Josh laughs. "Don't act so stunned. Glasses don't make you less attractive, Cody."
Ells: anywho Cody is just like, "Well, they don't make me /more/ attractive, that's for sure. Colette says they make me look older."
Kat: Josh looks at him a second. "I can see that. I don't know that you look any better or worse. You just look like Cody with glasses. You're not fair either way."
Ells: "Not fair?" Cody is not familiar with this way people talk xD he doesn't like blogs and Colette doesn't talk like that and neither do jocks so he's just like....uh??
Kat: Josh just kinda gestures vaguely at Cody. "Yeah. Not fair, you know?"
Ells: "No?" He is kind of ready to just write that one off into the 'Josh is weird' category because um, hello, Burkenshire. the whole point is to be fair xD
Kat: Josh's cheeks get a little pink and he says, "I'm telling you you're hot, Cody."
Ells: "Ohhhhhh." Short pause. BIG laugh. "That's....not really....my fault."
Kat: "Sure it is," Josh says. "I mean, you had total control over your DNA, you know."
Ells: Cody's face kind of just... closes off.
Ells: And suddenly he's just like, "Mmm." instead of really responding
Ells: and goes back to poking at the parts of his machine
Kat: Josh's face falls. "I screwed up again, didn't I? I'm sorry."
Ells: He jerks his head back over his shoulder. "What?" He realizes he's upset Josh but he's not really one hundred percent on why and he just kind of gestures at his work. "No, I'm just...this still needs a lot of work."
Kat: "Do you want me to leave?
Ells: "No!" He kind of turns sideways and looks back and forth between the table and Josh for a second and finally he sits down the little piece he's picked up. "I mean, do you wanna do something else?"
Kat: Josh kinda shifts around a little. He knows if he tries to stay in one place for too long, he'll start getting really antsy, but he doesn't want to take Cody from his work. "Nah, this is fine."
Ells: Totally not fooling Cody. He realizes that while getting to watch a crazy loopy domino chain knock over stuff and then something blows up a balloon til it pops and all that is fun, but the actual work on the machine is boring to other people. "No, it can wait. I don't have all my parts anyway. Seriously."
Kat: "I don't have anything else I really wanna do, though."
Ells: Cody gets this kind of slow wicked grin on his face before he realizes THIS IS NOT COLETTE you can't just DO that we're not there yet
Ells: so he quickly covers up with something really badly lame, like, "We could just talk?"

Kat: Josh doesn't want to just sit in one place and talk because that is just as bad as sitting and watching Cody work. "Talking and walking? ADHD. Not great for sitting in one place."
Ells: anyway, Cody thinks about it and he's like, "Um, unless you wanna be my guide dog I just need to-" and kinda points towards his bathroom and goes to take off his glasses
Kat: "Oh. If you don't want to put 'em back in, we can just stay here."
Ells: he probably takes a second to make sure he doesn't have dumb red eyes or anything
Ells: oh god I can just see Cody having just gotten his contacts in
Ells: and the mirror of the sink
Ells: and
Ells: all of a sudden he's weirdly squirmy in the gut
Ells: and he kinda puts his hands through his hair a few times
Ells: before he goes back out
Kat: So Josh is chillin' outside
Kat: trying not to touch anything
Kat: he wants so badly to touch stuff
Kat: but he knows that's rude
Kat: Seth and his dad have informed him of that fact
Kat: many times
Ells: there's not even really that much to touch
Ells: Cody's neat.
Ells: He has like two shirts folded on top of his chest of drawers that he hasn't put away, and a couple pairs of underwear
Ells: and then there's the stuff on the table for the machine
Ells: the bed's not made cause Colette just left a little bit ago
Ells: all of his excess junk stays in the closet in containers
Ells: so Cody comes back out of the bathroom and he has his folded-up glasses and he just kind of sits them on his work table
Ells: because that's the next time he'll need them
Kat: "You ready to go?"
Ells: Cody's like, "Yeah, I just, um...shoes." and sits down on his bed and pulls out a pair of sneakers (his shoes are lined up in a row under the edge of the bed okay I can't even) and starts putting them on. "So, where are we going?"
Kat: Josh laughs. "Good question. Didn't really think that one through."
Kat: He's thinking
Kat: he has lots of nooks and crannies that he's found, though
Kat: he figures working out a place shouldn't be hard
Ells: "Somehow I feel like this might be even more dangerous than letting Colette pick a destination."
Kat: "It'll be an adventure, that's for sure."
Ells: "...well I'm glad I'm not wearing my good socks then." He finishes tying up his shoes. "Alright then. Lead me to my death."
Kat: "I have a policy of not killing my boyfriends."
Ells: Cody gets this weird look on his face, half grin half a little shock, like he's not used to that yet. "Yeah, but you don't really have a track record to go by, do you?"
Kat: Josh grins and says, "Well, Seth and I discovered this place, and neither of us are dead, so I think you're good."
Kat: Josh takes him to somewhere
Kat: I suspect it is somewhere hidden
Kat: and possibly a high place
Kat: I mean
Kat: SAS has to have hidden passages, too, right?
Ells: secret passages are a thing and Jody are wandering off to ~somewhere~ and it is ~hidden~ and therefore ~alone~
Kat: it ends in a tower-y area
Kat: and Josh laughs
Kat: because he tells Cody
Kat: he had no idea where it was the first time he went there
Kat: because SAS never looked particularly tower-y
Kat: and there's a window
Kat: and you can see the entire campus from it
Kat: and it's a little dusty and cobwebby
Kat: but you can pop the window open and look out
Kat: and Josh just looks so proud of himself for having found it
Ells: that almost sounds like they've found some way to disappear into not just the hidden extra floor
Ells: but like
Ells: even more than that
Ells: like there's stuff that even some of the teachers have forgotten exists
Kat: Josh likes sticking his nose where it doesn't belong
Kat: and he finds a lot of cool places because of it
Kat: and so he's all, "Well, what do you think? Not dead, are you?"
Ells: "Not nearly." Cody actually thinks it's kind of cool, even if there's a certain kind of grossness about old places xD "How do you /find/ this stuff?"
Kat: Josh shrugs. "I get bored and curious. I poke around in places I'm not supposed to. I've always had a knack for finding places off the beaten path, even since I was a kid."
Ells: Cody shakes his head. "This isn't just out of the way. This shouldn't....exist. I mean, look, nothing's this high up here."
Kat: Josh laughs. "There's a room on the other side of the building that is slightly higher. You can see a city in the distance. I could never tell if it was Fairview or some sort of wizarding magic to make this place look less isolated. I've always wanted to investigate, but I never actually have."
Ells: Cody is just kind of silent for a while, torn between looking out over the campus and then looking back at Josh
Ells: and finally he realizes it's starting to be really weird how quiet he is
Ells: and he's just like, "Thanks."
Ells: because he would never think about the need to elaborate on that
Ells: just thanks
Kat: Josh just kinda blinks
Kat: The idea of someone thanking him for that kinda baffles him
Kat: "You're welcome?"
Ells: "I mean, I wouldn't have seen it without you. Colette only like the woods. Not to mention her thing about heights. You're the only person who could've shown me this."
Kat: "Technically, Seth could've as well. Whenever I find something new, he insists on going with me, because he knows I'm crap at getting myself out of trouble."
Ells: Cody's face goes all scrunchy for a second and then he's just, y'know, out with it. "But...I wouldn't want to come here with Seth."
Kat: "Oh." Josh's whole face lights up. "I like showing people new places." He stops, and amends that. "I like showing you new places. I don't really show people places like this. The more people who know, the less special they become, you know?"
Ells: kat wait
Ells: I have all these inside feelings now
Ells: they're not really Cody's well sort of, sort of they are Cody and Colette's but mostly they are mine
Ells: I just
Ells: JOSH DOESN'T KNOW BUT HE'S KINDA TALKING ABOUT HIMSELF TOO
Ells: THIS IS WHY IT'S SO GREAT THAT PEOPLE AREN'T ALWAYS HITTING ON HIM
Ells: THAT NO ONE EVER LOOKED HIS WAY
Ells: if everyone could see
Ells: what Cody and Colette and RJ do
Ells: it wouldn't be so special anymore
Ells: Cody just kind of nods because that's kind of deeper than he usually goes. It sounds like something Colette would like to hear. "You don't...have to share that. For me. You should keep it yours, if it's special."
Kat: Josh looks at Cody like he's being silly. "Sharing special things with special people makes them even better. Next time I come up here, I won't think of scouting this place out with Seth, I'll think of coming here with you, making it even more special."
Ells: Cody is constantly baffled by this boy. He shakes his head. "I'm not special, Josh. I know you haven't had time to figure that out."
Kat: Josh looks out the window to buy himself some time to think. He wants to dodge around him having an enormous crush on Cody for five years. Ultimately, he says, "It doesn't take that long to work it out. It takes time to get to know you, sure, but just recognizing you're something else? No time at all." Josh feels like he's talking too much.
Ells: Cody snorts. "Something else. Yeah, that sounds about right." He's occupying himself picking out familiar spots on campus. "I know everyone likes me. That doesn't really mean anything, though."
Kat: Josh pokes him in the side, looking jokingly affronted. "Hey, now. I don't like you because everyone else likes you. That's just stupid."
Ells: Cody finally properly looks at him again and just kind of stares at him because...doesn't everyone else kind of worry about all of that? "Why...no, never mind."
Kat: Josh is visibly confused. "You look like this is some kind of shock."
Ells: "Nobody thinks like that. It's high school. People like you because people like you. It doesn't make any sense, but that's how it works. I play football and the team's winning so everyone likes me.,
Kat: Josh stares at Cody for a second. "You seriously think I agreed to date you because the football team's winning and you play football?"
Ells: He looks kind of...almost bashful for a second. "No." He's looking /at/ Josh but not meeting his eyes. "Colette doesn't hang out with those kinds of people. That doesn't mean I understand why, though."
Kat: "Because I like you, silly. I like you and I like Colette and that's all the reason I need."
Ells: Cody's brow furrows for a few seconds, like that makes very little sense at all, but he shakes it off. "That's good, since that's really all we've got."
Ells: He smiles. "We like you too, you know."
Kat: Josh grins this sheepish little grin and says, "That's what I've been told. Still hasn't really sunk in. It's just kinda weird, you know?"
Ells: We don't really do normal, though, do we? Our girlfriend goes around on all fours once a month.
Kat: Josh laughs. He wants to say, 'It's just that after seventeen years with no one being interested, you start to wonder if it's less the rest of the world and more you,' but he doesn't because that's depressing. Instead, he goes back to looking out the window. "Werewolves are sexy, so it's all good," he jokes.
Ells: Cody cracks up. He's heard a lot of things about werewolves from people his age, but not really that one. "I don't have any other werewolves to go by, but if they're all like her..." He doesn't really know what else to say. He doesn't talk to other people about her. The team doesn't deserve it and his parents don't care. Cassidy sees for herself. He's never had to describe the way he sees her or feels for her.
Kat: Josh smiles. "You're gone for her, aren't you?"
Ells: "Yeah. I have no idea what would've happened if she hadn't found me. I mean, you know her. She's...it's dumb, everything people say about werewolves. She’s the most patient person I know. Which-" he laughs at himself, "really that's the only reason I still have her. I love her."
Kat: Josh gets this warm feeling in the pit of his stomach, and finding words to describe what he's feeling isn't easy. "Hey, Cody?"
Ells: Cody finally looks at him head on, eye to eye, but still kind of distracted by what he's been talking about. "Yeah?"
Kat: "Can you promise me something?"
Ells: He focuses a little bit, 'cause apparently something serious is happening. "I don't know. I can try?"
Kat: "I have a habit of screwing up good things. If this just isn't work out, and it's my fault, drop me." Josh looks completely serious. "You and Colette are really, really good together, and being alone isn't exactly foreign to me."
Ells: It's going to work.
Kat: I want it to. I want it to really, really badly. Just... promise me, please? Just in case?
Ells: Cody gets a determined set to his face. "I promise that if it doesn't work, I'll fix it. And if it doesn't work for /you/, we won't try and keep you. Good enough?"
Kat: Josh doesn't really like it as an answer, but he realizes it is as good as he's going to get. He stares out the window. "Okay."
Ells: Cody doesn't like this reaction. He puts a hand down on Josh's shoulder. "Hey, no. Look at me."
Kat: Josh's stomach goes a bit flippy about having Cody's hand on his shoulder. He turns his head to look Cody in the eyes.
Ells: "This isn't a shot in the dark or anything, you know that, right? It's not our free trial. This is going to work. We want it too much for it not to." He stops for a second, tries to get to the heart of what he's trying to say, but he's not quite ready to say it'll work simply because HE wants it to, even if he's not totally sure why. "I'm good at that, if anything. I can make things fit, even if I have to work at it."
Kat: "That's putting so much pressure on you, though. How is that even fair?"
Ells: I'm used to it.
Kat: Josh looks at him, biting his lip. The idea bothers him a lot. "Then this time it'll be different. We'll make it work, but if it gets to the point where you're having to try that hard to make this fit, and I can make your life easier by ducking out and letting you two be happy together, that's what's going to happen."
Ells: Cody is really weirded out by how weighted this feels. Like a big deal. "....fine. If it's that bad, we'll stop. It won't be, though."
Kat: Josh nods, seeming reassured. "Okay, good. Sorry for getting so intense in there. It's just... feels important. Like a discussion we should get out of the way early on."
Ells: Anything else you need to get out of the way?
Kat: Josh thinks for a second or two before his grin goes crooked. "Maybe one last thing."
Ells: Cody raises his eyebrows. "More promises?"
Kat: "Not this time."
Ells: ....alright. Shoot.
Kat: Josh hesitates for a second or two before leaning in closer. He stops right before kissing Cody, like, "If you don't want this, stop me now," before closing the gap the rest of the way and pressing his lips against Cody's
Ells: Even with the little bit of warning, Cody's still surprised and for a split second he's just standing there, eyes open, but as soon as he really registers what's happening, he closes his eyes and leans into it a little, the hand on Josh's shoulder sliding around to the back of his neck
Kat: Josh is a little surprised but mostly happy and there's kissy stuff!
Ells: so
Ells: I'm assuming
Ells: short-ish, very chaste kiss
Ells: so that would be where Cody pulls away and starts laughing
Kat: and Josh thinks to himself
Kat: "Was it that BAD?"
Kat: except
Kat: it doesn't seem malicious
Kat: so he just kinda stands there all fidgety-like
Ells: Cody stops laughing but his smile is still huge because it's kind of a mixed happy/amused laugh. "So, that was just something you needed out of the way, huh?"
Kat: Josh nods. "Definitely. Breaking the awkward first kiss barrier and all that fun stuff."
Kat: in his head
Kat: Josh is just like
Kat: "I can't believe I just did that and that I CAN do that like woahhhh"
Ells: Cody is really glad that Josh kinda did that for him because he had fussed with it so much in his head that he's not sure if he'd ever have done it on his own and if he had, he'd probably have made it a lot worse
Ells: he's kind of been super freaked out
Kat: Josh has been thinking about it
Kat: but he's been thinking about it for five years
Kat: but now he can actually do it
Kat: without being a jerkwad
Kat: so the thought has been popping up more
Kat: and
Kat: impulsive Josh
Kat: got the idea while he was talking
Kat: and was like
Kat: Fuck it let's go
Ells: Poor Cody being so in the dark about that ages-long crush *shakes head*
Kat: I still can't believe he has no idea
Ells: Cody doesn't really have a concept of that being possible?
Ells: Like
Ells: it goes along with the ~surface popularity~ thing
Ells: he knows there are a bunch of people who think he's hot
Ells: but
Ells: that's what it is
Ells: 'oh the quarterback's really hot'
Ells: I don't think he's ever considered the idea that someone might actually like him longterm and know things about him
Ells: Colette is kind of an anomaly in ALL things, to him, so she doesn't count
Ells: so, yeah, now that it's JOSH he can start to adjust to the idea of Josh liking him NOW
Ells: but he would never think there'd been an attraction there before
Ells: basically Cody is pretty super at keeping an eye on stuff about the people around him
Ells: but is kind of oblivious when it comes to stuff that affects him
Kat: Josh has sporadic obliviousness
Kat: he had no idea Colette was up to something
Kat: he figured that, for Cody, he was always just Colette and Josh's friend
Ells: xD what did I say in Isaac 'verse once? 'oh the oblivion of boyhood'?
Ells: silly, silly boys

