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Dying To See How This One Ends; 'Or It's Gonna Go Down In Flames' - this song does not actually appear
Topic Started: Mar 2 2016, 07:50 PM (1,080 Views)
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((Irene Djezari continued from Dance Or Die))

Is this the real life...? Is this just Fanta sea...?

Yes, Irene knew her second grade funnies.

Irene herself, she actually looked pretty good. Like if she had come to school like this on a regular basis she'd probably have ended up going to this dance with someone other than a person who wasn't even attracted to her. Sure, she'd spared a bit of time in the preceding two days to daydream schoolgirl fantasies to the contrary, but at the end of the day this was all just a friendly dance off. Pants on. Pants off for Irene though, she'd gone for the good old dress. Something expensive and somewhere between several shades of blue and gold, sleeveless and teasing at her ankles. Her hair was straight ironed into a drizzle of golden bangs. Trainers because Irene didn't dance easy, but they were at least clean and fresh. An off-white flower had been pinned to her chest by a disturbingly proud mother. 'Oh sweetie, you're finally becoming a heartbreaker! Just like I knew you would!'. Yeesh.

"So how does someone dance to Bohemian Rhapsody anyways? Like I can only imagine a particularly contrived ballet number but I'm sorry to say I don't quite have pirouettes off the fucking handle." Irene kept a respectful distance from Noah, which by her definition probably meant 'still too close' for most others. She sort of hovered near his shoulder, as close as her head could get to it at any rate. Irene was standing pretty. Dinner had gone well, she'd managed to maintain a low-key conversation and amuse herself with the inevitable back-and-forth of quips. Her's probably hadn't been that good but still, she'd tried. Noah probably had gotten an eyeful of how... bestial Irene's consumptive style was. She didn't eat her food as much as she absorbed it through her skin. At one point she'd been arbitrarily stabbing her meal with a knife in a rather violent manner less like cutting and more like-

Oh hey, they had Fanta at the refreshments table.
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Man. Look at Noah, looking all juicy with his nice 'strapping lad' look. With his mouthing along to lyrics. Irene was totally over the spark that set her Hindenburg crush for Noah alight, only nah not really. She could only really blame herself. Her eyes for seeing him, her brain for thinking against all odds that he had it going on, her ovaries for very very awkwardly reinforcing that fact. But hey. Irene had gotten this far without the kind of spastic collapse into depths of embarrassment usually only inflicted upon reality show contestants. She'd make it further. As the yung Freddie so aptly put it, 'easy come, easy go'. GG EZ. If this had been a gaming session this would have been the part where Irene started trash-talking nothing in particular to hype herself up.

But calling Noah a no-skill scrub probably wasn't the most constructive action on her menu of options. So what she did have...

A ) Casually converse until opening to cutely ask for dance comes up.
B ) Out with it, girl!
C ) Somehow slip in a shitty innuendo (the 18+ 'doujin' option though it was, for this particular romance option, a false flag)

"Yeah, I mean. I honestly never watched the music video. It's one of those songs that I like when it pops up on the radio but I don't go out of my way to listen." Like, say, every other song in existence. And then, without even a microsecond of lull in the back-and-forth Irene felt a sudden burst of impatience, it played puppeteer for her vocal chords before she could help herself. "Ugh, fuck it, you're right. We're not sitting in this side-room all day, Whitley. Next song we show them what spirited means, okay? Show me what's up, just give it to me. Right out there, where everyone can see. We finna tear it up, you hear?"

She'd kind of opted for a mix of the three options, in her own way. Let it never be said that Irene played by the rules. Irene crossed her arms and grunted, staring her dance-partner-to-be (hopefully, after that performance) straight in the eye. For like a second, then the eyes started to idly wander.
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Eyes wandered liberally. That was what had really broken free. Irene tried to minimize the awkward roaming glances Noah's way.

Oh wait. There was a kinda stubby dude over by the drinks table she randomly recognized out of yonder star-studded blue. Damn that tablecloth sucked, hence Irene unironically loved it in all it's 'well at least you tried here's a literal gold star' glory. It was possibly the design of the person she was singling out, a Mr. Rigano. He looked pretty sharp. Couldn't hold a candle to Noah, but not bad. Irene waved, rather insistently, in time to Freddie's increasingly diminuendo croons. 'No-thing rea-lly ma-tters, a-ny-one can see'. Was that in any way legitimate syncopation, no way. But Irene marched to beat of her own drum, even when there was an actual beat to work with.

She grew bored with that distraction within the moment and then it was back to the vaguely creepy wondering about certain aspects of Noah's- oh hey the song was changing. If Irene's ears had any form of self-control they might have excitedly twitched at the stronger beat, actually they probably did anyways in defiance of all common sense. Not really.

