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Being a degenerate is okay these days
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This wasn't progressing the way Jae had expected it to.

What else was new, right? Ever since he woke up, he'd been reflecting on how the normal, proper way of things was essentially fucked up the ass. He'd paid the price for it and had tried to adjust accordingly. Then, just when he thought he'd started to get a handle on how things worked here, they got turned on their head once again.

Jae had come to expect violence and wrongness. Alvaro was insane and violent, things between him and Hazel might be irreparably damaged, and Jae himself had crossed a line so dire that most people tended to agree that you couldn't ever recover from it and be the same person you were before. Almost everyone was a potential enemy. Fuck - if Brendan of all people had found it in himself to kill, who could assume anything about the rest of their classmates?

But here they were. As Jae was trying to convince himself that he could shoot Brendan if he needed to, that it would be justified, Asha started in with the peacemaking. She'd never doubted him, even after hearing his name on the announcement and finding him here like this. She hadn't given in. Asha was the same as always, off-kilter since of humor and happy nihilist shtick intact. He couldn't be as sure about Dorothy, but he could reasonably assume she hadn't made any attempt to fuck Asha over in the time they'd been together.

And Brendan - Jae could hardly even look at him without feeling that familiar disdain settle over him. Spineless Brendan, always looking at him like he'd done something horribly wrong because Jae refused to walk on eggshells around him, stammering and cringing and making excuses about taking a life just the same way he had when he'd messed up Jae's painting in the art room. It was like he hadn't changed at all. He wasn't crazy. He never had been.

And if Brendan wasn't, and Jae wasn't, maybe none of them were.

Dissonance was the word for it. Three days of the fear, of feeling control slipping through his fingers and being unable to do anything about it, and now this. After everything else, it was the idea that maybe none of them had changed that much after all that set him off-balance again.

Brendan dropped his weapon.

Jae watched him move towards Dorothy and took in a deep, shaking breath.



He lowered the crossbow into his lap.

He didn't feel calm. The world, as always, refused to align itself the way he thought it should and it agitated him. The tension had seeped out of the encounter somewhat though, with Brendan now unarmed and Asha making herself comfortable on a pew not far from Jae. He still didn't know what the fuck was really going on or what it all meant, but it all seemed less likely to end in another murder at this point.

That left him with the disdain. Everyone kept poking at the idea that Brendan had won the weapon for the day, which was almost laughable in itself when you stopped to think about it. A double slap in the face, both to Brendan and to anyone out there who was actually gunning for the prize. If they knew Brendan and what he was like, if they could see him now... Jae snorted a bit in spite of himself.

"So, Brendan. How's it feel to be a winner for once in your life?" And it came easily. Just like they were back at school. Like they were all the same people they'd always been.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Devil's Choir · Crematorium Chapel