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PostSubject: Re: poly!verse   Tue Jul 30, 2013 7:46 am

Josh finding out C&C were dating, early second year
___________________________________________________________________________

“You’re kidding, right? There’s no way he’s banging the new chem teacher already.”

“That’s what he said, at least.”

“You actually believe him? Last year he went around claiming he was dating Diana Glass, and everyone with eyes could see she was with Denver.”

Josh gave a small hum of assent and took a sip from the bottle in his hand. The smaller GSA social events always ended this way, with 10 people packed in the president’s dorm room, most of them buzzed and gossiping. They’d had the welcome back meeting for returning members, and instead of reserving one of the rooms, they decided to head straight for Ethan’s room, where all the alcohol was. Josh was one of the younger people there, and while he was technically just as much right to drink as anyone else there, Seth was close friends with the GSA president that year (damn swimming).

Josh’s drinking privileges had actually come up for a vote, and in a decision that Josh (and Dodge and a few pansexual fourth year girls) found horribly unfair, he was restricted to nonalcoholic beverages for the year unless someone else was going to be sober enough to make sure he didn’t get into trouble.

Which mostly meant never.

So, he was stuck with orange soda that wasn’t nearly as awesome unspiked, but it meant that he was absorbing most of the gossip going around the room. He learned all about his charms teacher’s predisposition towards cold calling and pop quizzes (he knew he had drawn the short end of the stick there, but he was becoming continuously less optimistic) and heard all about the girls’ volleyball team’s prospects for the year. He had never been to any of their games, but there were a few GSA members on the team, so he figured he’d pop into at least a few games to cheer them on.

“Oh, and that hot kid from the football team’s finally getting laid!”

“Which hot kid from the football team? There are lots of hot guys on that team.”

“The twinky one with the lips from our year that never actually played. I think he made QB this year, and might actually get off the bench.”

Josh’s stomach sank with the realization that he knew exactly who they were talking about. “Cody, you mean,” he said quietly.

“Yeah, him!” The girl (Harriett, who Josh was pretty sure was a fifth year) took a swig of her beer before continuing. “I mean, rumors have been going around about him getting it since last year, but no one’s actually ever caught him on a date or making out or anything until last week.”

Josh grew even more uncomfortable. He had heard that Cody was dating someone. The rumors had flown around about that at the end of the previous year, when Cody’s roommate supposedly started getting kicked out so Cody could have the room. Everyone had just dismissed it as talk, though, and Josh had hardly been willing to believe it. He really didn’t want to hear the rest of the story, but he could see the way Dodge was watching, like he was waiting for Josh to bolt.

Josh stayed in his seat and took a long sip of his soda to avoid the otherwise inevitable embarrassment of having Dodge be right or of saying something stupid.

“Who is it?” one of the fourth year girls asked, and Josh’s stomach lurched again. He distracted himself by playing with the label on his bottle, though he figured his face must’ve given everything away, based on the way Ethan’s arm reached over to squeeze Josh’s thigh reassuringly.