"I haven't been taking dance classes since I was 12 to not be able to show up my peers when the time calls for it." Belated registration, but Irene was able to summon a response:

"Well let's see how well those classes served you, bae." A line that could have been delivered in a sultry way if Irene had any practical sense of what the word 'sultry' meant. Something about liberally-applied mascara and hookahs, right? 'If you want it, take it.' Nice advice, Miss Grande! Irene didn't mind if she did. She felt a bit tense about just casually grabbing the hand; it showed with a few joints being overly stiff as she let her petite hand fall into his. Hand-in-hand, mission accomplished. She giggled nervously despite- to spite- herself, but quickly she reasserted control. Rather forcefully, as suddenly she was seized by the desire to drag the both of them to the dance floor. So she did, turning heel, trying to yank his arm from the rest of his body. Noah the victim of drag, in the other meaning of the word. As opposed to how he usually liked to apply drag as a concept to himself.

"Come on, we shall!"
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Irene's hand was spared further impetus to sweat and limp and otherwise melt into mush. Irene was feeling about as good as Noah looked, in that moment. Awkwardness, lameness aside. Falling away. All those feels, those were neatly shooed aside as they approached the spot where the music was loud, proud. About as loud and proud as cheap speakers could possibly manage, the upper frequencies of Ariana's normally fair voice pretty much just whistling to the dogs. There were flashes of faces Irene recognized, a hundred names to wave and smile at. Or maybe suffer a blood vessel implosion over- No. No, this wasn't the time for any of that. For once Irene's brain could not meander as it was wont, it-

Okay seriously the decor and the theme were awful. Irene wondered if she could sport it for her next birthday. Just a few more weeks and-

Yeah okay, dance time.

The loud lights and the bright sounds and the tasty bass rumbles, they were everywhere, flooding all of Irene's senses. Noah was putting on a show. Line for line, almost slow motion as Irene's body flooded with beautiful adrenaline. Breathe, darling. Just do your thing.

Like she was gonna do anything else.

Noah sung at her, she sung back. Be it as it may, that the vocal quality didn't quite match with the picture of the tall handsome boy exaggeratedly belting each syllable. Maybe Irene made for a better Ariana, who knew. He gestured, she gestured back, the finest of theatrical moments exchanged as they reached for one another like comrades at arms. Pose for pose.

'This is (blah blah lyrics go here)-'

Okay what was with that pose? Irene snapped at him, giggling in genuine amusement as he gestured at her, smoothly matching every move. In tempo, in ridiculousness, they might as well have been one body. Wink wink. No innuendo though, she just didn't have the time! This was how it was supposed to be, Irene in her natural habitat. No words needed. Just some cheesy lyrics.

Okay Noah was really pouring it on though. Irene lost the ability to match, she was at that point happily laughing too hard to maintain the theatrics arms race. It didn't matter anyways, when the synth revved up, when the kick drums threw themselves into the fray.

Irene knew this. Irene's weight smoothly rattled her kneecaps as she began to rocket back and forth, neatly bouncing from heel to heel with grand but controlled sweeps of her legs. The shuffle. All basic physics, basic body work. No poorly thought out words, no inappropriate or errant thoughts, no failure of social decorum. Just two dorks and a beat. She couldn't mess this up, for once. Spins and twirls and... swimming gestures, apparently. Okay, Irene would take the bait. Fish outta water and all that. A smooth sorta-moonwalk followed as Irene backstroked to Noah's breaststroke, as she neatly topped him in audacity and glance-grabbing nature of move. She disengaged from the move with strong chest and core, and then-

Oh no, Noah had died!

Oh my god, that move. It hadn't been a wipeout, rather, Noah was just awesome. Holy shit! Irene didn't even know what kind of move that was, but whatever it was it deserved all those awards he ranted on about in his videos. Irene's dance froze, she stumbled to Noah's fallen form.

"Noah, oh my god! That was so cool!" Irene's eyes glimmered, she was pretty much totally taken by the moment. Her momentarily graceful form was spontaneously an obtrusion, she nearly tripped a nearby couple in her haste to lay praise upon her friend-slash-not-boyfriend.
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Had anyone even seen that?! With the arms bending and the leg pushing and the falling and the not-dying?! Alesso (correctly spelled, Alessio, as much as Irene loved the progressive house producer that dude did not go to a dance this lame), Alvaro, Brendan, Kizi, any of the other familiar faces on or around or somehow in the presence of the dance floor?! Noah fanning himself was apropos, because damn was that move hot. Hot as he was. Irene knew she was wearing a blush, fuck it she didn't care. No way was it visible with all the awkwardly dim mood lighting.

