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Sadness Augmentation; I have no clue what grocery stores exist over in America (open!)
Topic Started: Feb 15 2016, 01:02 AM (1,336 Views)
Cicada Days
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((Ben Fields continued from Sam's Town))

Shopping for the produce was always the awkward part of a grocery trip, as far as Ben was concerned. Lana didn't really like her greens, he didn't really like his greens, heck even Mom tried to discretely keep her portions of the fresh stuff vanishing. But health was one of the basics of any household, and thus it was one of Ben's top priorities. Even if he didn't really know which vegetables needed to be cooked versus being served raw. Ditto for the type of cooking. Boiled or mashed or stuck in a stew, Ben usually just did whatever and hoped it tasted passable. He was learning though, slowly. He'd managed a decent stir-fry sorta deal the last time he'd had some carrots and cabbage on the burner, and he was pretty proud about that.

Ben was at that time gingerly poking around a basket display of zucchini. He swore the damn things essentially just looked like cucumbers, trying to figure out the deal with the different name was his halfhearted struggle of the moment. This really was not worth the time; he could try to get fancy about his purchases at a time when he wasn't in danger of running out of fucks. He rolled his eyes, forced them up and away. That's how he saw the others.

Appraised the girl first because why not, looking at girls (in a non-creepy fashion) could brighten any moment. Ben didn't recognize her by name, she was one of those passing faces. Next was blondie. There was a recognizable face, Alvaro Vacanti, or however that last name was supposed to go. A pretty cool guy at school, and Lana's number one choice when they had the cash and time to eat out was the Vacanti cafe and 'that cool guy who teaches me how to play chess when I ask'. Essentially an ace dude in Ben's books, though their conversations in the past had hinted there was maybe some faulty wiring under the surface. Nothing quite Henry Spencer 'holy fuck what is this' level, but enough to stand out. To make him a target, unfortunately.

Hence the presence of the third person, who didn't really need or warrant any proper introduction. Okay, that wasn't fair. Darius wasn't that bad, some of his more 'nope' affiliations aside. In theory this wasn't what it looked like, but Ben's suspicions were perked all the same. Just a healthy bit of watchful concern prickling the hairs on the back of his neck. Warranted or not Ben quickly rationalized that this would be a chance to observe Darius in the wild, see if he was actually playing nice or not. What was that saying? Old habits died hard.

Not too long, he told himself, just a few couple minutes before he got back to his other business. He hunkered down, tucking his lithe form against the sturdy arm of his cart. Pretended he was silently vibing out to whatever generic shit was playing over the store radio while he kept his eyes casually scanning about with semi-regular glances at the cluster of dorks. He tried to keep tabs on the mood in case his presence at any point would be welcome.
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Darius said something and judging by the blank faces and awkward smiles it had fallen flat. Pretty much in character.

But then two of the three had somehow noticed him. Discrete eyes be damned. At least Ben could stop pretending he had any faith in the store tunes. He raised his hand, a single sharp wave, and began to wheel his cart over. About as quickly as he needed to be sure he didn't miss another killer line. Would have been a tragedy. Just check out the heads of lettuce, those were looking real nice and crisp through the plastic. Maybe some of those shriveled up mushrooms that looked like the next coming of the Cheryl's 'incident', those would-

Okay. He couldn't exaggerate this shit out too long, that would be rude to Alvaro and his lady friend (?).

"Hey guys." No names since he didn't have the girl's on retainer. Just an easy and distantly kind smile and a couple of nods each. The mood was definitely tense in a vaguely pathetic kind of way, and Ben wondered how his appearance was going to change that. If at all. "If we're forming some kind of study club here I'm down to mooch off whoever the smart one is." With any luck nobody was actually going to take that one seriously, but with the characters assembled the possibility was unfortunately real. Ben tucked his cart's worth of vittles out of the way, somewhere in plain sight. Gotta show off those Cheerios.
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"Any ideas? You, Spikey?" Hell no. There probably wasn't even a punchline. Maybe if there was one it was the sort of punchline with the emphasis on 'punch'. As in, 'punch Darius for his sins'. Ben couldn't even try to get anything reasonably witty in response before Darius was wildly taking another shot. Pretty much firing blanks, which was probably a particularly mean way to describe the dude's love life. Oh damn, now there was a mean comment Ben would probably do well to never riposte with in civilized conversation. Jury was still out on what this four-car wreckage of a social interaction counted for.