“Some redheaded chick no one’s ever heard of named Colette,” Harriett said excitedly, like the information she was offering was a real scoop. “I heard from one of the guys on the team that they’ve been going out for ages, they’ve just been keeping it on the down low.”

Josh could feel the blood rushing to his head, and although Harriett kept talking, he couldn’t understand a word she was saying. He felt sick, and he had to force himself to take deep breaths and calm himself down before it became frighteningly obvious how much this was affecting him. Josh could feel Dodge staring at him, even though Josh couldn’t meet his eyes, and Ethan clearly knew something bad was going down, because he had moved his arm around Josh and was whispering something (Josh couldn’t tell what, couldn’t pull himself together enough to make out anything except the feeling of air on the shell of his ear, but it was probably supposed to be calming).

It wasn’t until Josh felt his butt leaving the bed that things sharpened into focus a bit. “Josh isn’t looking too good, so we’re going to pop outside and grab some air,” Ethan said, his arm now tucked around Josh’s body, supporting most of Josh’s weight as he hauled him up from the bed to a standing position. Ethan caught his keys, which the girl sitting at his desk threw to him, and Josh worked himself up to holding enough of his weight so that he was walking out the door, instead of being dragged. He didn’t even realize he was no longer holding his soda until they’d made it down the stairs and out the emergency exit.

They walked back towards the Quodpot fields, and when they made it back to the fence, Ethan helped Josh ease back against the fence, giving him the option to sit or stay standing. Josh ended up sitting, knowing that if he tried to stay up, he’d just end up feeling dizzy.

“You okay there?” Ethan asked. He crouched down between Josh’s spread legs. “You looked like you were going to pass out in there.”

Josh took a few deep breaths before he felt settled enough to talk. “Yeah, I’m fine. Sorry for freaking you out there.” He paused. “That probably was not the most healthy reaction, at all.”

“Nope,” Ethan said, not hiding the concern in his eyes. “If all that was about the football dude, you’ve got yourself an unhealthy obsession, and you might need to talk to someone about it.”

“It kind of was,” Josh admitted, “but not entirely. It was… probably not entirely healthy, still, but it was also about Colette.” Josh’s tongue tripped over her name, and he couldn’t help but feel betrayed, which was completely irrational. “I met her in one of my classes earlier this year, and we’ve been really close. I didn’t get the impression she had a lot of other friends, and I definitely had no idea she and Cody were dating. It took me by surprise.”

Ethan looked at him expectantly, as if waiting for an explanation that would make his severe reaction logical, but all Josh could offer was, “I tend to be bad at managing strong emotions, and I was completely caught off guard and really upset and a little angry?”

“I already knew that,” Ethan said calmly, “and Seth warned me things weren’t usually as warm and fuzzy in the Josh zone as you let on. I just didn’t think it was that bad.”

“Yeah,” Josh said quietly. He was embarrassed about how he handled things now that he was outside. “I think part of it might have been all the people in there? If it were just me and Harriett, or… even if Colette broke the news to me herself, actually, then it would’ve been better, I think. I haven’t had that kind of reaction to anything in a while. It used to happen more frequently, but it hadn’t happened yet here.”

Ethan looked like he was going to say something, but before he could get a word in edgewise, Josh rushed out, “But please don’t suggest therapy, because that’s a long story and I don’t want to get into it but that’s not a thing that’s going to happen, not that therapy is bad or it makes me feel weak or anything like that, because I know it does wonders for some people, yay therapy! It’s just… a long story.”

“Okay,” Ethan said when he was finally positive Josh was done talking. Josh was feeling incredibly embarrassed, because he had actually really liked Ethan and respected him, and Ethan probably thought he was a nutjob. Josh just wanted to beat his head into the fence, or dig a hole in the football field and bury himself there.

Before he could get too deep into his self-loathing, though, Ethan stopped him with a firm hand on his shoulder and a reassuring smile that looked genuine enough to soothe Josh some. “Then we’re all good. I texted Seth as we were leaving the room, and he’s going to pop down as soon as he can, since something tells me he actually knows the situation and can help deal some with whatever caused your panic attack.” Josh flinched a bit at the words Ethan used, but he didn’t argue it. “Until then, we’re just going to chill out here, okay?”

Ten minutes of casual, innocuous conversation later, Seth showed up, plopped down next to Josh, and gave him a big hug. He thanked Ethan for looking out for Josh, which Ethan took as a form of grateful dismissal.

Before he left, Ethan reached down and hugged Josh as well. “I’m glad you’re okay,” he said quietly, “and I’m sure that you’ll work things out with Colette and that you’ll eventually find someone for yourself. You’re too good a kid not to.” Josh didn’t know how to deal with a statement like that, but he thanked Ethan, returned the hug, and waved goodnight.

When Josh and Seth were finally alone, they talked things out, and Josh felt things finally ease up inside his chest. Seth managed not only to listen and to talk him through his emotions, but to make him feel reasonable and not like a crazy person, which Josh was pretty sure should be his number one requirement in a friend if things ever went south and Seth moved on.

It took until 2 AM before Josh was calm and cold enough that they decided it was time to go to bed. Although Josh was still disappointed that Colette was dating Cody (both in that Cody was dating and in that Colette never said anything), he felt a lot more stable. It would be hard, but he knew he’d be able to push forward.

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PostSubject: Re: poly!verse   Fri Aug 23, 2013 12:59 am

Early 5th Year

It was cool for a late summer’s night at the Salem Academy of Sorcery.  There was a breeze blowing that rustled the taller grass on Josh’s favorite hill and that made the sticky air almost bearable.  The sky was blotted out by clouds, but Josh knew the moon was a waning crescent; years of friendship with Colette had taught him to pay attention.

The feel of the air was what prompted Josh’s abrupt skip into Seth’s room and Josh’s insistence that they head out to the hill. For Josh, the first few weeks of school had felt palpably different from the past four years, and he’d been circling some thoughts through his head to try and make sense of it. He knew he’d eventually have to discuss it with Seth, but the moment had never felt quite right.

That night, though, felt right.  There was clearly a downpour headed for campus, but the wind felt electrified and made everything feel important.

It was a good night for change.

Seth hadn’t questioned Josh’s abrupt announcement that he needed to talk.  He slipped on his shoes and grabbed his keys and a blanket.  The two of them headed across the quiet campus, and when Josh was satisfied with the location, Seth laid the blanket out and the two sat down.

The rustling of the breeze and the chirping of the crickets was the only noise for a moment or two.  Josh knew that Seth wouldn’t push him to talk, even after Josh had dragged him outside when Seth probably had better things to do.  

Still, Josh came out here to get this out into the open. He took a deep breath.

“So, I’ve been thinking a lot. Like, a lot a lot.  You know how I am, right?”  Seth nodded, and even the small confirmation reassured Josh.  “Well, I think… I mean, I’m not certain, 100% percent, but I think that…” Josh looked at Seth, and although Seth didn’t say anything, Josh could almost hear what Seth was thinking. “Let me guess, use my words, right?”

“Got it in one,” Seth agreed, and he reached over and grabbed Josh’s hand.  Physical contact always seemed to help Josh through talking about things that scared him.

Josh took another deep breath and tried to collect himself. “Right. Okay. I’ve liked Cody for a long time, right?”

“Four years is a long time,” Seth agreed calmly.

“And I’ve known for a while know that it isn’t gonna happen, him and me. He’s dating Colette, and he’d be stupid not to be happy dating Colette. He’s probably not even queer. He probably thinks I’m creepy.”

Seth raised an eyebrow. “While I would agree that he’s dating Colette, so anything with you is unlikely, I’m not hedging bets on the rest of that.”

“Okay,” Josh said, because that was fair enough. “Well, the not going to happen was the important part of that, anyway.  Anyway, so that hasn’t really changed the fact that I’ve liked him, right?  I still had a ridiculous crush.”  Josh winces when he uses the word crush, but he figures that it’s probably the most blunt, honest word for it.  “And it didn’t go away. I couldn’t get over him.”

“Right,” Seth said slowly.  “I think this is one of the few times where I actually have no idea where this is going.”

Josh laughed, and some of the tension dissolved. “I think it’s getting better. I think it’s getting a lot better, Seth.  I mean, I’m not completely over it. Over him. I don’t know if I ever really will be, which is stupid, because I’m a stupid high school kid who likes one of his best friends’ boyfriends.”

“I thought you said it was getting better,” Seth commented wryly, but his eyes were gentle and his hand was still tangled in Josh’s.  

“It is!” Josh insisted. “After all, I think that I can move past it. That’s what I brought you out here to say. I think I am to the point where I could probably date someone and not feel like I wasn’t being fair to them because I was all hung up on Cody.”  Josh didn’t actually believe that there was anyone else who really wanted to date him, but he wasn’t going to bring that up.  That wasn’t the moment to focus on that.

Seth looked him in the eye. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah.  I actually am.”  Josh’s smile was tight, but it was genuine, and Seth wrapped his arms around Josh and pulled him close.  

“Then I’m happy for you,” Seth said, “because I know that’s hard for you, and I don’t want you to make yourself unhappy trying to cling to something you don’t believe will work.”

“I feel less miserable already,” Josh admitted as he buried his face in Seth’s shoulder.  

“Then that’s what’s important.”

The two boys sat hugging each other on the blanket on the hill for a while, until Josh was finally ready to let go.  He untangled himself from Seth.  “Okay. It’s out in the open.  Things can start to change.”

“They’ll change for the better. You deserve it.”

“Yeah,” Josh said quietly, the grass rustling in the wind almost covering up the sound.  Josh stood up. “Okay.  I’m good. Ready to head back in?”

Seth stood up and picked up his blanket.  “Back to the dorms we go.”