"... You should see me do that in six inch heels."

"Fuck off, Pina." That had come out of nowhere. Even Irene had been surprised by how fast her lips had split, parted nice and Moses-like, to issue that curt retort. Somewhere in Irene's brain there was still the ever-ticking time bomb. Not an especially deep spot. But. Irene was too far gone having a good time to be too far gone in any other way. For once, it occurred to her in a timely fashion that she was being rude. "Sorry. Did not mean that." Well technically she did, it was just inappropriate given the context.

'I was under your spell...' (more accurately, with Ariana's weird-ass enunciation, spayyy-el)

Damn right Irene was under a spayyy-el. Noah was back to dancing, she was back to dancing. Don't question, don't otherwise do stupid shit. Just do stupid dance. It was really that simple.

... Best dance move, huh? In the animes this was (is) the part when (I)rene pulled out the old DDR skills (break free). But this was too three-dimensional and physics-constrained for that. Okay, plan B. Irene did have other skills, to be sure. She hadn't spent her entire life doing stuff to not be able to do stuff when the time came for any of her many pseudo-skills to actually be useful. Not video games, not memorizing the entire Math book front-to-back, this was some old school Djezari talent. Gymnastics. It had only been a few years. How hard could it possibly have been to make the old muscles bend and snap that way again?

So before she could stop herself, the chorus with the kick drums and stuff was back and she was moving.

'This is-'

Irene didn't quite have the training Noah had to look as good, oh-so-good as he did, but she had a natural sense of rhythm. Her words only sometimes made sense, but her actions...

'-the part when I say I don't want it. I'm stronger than I've been before.'

... Okay, well those also only sometimes made sense. But, well, as Grande so shrilly put it:

'This is the part when I break free.'

On that Irene took her shot at the gold. Very knee and elbow heavy twists carried her forward a scant two steps, into a space that was fortunately pointed away from Noah and the bulk of the crowd, a clearing in the mass of people. She thrust her arms up and jumped. Arms soared with the soaring melody, Irene came one step closer to her childhood dreams of becoming a bald eagle on behalf of America. Balls of her heels rose, sunk, she neatly landed from her up-and-down jump. Just needed the momentum. She jumped again, this time hurling her chest forward, her dresses' (not) red glare. Legs tucked in, bursting through the air. Gave proof through the night. That Irene fucking stuck her landing. A full frontal roll from like two meager steps warm up. Virtually standing. She hadn't collided into anyone or the floor or anything, holy crap!

"Oh my god, Noah, I did it! I didn't fuck u-! Oh shit!" Well, spoke too soon. In her excitement Irene tried to run to her partner's side but forgot he was still pretty much just right there. So she essentially just hurtled straight into him, an entire Irene's worth of projectile.
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Oh man, the laugh. What a prick. No, but now was not the time to be vindictive. Save the return to barely-justified irritation for when the gold-stars and snack crumbs were chilling in the school's dumpsters. On some mostly out of reach level Irene understood that Noah was letting her off easy. Irene was the belligerent, what with the whole 'fuck' and all. If Irene were Noah she would have killed herself for trying to be so fuckgirl. Well okay, Irene wouldn't kill herself because she wasn't about that sort of life. She'd be Noah killing herself. Or, uh, something.

All was forgiven though. Noah liked it! Clapped for her. Whooped it up. Made the dance floor feel even more alive than it already was. Made her feel like she was damn good. Which she totally was.

Even when she was suddenly dangling like a wooden-joint marionette in his arms. His pretty well defined arms. Oof. This is the part where Irene once more felt the compulsion to be killed by not-herself. It was embarrassing. See, she could have stabilized herself in an instant really. All senses were a-okay, her post-flip recovery was top notch. There was no room spinning, no nausea, no urge to blurt out something potentially stupid- okay there was always that urge but it was no stronger than normal at least. There was just her. In his kinda romance novel-ey tender grasp. Whether he intended it or not he had the younger Djezari half ready to swoon. Pulses of blood heavily sloshed through her limbs, now virtual dead weight. Something something knees weak, etc.

"Let's just get through this song without killing ourselves."

Irene could get behind that. The song was entering it's final electro breakdown, so after a few moments of awkward limpness in his grasp Irene brought herself to life. Hastily tore herself away before someone from yearbook had that shit on polaroid.