Well okay, things weren't just cruising along. Alvaro seemed to be genuinely upset somehow, his eyes were kinda somehow getting blank. That sort of blankness Ben knew well, the universal distress call tapping out 'please please please stop it' in frantic Morse. Wait, had Darius even really done anything that was that bad? That cinched it, Alvaro definitely had some loose gasket somewhere in his poor innocent brain. Fried as his cafe's grease traps. It all meant... fuck it if Ben knew. Nuance wasn't something Ben felt comfortable with. A bully was a black and white kinda deal, but when it fell along not-so-obvious lines like this situation then it was like: what the heck was Ben supposed to do? Nobody was really clearly the wronged party as far as Ben was concerned...

Okay, there was clearly a distressed party. Really warranted or not Alvaro needed some of the heat taken off his shoulders.

However the hell Ben was going to manage that. Fuck it. He was going to take a shot in the dark. Blind kinda intervention, sans exit plan.

"Yeesh, Darius, you're really flailing for them aren't ya?" Was Ben supposed to actually address Alvaro directly? Would that just set him off further, delicate as he seemed? "Don't think the current audience is really so receptive man." Ben spread his arms, a peace offering in Jesus shilouette. "What is it they say? Pick on someone your own size?" Shit, was that gonna insult Alvaro and Scarlett through proxy? Too fucking late to take it back, whatever. Just keep firing until the clip was emptied, that was the only way now. "Why don't you just leave 'em alone man?" And what about the girl? Like, Ben even got the sense that Scarlett was being overaggressive about it all. Kinda bullish herself. "At least lay out the dumbass punchlines on me, you know? I'd actually enjoy them... Well okay, enjoy is stretching it."

Ben gestured down an aisle. "Leave the innocents alone and fight a real fight for a bit, huh?"
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((Slight GMing approved by RC))

Okay. That, that was actually legitimately funny. It was one of those... what was it? Anti-jokes. So not a joke that it actually became a joke. Ben didn't feel bad for laughing aloud at that one, unless that somehow also got on Alvaro's case, in which case well fuck Ben if even acknowledging a decent joke made him the bad guy.

Alright, so what was happening now? The chick melted into the background, whispered just loud enough for Ben to pick up a few syllables. 'Escape... Ben will... quickly'. So Ben himself was the exit plan, looked like. The smoke screen, the Operation Dynamo. Alvaro didn't seem to totally buy into it, in no small words insisting he was still working on the produce section. Poor kid didn't realize that him staying equaled Darius staying. No doubt there were many god-awful and somehow ego-destroying (seriously, how) jokes to rain down like artillery shells upon Alvaro and his newfound girlfriend's (?) flesh.

Yeesh, so Ben still had to do something. He owed it to the dorks to try. All of 'em. Way he looked at it he was actually sparing everyone involved. Alvaro and Scarlett from Darius, Darius from himself. So Ben reiterated:

"Fight a real fight for a bit, huh?" This time Darius didn't really get the benefit of choice. Darius was one of the boys in the school somehow shorter than Ben was, so with the advantage of the high ground Ben scooped an arm around his prey's shoulders. Greasy ass shoulders these were. Ben propelled the both of them, his cart in tow behind because no man gets left behind. Except Alvaro and Scarlett. Ben offered them a brief backwards glance. God speed. Is what Ben wanted to dramatically impress with his gaze, but his eyes were blank. He really did not know what sort of emotional input this 'situation' demanded in it's lame conclusion.