They walked back together, Josh gripping Seth’s hand for reassurance, and before they parted to enter their separate buildings, Josh gave Seth a quick hug.

“Thanks,” Josh mumbled, but he let go of Seth and skipped back to his room before Seth could respond.

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PostSubject: Re: poly!verse   Sun Aug 25, 2013 3:53 am

“I’m going to see it eventually! You might as well let me look now.”

“I don’t think that that is a very good idea, Josh…”

Josh scowled at Seth from across the room, where Seth was sitting on a chair holding Josh’s phone captive.  Josh and RJ’s first public interview as a couple hit the news the day before, and Josh’s phone went crazy.  Josh had all his social media websites hooked up to send notifications directly to his phone, and since Josh and Seth had been together playing Super Smash Bros. when the notifications started streaming in, Seth had grabbed it to turn the ringer off.

Seth had looked at the screen and tucked the phone into his pocket, grimacing at Josh.  When Josh asked what was up, Seth just shook his head and replied, “You might want to give them a few days to cool down before checking your twitter or facebook.”

At first, Josh didn’t seem to have any trouble with that.  After all, he really only checked his sites when he posted something new on his blog, because he always liked reading the comments that his readers had for him. RJ’s PR people had talked his employer into giving him the week off, so he didn’t have anything pressing that he had to do online.

It was Josh, though, and he was used to living on his phone. Besides, he couldn’t be blamed for wanting to see what was going on with the internet world.  

Seth caught him, of course. Seth stole his phone.

Regardless of the fact that Josh could get his computer out and check that way, Seth stealing Josh’s phone was enough to deter Josh from checking.

“You should give me my phone back and let me check.  No matter what you think, I should know what I’m dealing with,” Josh told Seth calmly.  

“Are you sure you want to deal with this?” Seth asked. “These people have done their research, Josh. It’s hard for even me to read.”

Josh shrugged. “If you don’t just hand it over, I’m going to steal it back with magic anyway the next time you let your guard down. You might as well just give it to me and save us both the trouble.”

When Josh didn’t seem to be budging, Seth finally relented and handed over the phone.  Josh’s stomach clenched as he unlocked it and saw the enormous magnitude of notifications he had to deal with.

Twitter first, Josh decided.

His hands shook as he started flipping through the notification emails.  The first few were mostly positive.  The first group of strangers congratulated him on his relationship, although there were a few off-color comments about the possibility for threesomes. Josh was a little relieved.
Things went downhill quickly after that.

“Fucking faggot,” one tweet read, “stay the fuck away from baseball you stupid fucking pansy”

“u r just trying to get traffic for ur stupid animal blog leave rj alone he isn’t relly gay”

“u aren’t even attractive so why would rj even want you”

“hi there mr. pr stunt”

“ugly fag go die so RJ can be with some GIRL who deserves him”

The worst, though, was when it was obvious that Seth was right, and people were actually starting to do their research.

“lol found the obituary from the paper. Your mom probably offed herself because she was so ashamed you took it up the ass.”

“its ur fault ur mom is dead b/c god prolly h8ed her 4 popping u out u fairy”

“how could RJ really love some pathetic, ugly kid who plays on the internet for a living and who damned his mom”

Josh could feel the bile rising in his throat, and he was having trouble breathing. He could barely even hear Seth next to him, calling his name. “Josh,” Seth kept saying, “Josh, give me your phone.”

All Josh could do was just scroll further and further down the list. The nice tweets mixed in didn’t even register, little blips interspersed among thousands of cruel messages.

As soon as Seth realized things were getting worse, he used magic to get Josh’s phone as far away from them in the room as he could.  “Josh,” Seth said, quietly but firmly. “Breathe.”  

With the phone gone from his hand, everything started to slowly filter in.  Josh obeyed Seth, forcing himself to take deep breaths. He still felt like he was going to be sick, but he could slowly start to feel his body relaxing a little, the unsettling tension of “not enough” and “he doesn’t love you” and “you should die” and all the homophobic slurs and jabs about his mom starting to ease a little. “You can touch me,” Josh said as soon as his breathing was steady enough that he was pretty sure he wasn’t in danger of having a full-blown panic attack. “I need a hug.”

Within a second, Seth had his arms wrapped around Josh. “I texted RJ. I think you probably need him for this one.”

“Yeah,” Josh confirmed. “Thanks, Seth.”

Seth nodded and held Josh close.  Josh was grateful that Seth wasn’t one for “I told you so”, because Josh was 99% positive that he couldn’t handle that, especially when he was already in a precarious spot.

“They’re assholes,” Seth said, instead. “You didn’t deserve any of that, and it’s not true. I’m sure that as soon as RJ gets the text, he’ll call and he can remind you of that.”

“Yeah,” Josh agreed. “Until then, I’ve got you. And I’m okay. I’m not looking at my phone, and I’m okay. Did you tell RJ not to call my phone?  I don’t want to look at my phone anymore.”

“Everything’s taken care of.  You just relax and breathe.”

Seth turned the TV on so they could catch up on a show he DVRed, and they waited out RJ’s call.

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PostSubject: Re: poly!verse   Sun Sep 01, 2013 4:52 am


Josh shouldn’t have been surprised.

Josh should’ve known this was too good to be true from the moment Colette proposed the idea. He never should have tried to interfere with a relationship that already seemed so whole and happy. He never should have believed that he belonged between the two of them. He didn’t fit between Colette, with her sweet smiles and soft curves, and Cody, with his attentive eyes and lean body. He was only there because he was Colette’s friend and because he had an unfortunate crush on Cody, after all, which was no guarantee of a successful relationship.

However, Josh had let his optimism get the best of him. He had let himself believe that Cody wouldn’t let them fall apart to the point where Josh needed to leave to make things better. Cody had been so insistent, telling Josh that he would make things work, and of course Josh had believed him. Josh had wanted so badly for it to be true, for Cody to be right, so that he could finally be with the man he’d wanted for so long. Besides, it was common knowledge around the school that Cody was a man of his word.

Cody and Colette were so wonderful and supportive, and Josh had felt loved.

That was all shot to shit when sex entered the picture. Josh waited, pushing it off so that he felt safe and comfortable and stable before he lost his virginity to Cody and Colette. Everything had built up until he was ready, and his first time was everything he could’ve asked for.

But then it was done, and Cody’s latent issues with his own sexuality reared their ugly heads.

Josh had let himself hope that things would work out, and when they didn’t, things fell apart quickly.

In public, Cody always kept a distance between them. Josh didn’t notice, at first, since he and Cody were mostly connected through Colette before they started dating. Josh figured that Cody was just sticking to the status quo. When Josh started noticing that Cody wouldn’t touch him, even in private, though, it became obvious that something was seriously wrong. Cody shied away from physical contact, and Josh felt the dread sink in.

When things didn’t improve, even after multiple conversations as a triad, Josh knew that there was only one way to resolve the problem. He was the one who was causing the problem. He was the one who made things strained. He was the one who made things hard on Cody.

Despite Colette’s protests, Josh knew that the only way to make things right for his couple was for them to no longer be his couple. They broke up, and Josh left Cody and Colette to be happy.
___________________________________________________________________________________
Seth hadn’t seen Josh in three days, and he was getting a bit worried.

He knew that Josh had been spending a lot of time with Cody and Colette within the past few weeks, but that normally didn’t stop Josh from popping into Seth’s dorm room unannounced to talk about the day’s news. Josh had texted him a few times within the last day or two, but that only made Seth more concerned. Whenever Josh texted but refused to see Seth face to face, it meant that something was so wrong that Josh wouldn’t be able to hide that something was wrong. On the fourth day, when Josh didn’t even text for half the day, Seth decided enough was enough, and he made his own unannounced stop into Josh’s room.

He didn’t expect to see Josh in his bed, tucked under the covers, his face completely blank.

Shit.

“Josh?” Seth said, rushing across the room to sit down next to him on the bed. He didn’t bother to ask if something was wrong; the fact that Josh was more stationary than Seth had ever seen him was enough of a sign. “What’s going on?”

Josh didn’t even meet his eyes as he spoke, his voices strained and low. “We broke up.”

Seth grimaced. Josh had been telling him lately about how rough things had been lately, and Seth had seen this coming for a while, but that didn’t mean that it hurt any less when it happened. Seth toed his shoes off and got under the covers with Josh, not realizing that Josh was naked under the sheets until he was already wrapping his arms around Josh.

“Things got too much?” Seth asked quietly, and Josh nodded. “Yeah,” he said quietly, “he wouldn’t even touch me. He couldn’t look at me half the time.” He sounded hollow, his blank face not even showing what Seth knew he was feeling. Seth’s stomach dropped, and he pulled Josh even closer into his arms. “It… I needed to leave. They needed me gone,” Josh continued, his voice finally breaking, “so they could be happy. I was making them unhappy.”

“I’m guessing they told you it wasn’t your fault?” Seth asked him carefully.

“Yeah. But it’s hard to believe when things were better before I got there.”

“Hey,” Seth said, and Josh finally met his eyes, “it isn’t your fault. I know you don’t believe me now, and you might not believe me for a while, but I promise you that this isn’t your fault. Cody had some issues that he didn’t know how to work through, and the only thing that can be blamed on you is that you were a guy. They brought you in because they wanted a boy, and if it were going to work with anyone, it’d work with you.”

“But it didn’t. It didn’t work.”

“No,” Seth agreed, not bothering to try and minimize, “it didn’t. But it wasn’t anything that you did that made it that way.”

Josh stared at Seth silently. Seth hadn’t expected much of a response, since that would require Josh admitting that Seth was right. There was no way Josh would ever do that this early on in the game; it’d be another week or so before Josh would be willing to recognize that any of Seth’s opinions regarding the breakup were valid.