"Second to catch my breath?" Wait. Had she actually said that aloud? Irene did not just up and surrender, actual injury maybe aside. "Wait no, fuck that. Dance like fuck, Whitley!" Irene rode the kicks out with some level of grace as they looped and looped... hey, the DJ knew how to transition this year!
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Smooth one, Whitley. Clumsy, quick fuck. Innuendo, or whatever. Hah hah, very funny. Irene did afford it a giggle but she also wistfully wished for any joke that didn't come off as totally awkward somehow. Irene's fucks were probably clumsy and awkward too. Not like she'd know from experience. Like, when was that ever going to happen in her lifetime?

Ne-ver...

Irene knew that sample. That white noise slide, that deep house rhythm. Latch. Deep House's brief 'oorah in the pop charts. One of her many 'summer of 2014' songs. She'd invented a dance for it, but that one had involved a lot of faux-marching that she just didn't have the space for. It had had a rather... steamy music video, which Irene remembered brief snippets of and thus nearly died on the spot. Stupid Sam Smith and his sultry vocals. 'If there are boundaries, I will try to knock them down'. In Irene's dreams. Ugh, why had she thought this was a good idea again? Stupid brain, leading her into situations.

Even as she slowly beat her mental self to death, executed it for high treason, she swayed not-so-gently to the song. Her rhythmic sashays were assured, methodical, confident. They betrayed a maturity she didn't actually have. Her arm extended Noah's way in instinctive search for someone's love to lock in. She didn't expect him to actually take it, wasn't even thinking such a move was on the table.

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Noah really did have good moves though. Irene let her eye casually bounce with every jerk of his body to the rhythm. It was all slow, controlled, easy to follow. So much so that even she was somehow managing it. Was this what her coaches meant when they said 'stop trying too hard and control your pace'? Maybe. Irene wouldn't remember such an epiphany in the long run anyways, but here and now it looked pretty good on her. Only major mistake she'd made in the last few seconds was extending the arm, because like hell that was going to happ-

Oh.

Oh.

Well. It wasn't the rarest thing for hands to be on Irene like this. Arms, those were a thing she was used to. From mom, dad, sis, friends. Less so friends nowadays, since Irene's social circles had skewed towards neeeeerds with varying degrees of social incompetence. 'Just put the arm on my shoulder damn it, it looks weird hovering off it like that!' And so on. Irene didn't often dance with this much contact though. She'd never expected there to be this much... contact. She, uh, liked it. A lot. The pressure valve in her head that held the spastic at bay was twitching, spewing steam. Uh. Worth.

She fell in a bit, as close as she dared. Man the dude towered over her. He seemed to be going for a display of the Coriolis Effect. There would be rotation. All was cool. Irene had this. Just spin. Maybe 'wheee' a little bit.

"Hah! Uh, yeah!" All she could respond with as they began to pick up. Inertia worked it's magic, her boy Newton betrayed her. It was all in motion now, however it ultimately stopped. Don't trip. Don't trip.
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Man, when had Irene started wearing the grown up shoes and the big girl dress? This was nice. Smooth, easy listening; smoother and easier dance steps. Sashay to and fro. Irene's crush quietly smoldered, shit was hotter than the most fire of mixtapes, but it was a poignant sort of burning desire. A simmer, not a boil. The sort that got Irene the highest of grades in English when she analyzed it in prose. Star crossed lovers, never to be. Because at least one of them was, like, gay as fuck. All could be forgiven. It just felt right. Natural, the way their motions drew tighter and tighter circles on the dance floor. A unit circle as imaginary as the fantasies Irene nuzzled and nursed on, of taking this man before her for... well, nothing, really. She was in no way equipped as a person to dance the dance of romance but she could at least pretend!

Second verse started. Hell yeah she was wrapped up in his touch.

Irene squealed in surprised delight when she was suddenly being thrown out. She knew enough dance stereotypes to know that this was the romantic part with all the roses and the deep longing eye gazes and stuff. Wasn't actually happening, but if her primordial brain (AKA the vast majority of it) could just get over the hormones she could enjoy this for what it was. Exhilarating. A boy and a girl showing the dance floor what was up. There was no way there was any couple as hot as they were, Irene entertained. She returned to him with almost professional aplomb, theatrically swelling her bosom and neck so that she struck a chord and a figure in their shared silhouette. He pressed into her. Looked into her. Uh, hot damn.

Was this what feeling sexy felt like?

Man, it was sweaty. Maybe that was the point?

Down, she let her back arch, exhaled neatly. The most sustained competence in her life, this dance. She eyed a random couple, idly shooting her glances from where their butts were awkwardly plastered against the wall. A smile blossomed their way. If she could push the good feels hard enough maybe they'd get the courage to launch onto the dance floor themselves. Just a moment she had to write them their persuasive essay though, for she was coming back up and-!

...