Ben awkwardly hefted himself and his prisoner of war as far down an adjacent aisle as he could before Darius' efforts to resist grew too strong for Ben to bother any further. The greatest three-legged race ever witnessed in security camera history.
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Scarlett had mouthed something. Maybe thanks, maybe cusses. Either way she wasn't so bad. Still kinda dorky though.

"We'll be hearing that one in the clubs up in Vegas, I'm sure." If Ben had any more arms at his disposal one would have been clamped over Darius' mouth. Okay no, that was probably asking for some kinda transmissible disease. Darius would legit have been a cool kid if he just knew how to keep the old trap shut for two or so seconds. But the swings and the misses just kept coming. 'Faggot', sure Ben would happily call Darius that if warranted. That sorta thing was a matter of due process though. Innocent until proven guilty and all.

Ben was maybe a bit thrown when Darius just out and blurted it. Just a bit.

"In your dreams you're a fag, Dyke. I know you probably have all kinds of trouble with the ladies but that's a lame excuse to just up and defect." Ben chose that time to disengage. Bodily put Darius over there by the towers of cooking oil, put himself on the other side of the aisle. A foot locked itself against his cart, he rolled it back and forth idly with lazy snaps of his ankle. Watched Darius do his eyebrow thing. Ugly. Even if Ben were gay (heaven forbid), or were willing to consider it (ditto) Darius was probably scraping the bottom of the barrel as far as eligible bachelo- why the fuck was Ben even entertaining this internal monologue.

Na-fucking-palm. Back on track with thoughts that weren't retarded.

"I don't feel shit. You're lying, one, and if you're telling the truth I know where the exit is." Ben was starting to feel that familiar crawl, the fire ant trails over his brain that demanded his anxiety. His foot slowed to a crawl. Ben's colorless eyes drilled mercilessly. Darius wasn't in danger, but he'd maybe get the inkling that he was. Let him. Fuck him if he wasn't just trying to pull another shitty joke out of his ass, and honestly, fuck him if he was. Ben hadn't come all the way out here for this.
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Shitty joke out of his ass.

The 'fuck him' aside, everything else predicted seemed to hold. Ben sighed, letting his irritation vent away into his surroundings.

"Yeah. Dunno how any of what you just said constitutes a comeback in anyway, man." Ben shrugged. Turned his back on Darius, checked out the rows of herbs and spices he was standing besides. Didn't even know if any of them were worth getting. Somewhere in his head was the most recent kitchen inventory, just needed to dig a little. His stubby fingers clawed little glass tubes of exotic smelling whatever aside.

"And you were the one looking to pick a fight. Don't complain when you don't get the one you want." Brief annoyance of Darius trying to freak him out aside, dude wasn't so bad. Even if he still talked like it today the worst was probably in his past. He was still worth something. "You know how it goes. Fish for something don't complain about what you hook." Huh. Ben unceremoniously saved that line for his 'domestic disturbances' playbook.
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Did that even warrant a response? No sir. Ben turned anyways, just in time to catch a couple of middle fingers pointed his way. Oof. If Ben cared at all he'd be hurting something fierce right now. What an immature dork.

"Try not to tell him that to his face, dude." Ben's final retort floated after Darius as he split, vanished into the aisles. Wise idea to call that out? Probably not. Reverse psychology and all that. But if there was gonna be any fallout from the nonsense of the last few minutes Ben would deal with it when it was time. He doubted there was much to Darius, just empty dreams and emptier head. It would all work out, and if it didn't, Ben had two fists. Currently not clenched, sifting through the shelves for something he could probably remember if he put his mind to it. Time to get back to business, Fields.

Honestly, though. The image of a little kid like Alvaro getting rustled around in a breeze like a tumbleweed was pretty damn funny. Not worth a smile or whatever, but it also wasn't worth guilt.

((Ben Fields continued in Romeo and Juliet))
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