“It’s okay to break down,” Seth said, when the silence was finally starting to unnerve him. “You know I won’t judge you if you’re a big, sobbing mess over this. I know it was important to you, and it didn’t work, and that’s miserable. That’s what I’m here for.”

That’s all it took for Josh to melt in Seth’s arms, burying his head into Seth’s chest. “I just wanted it to work. I just wanted to finally get something I wanted, for once. I wanted to be happy and to make someone happy—“ Josh cut off, his body jerking as he tried to take a deep breath. Seth could already feel dampness seeping into his shirt. “Is that really so much to ask?”

“No,” Seth said, keeping one arm wrapped around Josh as he used the other to catch the kleenex box he summoned over. He set the box down on the bed next to Josh. “It isn’t. It isn’t at all.”

“Then why didn’t I get it this time?” Josh asked. Seth should have been concerned about how hysterical his best friend sounded, but he was honestly relieved. This was so much healthier, for Josh at least, then the cold, expressionless Josh he saw when he came in. “Everything about it felt right,” Josh continued. “They both felt important. I could feel it in my gut, and I’ve never been so wrong before.”

“Well,” Seth said slowly, trying to reason through Josh’s odd version of interpersonal judgment, “Colette was important because she was your friend, right? And Cody… even though it didn’t necessarily end well, he was important in your life, right? Maybe something important comes out of this, something your gut knew you needed. Maybe someone else comes along, and you just needed to get over Cody to work things out.” Seth’s stomach twisted at the idea, but this wasn’t about him. This was about Josh, and Josh needed Seth to be calm and reasonable right then.

“I thought I was supposed to be the optimist,” Josh mumbled, reaching for a Kleenex and moving his head so he could blow his nose.

“I’m not being optimistic,” Seth told him calmly, rubbing his back, “I’m just telling you the truth. The next few weeks are going to suck, and things will probably be awkward with Colette, and you’re going to be hurting and probably more distracted than usual. This will be a good thing, though, in the long run, because you’re Josh, and before long, you’ll be working through this, and you’ll find a way to make this better.”

Josh hugged Seth tightly, “I think I’m going to get some sleep. I… haven’t been doing much of that the last few days, and I really need it. Will you stay with me?”

It was late enough that it was a reasonable time to go to bed, and Seth had already gotten all his homework done before he had skipped into Josh’s room. It’d be a tight squeeze, fitting the two of them on Josh’s bed, but they’d done it before with some success. “Of course,” Seth told Josh. “Just let me get my pants off, okay?”

Although Josh whined, he finally released Seth enough for Seth to get his jeans off. As soon as they hit the floor, Josh was pulling Seth back into bed next to him, so Seth settled in for the night, an arm holding Josh close as they drifted off to sleep.

The last thing Seth heard before falling asleep was Josh mumbling a quiet thank you.
_________________________________________________________________________________

It had been roughly three weeks since the breakup, and Josh still wasn’t over it.

He felt kind of ridiculous, even though Seth had spent large amounts of time reassuring him that it was okay for him to still be feeling it. He hated that he couldn’t even run into Cody in the hallway without his mood being ruined, sadness and guilt (despite Seth’s mission to make him believe it wasn’t his fault) rushing in to take their place. He hated that things felt different with Colette. Once they were more than just friends, going back to just hanging out wasn’t easy for Josh, because while he could always see how sweet and determined and clever Colette was, he now could see how gorgeous she was. He knew how it felt with her skin pressed against him and how it felt when she kissed away his nerves and how her hands felt on the small of his back. He knew how she looked with Cody inside her.

He was just starting to get comfortable with it, and now he’d never be able to touch her that way again.

Still, he was functioning on a much higher level than he was when things just started off. He was burying himself in his schoolwork (as much as he could, considering his attention span), and he was staying extra hours to help out with organizing GSA meetings and events. He was spending more time with Jessie and Dodge and Stevie than he had in a long time, which was both positive, because it gave him something to do, and he had missed hanging out with them as much, and negative, because they all knew something serious must have gone down. It didn’t escape any their notice that he was spending more time with Cody and Colette. Josh definitely hadn’t told them the full story of what was going on; he respected that Cody most definitely wasn’t comfortable coming out, and just because they broke up didn’t mean Josh was going to turn into an asshole who outed his exes.

He was 90% sure Jessie already knew, because although his attempt to set Seth and Jessie up was a flop, they had become really close friends, and they shared that kind of stuff with each other. Josh didn’t really mind; he trusted Jessie to keep his secrets, and he was glad that Seth had some sort of outlet. Josh probably hadn’t been the easiest person to deal with for the last few weeks. Anyone but Seth would have been lacking in the incredible reserves of patience and compassion that Josh had required.

As it was, Seth hadn’t slept in his own dorm room more than once or twice since the night Josh had sobbed all over his t-shirt. Josh hadn’t cried on him again since that night, but Josh did insist on the snuggling to fall asleep.

While it was fantastic having someone to fall asleep next to, there was one slight problem.

Josh usually jerked off at least once before he went to bed, and while he and Seth didn’t really have many boundaries, that was one they had. Josh was pretty sure that Seth was a straight dude and was absolutely positive that he was Josh’s best friend, and Josh was pretty sure that it would weird Seth out if he jerked off with Seth right there.

This, combined with the fact that Josh had gone from getting off with people to no longer having people to get off with, meant that Josh was incredibly sexually frustrated.

That weekend, there was a big GSA party, and Seth proposed that they both go so that Josh could drink a little and burn off some steam. Josh was up for getting drunk, and it was a GSA party, so if he was really drunk and desperate, there were going to be people there who were gay and who would be drunk enough to want to sleep with him.

Josh didn’t mention that part of the plan to Seth. He was nearly positive Seth wouldn’t approve, because Seth was too smart for his own good. Seth would probably have a lecture prepared about alcohol and consent. Seth also probably would know that Josh sleeping with a stranger would be astronomically stupid, and that it would probably leave them with more emotional trauma to sort through than they were already dealing with.

Of course, Josh should’ve known from the second he decided not to tell his plan to Seth that his plan was terrible.

Josh arrived early to help set up, which coincidentally involved pregaming, of course. Dodge had smuggled some awful-tasting stuff that Josh had a shot or two of before the party got going. When Seth arrived, just before they opened the doors, Josh was already buzzing.

Seth was concerned, of course, but Josh was up, warm and happy and tactile and completely baffled by Seth’s worrying.

People started filtering in, and a few smuggled beers while Seth was dragged away to dance by Jessie had Josh tipped over the line from comfortably drunk into slightly nauseous, and Josh went to find a quieter place to sit down. He ended up almost running into a couple going at it in the corner, and when he turned around to actually leave the room, he found a Seth.

“I’m drunk,” Josh announced as he looped an arm around Seth’s shoulders. “I’m drunk and you’re short and I was planning on sleeping with someone, but I think I’m too drunk for that, anyway, and you’d wear your disapproving face and I’d be sad. I’m already sad, and I don’t want to be more sad.”

Seth angled his body so he could pick up a little more of Josh’s weight, “Time to go back to the room, then?”

“Yeah. I don’t want to be here anymore. I should say bye to the gang, though.” For someone as drunk as Josh, finding a few individuals in a large crowd should have been difficult. Within five minutes, though, Josh and Seth had said their goodbyes and were skipping back to Josh’s dorm room.

Seth sat Josh down on his bed, since Josh didn’t seem vomiting drunk (and usually knew to tell Seth if he was), and grabbed him a cup of water. The two sat in silence for a bit as Josh sipped at it, and he was finished, Seth went to put it on his dish drying rack.

He had just settled in next to Josh, careful not to move the bed too much when he sat down to avoid aggravating Josh’s nausea, when Josh said, “I shouldn’t have gone to that.”

“Alcohol not doing much for you?” Seth asked, sounding frustratingly unsurprised.

“No,” Josh admitted, “but also because it made me feel lonely. I shouldn’t have tried to drink and also planned on getting laid. I really want to get laid, mostly because I just want someone to want me.”

That made Seth uneasy. “Why do you say that?” he asked quietly.

“Because,” Josh said sadly, “the only people who wanted me don’t want me anymore. My couple isn’t my couple anymore, and they’re the only ones who’ve wanted to kiss me and cuddle me and take care of me and have sex with me, and now even they don’t want me.”

“Just because you haven’t had sex with anyone else doesn’t mean other people don’t want you,” Seth pointed out, his voice strained. “And besides, there are plenty of people who want to cuddle you and take care of you.”

“Nope. No one else wants me. It’s hard to want me. I’m inexperienced and awkward and plain and I don’t know when to shut up and—“

“And only half of those are true, and none of those sound like things that would prevent a person from wanting you.” Seth would know, after all.

“You’re just saying that because I’m sad. You’re always nicer when I’m sad.”

“But I’m never dishonest,” Seth pushed, “even when you’re sad.”

Josh let that sit for a second, because there were lots of things he could argue with Seth, but that wasn’t one of them. Seth hadn’t always told him all of the facts right up front, but Josh couldn’t think of a single time when Seth had outright lied to him. Still, Josh had a hard time believing what was coming out of Seth’s mouth, so he dismissed it as quickly as he could. “No one wants me. I know you’re my friend, and you want to believe nice things about me, but your opinion isn’t everyone’s. Cody and Colette wanted me, and now that they don’t, no one does.”

“I know for a fact that that isn’t true.”

Josh’s eyebrows furrowed. “You can’t prove that.”

“I can,” Seth said confidently. He was expecting Josh’s frown to deepen and for Josh to make some sort of petulant comment about how Seth was wrong, but instead, Josh’s face crumpled.

“Don’t do that, Seth. That’s not fair.”