Well. Of all the things that could have slammed together. Forehead, noses, chins. Nah, fuck it. Make it the lips, so sayeth all the gods she suddenly cursed, and so it shall be.

Soft. Tasted like Maybelline, somehow. Maybe Noah was worth it. Except, um, he wasn't. Like technically he was but this wasn't the time for technicality it was the time for sloppy makeouts and the consequences thereof. This was not supposed to be happening. Maybe if Irene's heart beat any harder it'd straight up stop and spare her the aftermath.

...

No, dammit. Still alive.

Irene made only the most token of efforts to stop herself from hitting the floor. Somehow it was as hard as the concrete that Irene and her doctors did not recommend for catching her skate wipeouts. Dammit Cochise. Irene's pained cry was silent, bereft of breath. Noah had kind of stolen that. Noah. He was still there, standing over her with awkward concern sculpted into his form. He apologized. Reached out. Smiled and laughed awkwardly. Looked so damn good doing it. Irene stared at Noah's offered hand as if it were Noah's offered hand. That's how shocked she was.

"... Noah, I..." Her breath fluttered somewhere between dimensions. Nervous giggling began to punctuate every sentence, every period, comma, exclamation point. Her eyes rapidly began to implode. Wide for shocked, to narrow for fear. Her mouth was a cartoon marionette's, flapping open and shut like something out of Sesame Street. How's that for funny, Whitley?

She started, stopped, breathed, all too consciously felt the warmth still left over her bottom lip. "N-Noah... that was.... you... me-!" Something hurt, something really hurt somewhere. She didn't understand how it could even. How she could even. And suddenly she stood, vaulting abruptly so she became Noah's personal space. The giggling went as quickly as it had come. There was a sudden edge to her voice, that even the most profound of teenagers couldn't match.

"My first kiss. Noah. That was- that was my first..." Her eyes were shimmering, drowning dangerously. Shit was straight out of an anime.

Only the punchline to come wasn't going to be so funny.
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Irene was acutely aware of the stare. Makaveli album and all. Hell with all of them, let them stare. The people in the place with the dancing, all irrelevant. Irene only needed one set of eyes right now. Right there. Right in front of her. He giggled, so did she. For once Irene wasn't the only one laughing at an inappropriate time.

Noah pulling a nice freeze tag pose. "Fuck."

She wished.

She wasn't sure why. Why she was suddenly trembling with barely contained... rage? Fear? Totally misplaced desire? Every fucking emotion was totally misplaced. It wasn't a big deal. Shit wasn't an anime. First kiss ultimately didn't really matter. Asimah had given hers to a girl as collateral for a bank loan. Typical shit, really. It was all so typical. Irene was supposed to calm down, say something barely apropos, maybe laughable. They'd go on, maybe with Irene just complaining about the accident in the past tense. Too present tense. It was all super three dimensional. Like it was actually real, against all odds.

Hey, why are you trying to back off? Stay here.

Irene pushed in as Noah tried to push out. His arms essentially didn't exist, she was well inclined to run them over...

"I've...I've had all my shots."

With a car.

"You. You think this..." Irene had to really work to force the words through her suddenly iron cast jaw. Deathwing. Emphasis on the death. A lot of folk on the dance floor would likely now be thinking in brief, 'holy shit when did Ramsey become a dance chaperone?' Their thoughts would be corrected upon observation into, 'fuuuuck Djezari is mad.' She payed none of them any mind. Just shrilly screeched. Not half sure what she was mad about:

"You think this is a joke, you fucking...!?!" What was the fuck? Something imposed? Something not given? Something wanted?

"Ass... fuck!?" Got 'em boys.

Ineptitude aside Irene was now obviously quite mad, teeth barred and both fists eagerly balled. Ball so hard.
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People liked looking. If she'd been anyone besides herself she'd also have been looking. But she was Irene. She was the one being looked at. She was the one starting to melt, to [scream internally] a la hipster speak, while they all watched. She might as well have been an observer. For all of the control she had over what was happening.

"Look, let's just take a moment and calm down before someone say or does something they'll regret."

Regret. No regrets. Not one. Noah wasn't taking a single damn thing from her.

Except everything that he already had. A curiously empty sensation punctuated only by every desperate heave for air. Everything was so tight, but the dress had been so fit. For all that gesture had accomplished in the grand scheme of things. What was she supposed to be thinking now, exactly? Yeah she was angry, but why exactly? Noah had violated, he remained inviolate. She was supposed to remedy that shit. With her fist. She didn't want to. Motive, impetus, justification. Somehow he had robbed that from her along with everything else. Just by standing there. Looking like that. A little fear and a 'don't taze me bro' and suddenly Irene was, in her own spotlight, the bad one.

"..."