“I’m not trying to be fair, I’m trying to be honest. I know for a fact that at least one person wants you.”

Josh’s eyes narrowed, but he couldn’t find a trace of anything but sincerity in Seth’s expression, which loosened the knot in his stomach more than he expected. “You know that Colette was it for me with girls, and none of my GSA friends are into me.”

“He’s definitely not female, and he’s not one of your GSA friends.”

“Then who?”

Seth looked at him fondly, and Josh started to feel uneasy again. Seth seemed so relaxed and sure of himself, and although what Seth was claiming was a good thing, Josh found himself hesitant to believe that it would come without strings attached. Seth always saw things as much simpler than Josh.

Josh desperately wanted this to be one of those times where things were just as easy as Seth claimed they were.

“Me.”

Josh stared at Seth, completely baffled. “What about you?”

“I want you,” Seth said slowly, sounding more nervous than Josh was used to hearing his usually calm friend.

“That’s ridiculous. You’re straight.”

Seth sighed. He should have known that Josh would struggle with believing him when he finally let it out in the open. “No I’m not. Just because I’ve only dated girls doesn’t mean I’m straight. I just didn’t want to say anything until I am certain and comfortable with what my sexual preferences actually are. It was just easier to let people call me straight.”

Josh put his hands in his hands. This would have been so much easier to deal with if he weren’t drunk, although he probably wouldn’t have said anything in the first place if he were sober. “So, let me get this all worked out. You are queer?”

“I’m pretty sure,” Seth confirmed.

“And you think you want me,” Josh continued, his voice flat and disbelieving.

“That one I’m actually positive about,” Seth said carefully.

“Right,” Josh said. He was quiet for a moment, his forehead wrinkling and his lip between his teeth in thought. Finally, he shook his head. “Okay. This is really weird and I think I need to mull this over in a passing out kind of way, because this isn’t making much sense to me. I’m not drunk enough that I’ll forget this, am I?”

“I can’t say for certain,” Seth told him, “but usually you can remember the important things when you aren’t puking drunk, and I would like to think this is at least somewhat important.”

“Definitely important,” Josh confirmed. “I would not say it is comprehensible, but it is definitely important, and I will give it lots and lots of thought when I am sober.”

“You don’t have to do anything with it,” Seth said, hugging Josh. “Nothing has to come out of this. I just wanted you to know that Cody and Colette no longer dating you does not mean you aren’t wanted.”

“Right,” Josh said dismissively, which hurt Seth less than he expected. He knew that tomorrow, Josh would talk about it, but tonight, Josh needed the sleep.

“Let’s get you to bed,” Seth concluded, and Josh nodded agreeably. Josh stripped down to his boxers, and Seth made his bed so that Josh could get under the covers without strangling himself.

“Night, Seth.”

“Night, Josh.”

Seth let himself out of the room, turning off the light and closing the door behind him.

_________________

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PostSubject: Re: poly!verse   Mon Sep 16, 2013 8:06 pm

Excerpts from Ouch 'Verse
Note: The beginning is nice, but near the end, I mostly saved things that hurt in a way that was not crippling for me. Everything else is saved in chat records.
________________________________________________________________________________

So, the way we wrote it, Josh and RJ meet first before the game, and I picture Josh walking by the dugout. I don't picture the baseball games as being very well-attended, even though the team is awesome, so I don't picture it as being a huge stadium or anything, just a very well-maintained, open field with a few sets of risers on the side for people to sit on. And so Josh is walking by the backstop and around the dugout when he sees this guy leaning against the fence talking to someone sitting in the dugout, and Josh just... he keeps walking, but he slows down, like if he lingers without being awkward, that the dude will notice him. RJ has his uniform on and he's wearing his baseball cap, but Josh can see that his eyes are bright and a really pretty color that Josh is pretty sure he hasn't seen before and his laugh is big and he has stubble growing in and it just... Josh gets this feeling in his gut where he just... it feels like the most important thing in that moment that this guy pay attention to him and laugh at one of his dumb comments like that. It would scare Josh a little, since it's a wild, desperate, clenching feeling that literally came out of nowhere, but he's had it before, and he knows what it means. So he keeps walking, admittedly a bit slower, watching the teams warm up, when RJ turns and he kind of gives Josh a once-over, and he grins at Josh (leers, probably, but Josh doesn't interpret it that way), and he calls out a, "Hey," and Josh's stomach flips, all relief and... something as small as RJ just /noticing/ him already makes him feel warm and tingly.
Ells: I.....*catches breath* fbeuiwekdnfhbe *curls around Josh* I understand completely, buddy. I can see it, too, how perfectly and utterly RJ that little moment is, how he's casual but there's /always/ that undertone with him, there's that one moment when hey is /just/ hey and then that grin spreads and oh god, Kat. Whatever deity designed RJ knew what they were fucking doing RJ was made to notice people noticing him
Kat: I TOLD YOU I COULD SEE THE MOMENT PERFECTLY and god Josh is just so absolutely desperate for RJ's attention for the longest time. He just wants one little, tiny speck of RJ's attention to be focused on him because that's enough to make him warm and important and worthwhile and the fact that Josh gets that for his whole entire life, makes him pretty much the happiest ever. With Cody, Josh is enamored with him for years and years and that crush was not going to fucking go away and Josh got excited when Cody talked to him or remembered his name or nodded at him walking down the hall, but it was never... Josh needs Cody to love him, but Josh would always be happy if he were just able to get RJ to fucking NOTICE him
Ells: There is no universe where RJ doesn't notice Josh. If you put them near enough to one another, it happens. That's all there is. It could've gone a million different ways, but that first moment....it's...what are they? Like a fixed....it's a fixed point in the timeline. No matter what happens after, RJ gets an eyeful of Josh and likes what he sees and acknowledges him, because that's who he is and how he does things. You don't ever come out on top if you don't speak up.
Kat: RJ is very, very good at sex and he's very, very good at making other people feel good and it's laser-focus and it's no wonder that Josh gets so pliant and desperate and... sex with RJ is pretty much brain-melting for Josh not just because the sex is good but also that it is pretty much the epitome of having all of RJ's attention focused solely on him
Ells: ....wow, yeah. Because that's always been....that's who RJ /is/. He's a casual guy by most accounts, but catch his eye and from that moment....not just sex but every look, every touch....that's for /Josh/, that's his universe sliding a little to the left so that the center is Josh for that moment. He has a knack for making people feel like they're the most important thing, right there and then, that there's literally nothing else he should or even could be doing. He's there, with you. And it comes and goes, shifts a lot, at first, and for /always/, in the canon. But Josh...pretty much stays the center of everything for him, in the AU. It stops being well I have games in this city for three days and then I'm going here and then maybe I'll see Josh. It's well I'll be with Josh until I have to go to x place, but I'll only be gone y amount of time and such-and-such game is a day game so I'll be with him that night before I have to go z place.
Kat: At the beginning of canon!RJosh, Josh is okay with RJ sleeping with other people because a) he realizes he's sleeping with C&C and not putting out for RJ and it's not fair to expect RJ to just deal with his hand, but also b) because he doesn't feel like he deserves to be the only one getting all of that attention, all to himself. And then, by the time RJ is no longer sleeping with other people, Josh is getting used to the idea that, wow, maybe RJ really does just want that with me and that means a lot more to Josh than it probably should? That means a lot to him, more than I expected. And then c!g happens and Josh is already swimming in guilt and blaming himself after that but there is this whole dimension of RJ gives me all this attention and wow I was not giving him much at all so of course he went and gave it to someone else because a stranger he met in a bar could probably do a better job than me wow ow I don't want this take this away retreats to AU
Ells: Oh my fucking GOD kat wow I....and that actually kills /me/ too, because RJ's need for attention ISN'T just a need for HIM to be paid attention to, he needs to have someone else to give that to and he was able to spread it around for so long but now it just builds itself up until he can give it to Josh and then suddenly Josh is just...not...going to be there. That's why he was giving SOMEONE ELSE a handjob. He wasn't hard up for someone else to get him off. He needed to remember that he could still do that for someone. That maybe Josh had it better elsewhere, something and someones more important, but sure as hell he can still make a stranger come apart. He can still be the highlight of someone's night, of their week, of their entire sexual career for some. He has to validate himself. I hate you a lot right now bitch
Kat: JOSH IS THE ONE SEVERELY WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING NOT ME
Ells: Only fucking /Josh/ man. How is it possible to make /RUBEN J SIFUENTES/ insecure
Kat: I don't even fucking know
Ells: Sometimes I think about c!g and become very aware that shit could've just crumbled right the fuck there. RJ could've just been like, "You know what? Fuck it. I was just fine before. I can just fuck people I don't need to /schedule/ my dick into."
Kat: he really could've and wow that would've absolutely crushed Josh oh god
Ells: (if RJ was the vindictive type, he wouldn't even clean break that shit. He'd remember all that time he waited and held out before he even got to kiss Josh, much less fuck him, and he'd be like, "It's okay, you're taken. Maybe we should just be /friends/.")
Kat: But actually, if RJ called it off, Josh... he'd already had such a draining day and then he walks in on his boyfriend giving some dude a handjob and his boyfriend is all "yeah no we're over" and... wow. His face would crumple and he'd try so hard to school it into a serious, brave face and he'd... he'd... I don't even think he'd ask RJ if he were sure, because this is it, the shoe just dropped and he's been waiting for so long for RJ to realize how little he needed Josh and how unimportant Josh is and how Josh isn't worth it and... well, it's not entirely surprising that it happened and Josh would take a deep breath and he'd apologize, tell RJ he was sorry he wasn't enough and that he hopes he's happy, and it's Josh, so every single word would come out genuine, because he /does/ mean it, even if he's an absolute fucking wreck. I'd actually be /terrified/ for Josh skipping home alone. He might leave RJ's hotel and text Seth to come get him please
Ells: I...RJ would know. He'd know exactly what the fuck he'd just done, that's an incredibly sobering experience. And he just tells himself that this might not have been the easiest way, the one that hurt least for anyone, but it was the most direct. No one had to work up the nerve or slowly drift away while the other wondered. Wham bam it's over. And he'd try to be serious about that. That that's it, the end, OVER. Because making it fuzzy with apologies or... or anything like that....that just erases the blunt edges that made it so quick and so simple and that'd be wrong. Let the biggest blow be the worst of it, don't keep battering at each other
Kat: Seth would come and pick Josh up from the hotel, and Josh would just be... flat. Not crying, not talking, not fidgeting, just sitting there on the curb staring at his shoes. Seth would offer him the option of taking him back to his place or Seth's place, and Josh would say Seth's in a second, because C&C are probably already asleep by this point, so he'd either have to wake them up, which he doesn't want to do, or he'd have to sleep in the guest bedroom and he can't handle that, absolutely cannot handle being alone in that moment. So Seth skips him back and he gets Josh set up and ready for bed, texting Colette to tell her that Josh was at his place, because he figured she'd get up long before Josh would get back, because Josh sleeps in normally, but he's... in the state he's in, Seth wouldn't be surprised if he slept all night and most of the next day. And Josh would probably try to avoid telling C&C, like last time, try to pass it off as being worried, but there's no fucking way that it would be unnoticeable or that it would go under the radar, because it isn't just Josh being upset, it's Josh being fucking BLANK.
Ells: That absolutely terrifies Cody /and/ Colette. Like, for Cody it's that there's nothing there for him to decipher. He has nothing to go on, and it feels like he's being entirely shut out of something he's used to being casually in tune with, being able to dip in and out. But Josh is just...he's not unreadable, there's just nothing to read. Colette just gets the ickiest feeling in the pit of her stomach when she looks at him and immediately, of course, wonders if it's about her or them, right off. Like maybe the Big Four breakup was just too much drama for Josh and he's annoyed with them and distancing himself, even though she's never known Josh to work that way. It'd probably be her that went to him first about it, because Cody's too freaked out and frustrated and trying to get a handle on it
Kat: How would Colette likely ask what was going on?
Ells: I think....if there was a time when they were alone, Cody had a weirdly-timed shift or was out doing a repair in the building, she'd probably just keep.../looking/ at Josh, and worrying, and worrying, and it's eating her stomach, and by the time she manages to say something she's half ready to cry already. And she'd finally just be like, "Josh, are we doing something wrong?"
Kat: Josh would look up, and he would blink, and he would sound genuinely surprised (and it's probably the most emotion anyone's gotten out of him since he woke up at Seth's). "No. Definitely not."
Ells: "Are you sure? Because if we upset you or...or made things more difficult for you, we can fix it. We can."
Kat: His face goes blank again. "Don't worry about it. It's nothing you're doing wrong, and it's nothing you can fix."
Ells: Ohhhh that was not. That's. Her mind goes all the wrong places. "Oh," she says, and her voice is really small and warbly, fragile. "I didn't know....oh." She turns her face away from him.
Kat: I think that's when everything finally crumples, because he can't even keep Colette happy, and now she and Cody are the only things he has and he... wow he feels like absolute shit. "No, Colette. Just... god, I'm... it's..." he has to take a breath, work himself up to it, and his voice sounds weak and hurt and quiet. "RJ won't be coming around anymore, either."
Ells: That throws her for a loop. As soon as something's not about her, that innate hopefulness kicks right back in. She has herself pulled together a little better when she turns back to look at Josh and really careful she says, "Oh. Is he...too busy?"
Kat: Josh is so tempted to take the easy way out, because that's... in a way, that's true, he's busy as it is and he'll be too busy fucking other people, but he figures he might as well get it over with. "No, he broke things off."
Ells: Colette is 100% stunned. That was the stable thing, these days. Cody was half out in space, but Josh being there for her and gone with RJ alternately was something she could depend on. "That doesn't make any sense."
Kat: "I didn't do as good of a job at making time for him as I should have," Josh says, because of course he's going to pin this on himself 100% if he can get away with it. "I was making him feel unimportant, and he decided to do what was best for him and break it off."
Ells: Colette absolutely doesn't buy that. "He didn't have any more time for you than you did for him."
Kat: Josh really, really, really wants to avoid telling her about walking in on RJ. "The other night, when things went bad here at home... that was a night I was supposed to meet him and that we had cleared out of our schedules for each other. Obviously, things came up, so I sent him a message telling him I couldn't come. I didn't even give him a reason, I just blew him off. I don't regret staying, but I didn't handle it well."
Ells: "So it /was/ something we did."
Kat: "No, it wasn't. Everything would've been perfectly fine if I had just spent an extra two seconds explaining what was going on. It isn't the first time I've done it, either."
Ells: "But if that's all that it was...something that could've been fixed with two seconds...why couldn't you still fix it? Why isn't it fixed now?"
Kat: "I went and visited him once you two had gone to bed and apologized and..." Josh bites his lip. "He made it perfectly clear that there was no fixing things."
Ells: "That doesn't sound like him. At all."
Kat: Josh shrugs helplessly. "I guess he'd felt that way a while, and this was just the tipping point."
Ells: "Josh..." She moves in closer to him, and she's careful about touching him, like she's going to set something off. "No, that's all wrong. He likes you too much for that. This all sounds really wrong, Josh, something else is going on."
Kat: "I can understand that it would be hard dating someone who is already taken, though. It makes sense. I don't know what else would..." he cuts off
Ells: "What else would...? What? Did he say something?"
Kat: Josh just kind of slowly shakes his head. "It's okay, Colette. Don't worry about it. I know you have a lot on your plate already."
Ells: She frowns hard. "I have /you/ on my plate. Cody has to deal with himself before he can deal with me."
Kat: Josh's voice is very small. "When I went to his hotel room to apologize, he wasn't alone."
Ells: Colette's first reaction is shock, and her mouth drops open for a second while she puts feelers out for something, /anything/ to say, and her fists clench up slowly as it shuts again. "Josh. That's not about you at all. That's about him. There's no excuse for that."
Kat: Josh looks down. "He said he was happier when he could sleep with whoever he wanted, without having to schedule putting his dick into me," he says, and he sounds ashamed and quiet
Ells: Colette picks up one of her fists and brings it down hard against her leg, hard enough that there'll probably be a mark there. She doesn't even really look angry, or even /sound/ it when she says, "I'm going to hurt him." She'd have said kill if she were playing, oh cody I'm gonna kill you if you don't get a phone soon, but she's absolutely serious and she can't...she can't say that and be serious.
Kat: Josh looks alarmed, and he rushes in to defend RJ. "No, you don't have to do that. If I wasn't making him happy, he has the right to do what does. It was only a matter of time before he realized I wasn't enough, anyway." Josh figures if he's being honest, he might as well go the whole nine yards.
Ells: "Literally nothing gives someone the right to cheat. I don't care if you'd been withholding sex for a month, he could've been a man and told you instead of making an ass of himself. How are you even supposed to know that was the first time?" She's not even...thinking about what she's saying, I don't think. Since the big crash with Melody she's been always just on the edge of too much anger and hurt, so Josh's inadequacy issues are backseat in her mind to RJ being a giant dickbag.
Kat: "You're right," Josh says, even more quietly. "Which would make it probably better for both of us in the long run. If he was so unhappy that he felt like he needed to look to someone else, maybe even lots of other people, then he was right to break it off with me and at least be honest with me now."
Ells: "You're only making this worse for him, Josh," she says, and she slides a hand up over her face into her hair, trying to wrangle in even just a little of what's going on. She feels like if she makes any sudden moves something in the apartment is just going to shatter. "If he's letting you think this is /your/ fault..."
Kat: "He hasn't... we haven't talked since then. I apologized and bolted after that, and Seth came and got me. We haven't talked since."
Ells: Colette figured that, if Josh has been so strange instead of actively upset at his phone or something, but hearing it is worse. "Dick," she says with feeling. "I'm going to hurt him," she says again, resigned instead of revelatory, because now she's sure, she's too angry to do anything. "Cody's going to....oh, God."
Kat: Josh looks horrified, and he's getting the most freaked out since this entire thing went down. He can feel a panic attack coming on, because someone's going to get hurt and no one is happy and he doesn't have RJ and everyone's going to be mad at him and it's all his fault. "Oh god."
Ells: The side-slip into thinking about what Cody is going to be like clears her head a LOT. Cody is going to be a freaking VOLCANO if/when they tell him and it's going to be really bad and that's...she's furious, positively furious, but that's not her place here. "Hey," she says, and she takes her hands away from herself, she's solid right now, solid and safe, but Josh sounds like he might just....pop, come apart, so she curls up around him, plants her hands and leaves them where they fall, steady. "No, Josh, I'm sorry. I'm. I need to shut up, I'm making this worse, I'm just mad at him for hurting you, he's not allowed to hurt you, I'm not supposed to let anyone do that."
Kat: Josh can't even talk, is focusing so hard right now on trying to breathe evenly, because he feels like his lungs are squeezed tight and he can't get enough air in them. His hands are shaking and he can't stop thinking about how furious Cody will be if he finds out, and it's freaking him out even worse and he's getting stuck in a loop.
Ells: Colette has a tendency to flail about for anything when someone adult gets upset. Screaming and crying children are really simple. Screaming and crying /adults/ are usually being pretty childish. But this is a different kind of problem and she doesn't know what to do. "I'm not going to tell him," she says, urgent, and she means it right then, even if later she might say it's because that's up to Josh. "You know I wouldn't actually...I could never, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, do I need to call Seth?"
Kat: Josh tries to force himself to focus when she's talking, because she's not Seth and she hasn't seen this before and doesn't know how to deal with it. By this point, Seth would probably start prattling on about his classes or something equally mundane and boring so that Josh could have something to latch onto, but Colette doesn't KNOW and he can't tell her, not yet, and so he's trying so hard to find something to cling to other than deep breaths that he can properly focus on that isn't freaking him the fuck out. The second Colette says the word Seth, Josh nods, and he'll probably feel a bit guilty later, but right in that very second, he needs someone who can help him and it's not her fault she doesn't know what to do but Josh can't exactly help her at the moment, so Seth is the best option
Ells: She uses magic to get her phone because she's kind of freaked out by the idea of losing contact with Josh and she actually just texts, the shortest thing she can think of that might work, and thank God it's Seth because she doesn't think much more than 'Josh needs you' is really necessary. She tosses it down once she's sure it's sent. "Okay. I'm going to get him here, okay? I'm...what can I...." She can tell by now that asking what to do isn't going to DOANY GOOD but she doesn't know what else to do.
Kat: Josh grimaces, and he wants to reach out and squeeze her hand or do something to reassure her, but he can barely handle himself right now, let alone Colette. Seth doesn't take long to show up at all, and when he sees the state Josh is in, he immediately goes over and helps, talking to Josh about some research project he was doing for one of his classes and how boring it was and how Josh would absolutely love it and he starts talking about all the issues he has run into so far, and he starts asking Josh questions as he goes about how he should handle them, at first little yes or no questions that Josh can nod or shake his head to answer, but as Josh starts getting a handle on it and can breathe steadily enough, slightly more involved questions, until Josh is doing better again and Seth can hug him. Josh thanks him and tells him he can get back to his place and that Josh will explain later, and Seth takes that for what it is and heads out.
Ells: I think Colette backs well off while Seth is doing his thing, and even while she's worrying about Josh, she can't help but compare this way Seth has with him to what he does for her on full moons. She's paying attention, too, trying to figure out what works, why that works, and she legitimately doesn't even have time to think any more about RJ the entire time because she's too freaked out by what's going on. She thanks Seth and probably feels like he might not ought to leave, but letting Josh make the decisions seems like a solid move. She doesn't even know what to do when it's just the two of them again. "I'm sorry," she says again, now that she thinks he can pay attention and understand her again.
Kat: Josh shakes his head, and now he does reach over and squeeze her hand, smiling wobbily. "I was just about to say the same."
Ells: She looks horrified by that and shakes her head, wide-eyed. "No, no, no. Don't. That was my fault. I was thinking more about me than you. I didn't...I've never seen you get like that. I should've known what to do."
Kat: "Hey, no," he says gently. "Littler things have done worse. It's been a while since it's been that bad, though, so I don't blame you at all for not knowing how to handle it."
Ells: "Stop trying to comfort me." Her frown is back. "I don't need comforting. I should've known what to do and I didn't, but now I can just...learn. And try not to be so awful that I make you..."
Kat: "You saw what Seth usually does," Josh says. "When it's something that's triggered by something really heavy emotionally like that, having something to try and focus on that has absolutely nothing to do with whatever triggered me is the best way to go, usually. It's helpful when the person is close, but not touching me too much, because that will sometimes make it worse. I had one once in the bathroom at school in fifth grade, and my friend tried to grab my wrist and lead me to the nurse's office, and that was just... a really, really bad idea. But usually, if you can talk long enough about one thing for me to be able to get it into my head and have something else to think through, that's the best. School stuff or work stuff works, or the plots of books, or baseball, or whatever."
Ells: "I don't think I ever want to talk about baseball again," Colette says, before she can catch herself, and then she winces. "But okay. I'm sorry. I'll know not to be all over you next time."
Kat: Josh winces, too, because he wasn't even thinking about RJ, he was thinking about all the times Seth actually paid attention to the Mets so that he'd have something to talk about with Josh. "It's okay," Josh says. "I know that's not what you want to hear, but it really is okay. You got Seth for me and now you know what to do in the future, though hopefully you won't have to see that again. We're all good."
Ells: "I meant what I said," she says abruptly. "I'm not going to say anything to Cody. And if you need to just not... not talk about it...I don't know. I don't want that but I don't want all of that to start happening again either."
Kat: Josh takes a deep breath and tries to keep the big Cody bubble of worry contained. "I... it wouldn't feel right, not telling him, especially since you already know. It'd be worse if he realized on his own that something was wrong and I never told him. I'm worried about how he'll take it, though, especially since he's... not exactly emotionally in a great place right now."
Ells: "It's never really a good time to upset Cody, though, is it?" She frets at the hem of her skirt a little. "He's going to be angry. But I'm...once I've got myself under control, I can handle him. We might need to patch up the furniture a little and keep an eye on him, but he's not going to run off and do something....awful."
Kat: "Can you be there?" Josh asks her. "When I tell him. I don't know if I'll be able to get it out on my own."