She threw an angry jab into his outstretched hands. It was rickety, weak, punctuated by an animal howl that strove for the finest of valley girl groan impressions. And, well. That was it. For all the nothing she had accomplished, she was done. And thus, she was gone. She likely hurt the people she carelessly shoved through to escape more than the actual target of her anger. Her shoulder bumped, bumped, bumped some more until she was out of the gym. Doors quietly snapped behind her and the tunes snuffed out. Sucked, she'd still been rocking out to them somehow. Seeya in the iPod, Disclosure. She took a moment to stand still. The dry and mealy air of a lukewarm Kingman night turned her moistened cheeks to pudding.

The tears took some time to finally trail down, drip off and splatter. She left spots of dampened concrete behind. In front. If only her clothes had conveniently been concrete as well, upon.

No regret. She wouldn't even muse on it. Not like she really knew how to. She just blankly, wetly stared, looking for her own spectacle to witness in nearby dry wall.
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The wall, arid blank space that it was. Irene began visualizing infinity. She shuffled towards the wall, called that a limit. Her hands traced imaginary numbers and shapes over the plane of the wall. As many of her ninety nine problems as she hadn't solved, solving yet more somehow made her feel a bit better. It was easier when her thoughts weren't racing parallel circuits, brain electricity going places she didn't want it to be. Calc and geometry, those things were impersonal. Easier to deal with. Her fingers continued to blandly etch, pressed lightly into the concrete of the wall such that she could taste every contour of mortar. Chunky, like peanut butter.

She heard the door swing open behind her. No more Disclosure. That sucked.

"Irene, are you okay?" She continued to quietly trace as footsteps terminated right behind her. She could feel the shadow he cast. Was she alright? Eh. Hard to tell.

"Talk to me, please." The magic word. She could already hear the gentle chide from her sis, 'Irene, the magic word means you have to-'

"What if I told you I don't really know why I'm mad?" Irene had never cried like this before, this awkwardly silent tearing up that didn't hurt like it usually did. It wasn't as gross as it usually was. Kinda like the pretty crying they had in movies, without the snot and choked breaths and all that. The saline just drip drip dripped. Irene had an inkling that she should try to dry some of it and the next moment her palm was a fly-swatter over her cheek, brute rubbing the wet away. Stung like a bee.

"And if I told you I still kind of really hate you right now?" Her mute tone raised the question: 'Did she, really?' it seemed like the emotion she was supposed to be feeling. It was Noah. Pine Colander. The insensitive try-hard. The one who had stolen her womanhood. Or something dramatic like that. But, well. It was Noah. Her and Noah. There and then, like it always was. It didn't feel any different than before. Everywhere she'd been led that night, it somehow felt like nothing had really changed. She disliked him, yeah, but she couldn't find it in her to dislike him anymore. Something along those lines. How did emotions work, even. All she knew for sure was that she was somehow somewhy determined not to look at him again, so she kept her back turned.
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It totally was extreme. Irene had to wonder if she'd ever actually known that was the case.

The boy behind her, shadow cast over her like all the world at that moment, she knew only what she liked to assume about him. He was weird and made stupid nonsense jokes. He didn't know his triggers from his guns. Bang bang. She had the vaguest urge, even with all that had transpired, for a bang. Everything went every way and at the center there was just her. Staring at a wall, which was a totally awesome way to pass a dance night! Her hand continued to scrabble over her face, etching her relief into skin as she not-so-gently tried to shove all the feels off. With every scrunch of palm her cheeks felt just a little less moist.

He was right, hate really was unnecessary. Even though she'd been kind of doing it for so long, in some sense. Somehow she was sure this had happened before.

She connected the dots. Little shapes, constellations, formed out of the pores and cracks in the concrete that was her horizon and night sky. Her eyes traced over and over the invisible lines of her whim. Her eyes stung a little less, maybe.

"... Here." She remembered something. It slipped out of the pocket of her hidden boyshorts with some digging under the hem of her dress and no fucks given. Mom and Asimah had gone the extra mile to find underwear with usable pockets in the event of dress wearing. Most practical purchase Irene had never made. Possible inadvertent flashing of passerby aside- heaven help anyone to stumble onto this mess of a scene- Irene found her mark, fiddled with it for a second, and then handed her phone over. The screen was occupied by an open text message. A draft, saved some time prior.

Last time this had been open she'd hated Noah about as much as she possibly did now. Last time this had been open she'd assumed...

'...and god damn it Noah do u even thnk about how a legit transgenderperson might even think about you? ...'
'...don't uthink it's slightly self-misogynist (? look this word up before sending_) that u lit. kill your female self or whatever that sht even is...'
'...and what the hekl is it u even talk about all the time with the dumb jokes nyways...'
'...byt dont get me wrng i totes think ud be attractiv all this shit aside(is this even relevant maybe remove)...'