__________________________________________________________________

Ells: also like Josh's headspace makes things WORSE wow because RJ...he doesn't lie. He says he was 'just fine' before Josh. But when Josh repeats it back to Colette, he says RJ says he was happier. Because that's something Josh can believe. It's not true, but wow.

__________________________________________________________________

Ells: "I don't...I'm not going to ask you to tell me what I said, because that's bullshit. But Colette said you somehow got the idea you did something wrong."
Kat: Josh looks down. "Well, I must've, right? You wouldn't have done that on your own, just because. I must not have been doing enough."
Ells: "No. Fuck that." RJ shakes his head vehemently. "If you're gonna believe a lie, pick a better one."
Kat: "Well, what else makes sense?" Josh asks quietly. "I messed up and made you feel less important to me than you are, and I was dating other people and not making enough time for you and so of course you went to someone else. Of course you wanted out."
Ells: "I didn't want out."
Kat: "Then why did you say what you did? Did you want an open relationship and I just completely missed the cues?"
Ells: "Whatever I said, that's not what I meant, either. I didn't /want/ out, or someone else, or whatever."
Kat: "Then what DO you want?"
Ells: "I wanted /you/, and you weren't there, so I did some stupid shit. And it was really fucked up."
Kat: "I'm sorry," Josh says, and it comes out like a reflex. "For not being there. What I did wasn't fair." He takes a deep breath, and Seth has told him a trillion times that it doesn't excuse anything RJ did, but Josh just /needs/ to get that out in the air first. "When I came later, I was going to explain, but... then the.... fucked up-ness happened."
Ells: "Don't." He has to turn around a little, not all the way, but facing this head on is not really a great option to him right now. "Don't apologize to me, don't explain yourself."
Kat: Josh goes quiet.
Ells: RJ just...stews in his own frustration for a second before he can talk again. "I wouldn't... I wouldn't have done it if you were here, yeah. But that doesn't mean it was your fault. No matter where you were."
Kat: Josh doesn't exactly agree, but he says, "Okay."
Ells: "And I don't really want to know where you were because it's going to make me feel like shit even more. I just couldn't... like, tell you to fuck off and leave it like that. If that's what even happened."
Kat: "You told me you were better off when you could fuck who you wanted and didn't have to deal with scheduling your dick into someone. It wasn't fuck off, but it was pretty close"
Ells: "I.... Okay. Maybe this was a bad idea. Wow."
Kat: Josh grimaces. "Do you want me to leave?"
Ells: "I don't know. Shit. That's not true at all, in case that wasn't fucking obvious."
Kat: It should make Josh feel better hearing that, but all it's doing is make his hands shake. "Yeah," he agrees, because the way RJ is freaking out hearing it is telling him it might have actually just been a flippant comment a bitter, drunk dude made. He thinks maybe the sentiment of it isn't unfounded, but he isn't so convinced RJ believes it anymore.
Ells: "I don't know how to- I mean, I can't unsay it whether I meant it or not."
Kat: "It's fine," Josh says, trying to sound reassuring. "We all say hurtful things sometimes. I understand now that you didn't mean it."
Ells: "I don't think you do, though. People say stupid shit but not like...not like that."
Kat: Josh shakes his head. "No. Stop there. Because I'm trying very, very hard right now to convince myself that it was a stupid drunk comment and that you didn't actually mean it, and the more you build it up like that, the harder it becomes to make myself believe it."
Ells: "I didn't mean it. Or at least I don't mean it now." That much he knows.
Kat: "And I'm trying to get that to sink in."
Ells: "I didn't think it was that bad." He's...he's pretty sure he's gonna be back on the bottle when Josh gets out of here because he was already fucked up and now it's worse. "I would've said something to you sooner."
Kat: "It's fine. You didn't know."
Ells: "Yeah, and that was my own fucking fault."
_________________________________________________________

Ells: after Cody finally passes out, Colette goes to just check on Josh and finds the note and cries again, even though she thought she couldn't possibly anymore, gets it all out and crawls back into the guest bed with Cody and drifts in and out til the sun comes up. That's twice that close together that Josh has needed someone else to comfort him. She doesn't even have the one thing that makes her happiest anymore
Kat: Josh probably skips into the apartment to get his books before class in the morning and just... he feels guilty even being in the apartment, like he doesn't deserve it anymore
Ells: Colette probably texts him on her lunch break to ask if he's okay, and whether he's made any decisions
Kat: Josh tells her that he wants to come home for dinner, if he's still welcome, but that that's the only decision he's been able to make
Ells: Colette pretty much physically recoils from that text, she's so horrified by the implication. She tells him of course he's welcome for dinner, it's his home, and then sits and kind of swims in horror and sadness that he /thought he might not be allowed home/.
Kat: Josh has himself in the absolute worst headspace. He's... he's literally, genuinely waiting for Cody to kick him out. He tells Colette that he'll see her at dinner, then.


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