And that was without scrolling. Big text, too, because who the hell could read little thingies on the stupid one micron screen phones came with?

Irene continued to stare unfailingly at the wall.
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What had she hoped to accomplish? Prove her point? Some word from the distantly all-too recent past came to mind. 'Extreme'. Maybe. She hadn't thought then, or then, or then, and definitely not now.

Way back then, Irene had written everything Noah had seen. Without much thought save impassioned irritation. Especially without thought spared for typos. Fingers fast then, as they weren't now. She took the time to write. She wasn't writing anything for reals, but the wall she had claimed as chalkboard buzzed with activity in her mind's eye. Sentences sweated from the pores of the concrete, traced by a nondescript imagination, line for line. 'Noah', and then 'do', and then 'you'. Somehow she could remember, however long ago it had been. Days? Months? Years, even though she hadn't known Noah that long? 'Think' was spelled correctly this time around. She began drifting down the y-axis, the sentence began to tilt. Actually writing didn't allow much freedom. Seemed better, much better, when it was all just in her head.

That was right. It was better. Wouldn't comfort Noah at all, but, well.

"... This I can't just wash away..."

... Well.

'Don't... 'you'... 'think'... Irene couldn't help her fingers helplessly flexing at her side, slow-dancing quietly against her thigh. Words were everywhere, in front, beside, especially behind her. Noah said things, she listened. For once, perhaps. She stared. As usual. Not at him. Her eyes didn't hurt anymore, but the more she listened the more she got the sense that she'd chosen the wrong time to stop crying. Seemed about right. Unlike her. Suddenly Irene didn't seem so right.

That wasn't right.

So she'd had the wrong idea. Self-misogynist wasn't a word. Accounting for that it was missing from what she was rewriting in air on the wall. Twink was a word, whatever it meant. Just a couple of little mistakes. Nothing she couldn't bounce back from. She had a perfect draft in front of her now. Noah hadn't even read the whole thing anyways. Everything that needed to be said, for her to once more be the one in the right. Real or otherwise, typos or otherwise. All right there. Her hand sat silent, waiting to be called to action to do something that would have no purpose anyways.

"... My little sister is an amazing kid, and I know she's going to rule the world someday, and I believe she can do it..."

Somehow that of all things stood out. Sounded familiar. There were a lot of little sisters, in this world.

How long had they even stood there? He had so many things to say. She didn't have a word, for all of the ones she'd pretended to write. She wanted to move her hand, flourish it somehow on her behalf. It kind of just flopped in a circle and then weakly settled from whence it came. He was continuing to say things. Things that she understood as much as she didn't want to. She wanted to somehow retort, make it so she was the one who had a reason to be mad again. She was supposed to be the right one. She couldn't be, even if she wanted to.

Her vocal cords only constricted, contracted, belts and ropes and whips tight. Nothing.

The only thought she had left to obey was to keep staring straight ahead. She refused to admit anything further.

"'... Kill your female self or whatever that shit even is'. This is one of the worst things you could tell an LGBT person. Yes, I get that you're referring to my character, but this is really where you've gone too far..."

You're the one who made the joke in the first place, Whitley. Irene wished she could remember that night. She saved the formless evidence as part of the now lively discussion not happening on the expanse of brick and mortar before her.

"... I have had to spend my whole life explaining myself to people. I have to convince people why I am the way I am and hope that they can accept it..."

This was all just a giant misunderstanding, just like the days she would say something stupid to mom and then mom would get furious and Irene would just mumble stuff and be exonerated. It happened all the time, literally all the time, with friends with family.

"But for you, Irene, to act like you like me, or at least tolerate me, and then to write such hateful things that you probably hoped you could say to me once you found the chance, this is downright despicable."

Sometimes saying things didn't work so well. Sometimes they made things worse. But no matter what Irene was always there. And she never really knew what to say, in hindsight.

Now, still, she didn't know.

She had to say something. Why was it so hard to say something? A refusal, an edict to the effect. It was so weird that she didn't want to cry right now. This was the time to cry. It was him, it was her. Noah Whitley, the boy-slash-apparent-twink she'd once thought she hated and was an insensitive jerk and thought he was so clever and smart when he totally wasn't. Irene Djezari, the...

She was proven wrong. In so many words. Somehow that didn't seem to matter. And Irene had nothing to say. She just had thoughts and visions but none of them were worth anything. To be fair, they were all right there. She had all the obvious apologies, corrections, rebuttals. The counterproposals, the evidence, the tangents. The anger, the fear, the desire. It was all still there. She had it all, she had...

... To be...

... Nothing to say. His stories were touching. His delivery, for once, made perfect sense. His accusations were justified. She had responses, but she had nothing to say. Irene always had a move. Usually ill-advised. But at least she'd always felt... something. Now she couldn't move at all. Couldn't feel anything at all. She could have run, screamed, cried at the very least. It would somehow prove something. Every instinct just wanted her to stay so still statues would sooner crumble away to eternity than she.

Funnily enough, with all Noah had said, she somehow did feel better. Negative to zero. But in terms of absolute value zero was handily the worst. However that metaphor translated to real life. It probably didn't, all things considered.

Maybe this all proved something in and of itself. Zen and all that.

Her eventual response was the first thing that came to mind that she didn't carefully, meticulously, infinitesimally curate in her stubborn silence. Just a few seconds, eternity, either definition of time sprung to mind for how long she'd stood there, unresponsive. She said it in a tone so even that she couldn't:

"You can break it, if you want... The phone." How helpful, that she specified. How that in anyway resolved anything was a question Irene herself didn't know the answer to.

Somehow it was logical. Noah got his fair shot at retaliation. Whatever came after at least, somehow, it was a step towards normalcy. Where all these words somehow made sense, where Irene was Irene again, whatever that entailed. And just like everything else Irene inevitably lost or broke she'd just come up with something, maybe sniffle a bit, and mom and sis would be halfway across the world to replace it on her behalf. The phone, it's contents, they didn't matter.

What did matter was her. Irene was the answer to the problem, it was all right there. She had to be something, anything... She was useless, that's what she was. Typical. She continued to not be willing to will herself to any further action, kept every muscle locked so tight she swore she'd snap in half at the shoulders from the strain, as much as she wasn't feeling anything at that moment. What words even reasonably described these feels? Come on, Webber... Trepidation? Stoicism? Callousness? Triggered?

Obviously most of what was happening in Irene's head wasn't really apparent. It was fast as the speed of thought and only exponentially more convoluted. It probably also wasn't really relevant in the grand scheme of things. What Noah heard, what he saw, that was what he got. An answer. A person.

Whatever the substance of either was.
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He wasn't going to do it. Why not? It was the logical conclusion, at least Irene would have insisted if she could remember how to just open her mouth.

This kind of muted but intense tone of voice was somehow the worst, more than anything that was louder or more obvious or more terrifying. In that it wasn't any of those things, louder, obvious, terrifying. It was a voice that teetered on the edge of something, as much as Irene wished it could be otherwise. It was a voice that told her to turn around. She was supposed to keep looking at the wall. If she looked away she'd all these things that weren't on it. Her cheeks still felt moist and sticky under the appraisal of a lukewarm Kingman breeze. She could have raised her hand, tried to peel away more skin. All she needed to do was turn, so that's what she did. Each individual tense muscle needed it's own key to unlatch, it's own separate command to stand down. Moment by moment she creaked Noah's way.

That was weird. Why hadn't he done it? All those things he'd said that made perfect sense and then he'd gone and done something senseless. His fingers flickered. His eyes stared. Directly into hers, and she evenly met and exchanged the look. There was nothing she could transcribe into that particular surface. It was maybe a bit moister than she remembered. She'd remembered it all pretty and stuff. Now it was just... soft. Exposed. Weird how things changed like this all the time. Things all around her.

She remained.

Maybe she could speak now.

"... Thanks, Noah." Even tone. Thoughts arrive like butterflies. Oooh, she don't know... Man, as if her thoughts could have become any more irrelevant, irreverent.

It seemed to all feel right again. Something seemed wrong, but most things seemed right. She'd take that. It was familiar. Comfortable. The usual. Like all those other times when tears had been shed and exchanged. She'd just walk away. Unscathed, somehow. Forgiven. The little girl in over her head, let free to play while the grown ups talked. Thanks mom. Thanks sis. "I know I..." No. That was wrong. She never knew, and that definitely hadn't changed this time around. "... Maybe it's better we never talk again. I mean, you know." He knew, at least.

Noah. Whatever he was even supposed to be. "I'm... this kind of person." That was wrong, she wasn't. She wasn't. She wasn't. And yet she totally was. She had had everything, and now it was all gone. A first kiss, a clue. See ya. The logical conclusion. All that was left. "And this was probably inevitable, all this time. We can't be anything healthy, like this. You know. I...- Thank you. Thank you again."

Thanks Noah.

Had she ever blinked while she was responding? She didn't feel like she had. Not a single muscle she could remember shifting. Nothing, nothing at all, had changed.
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