Disguise

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Fine Specimen

Reece led me to the same dining hall that I’d evaded that very morning. Did all of this really happen in a single day? I could already hear a loud ruckus inter-spaced with Grey’s maniacal laughter and Dani’s yelling. They had always been noisy, and supremely entertaining. When the door opened, their attention turned towards us and for a minute they both sat still.

I could see Grey’s mouth hanging half open and thanked god that he wasn’t chewing any food. Dani was much more expressive. She carelessly tossed her glass towards the table - it landed perfectly - and got up. There was a wide grin on her face as she ran towards me and engulfed me in one of her famous bear hugs. Familiar feelings of warmth and affection surrounded as she proceeded to squeeze me to death.

“Nice to see you too, Dani.” I chuckled when she finally stepped back to let me breathe. Dani grinned even wider, acknowledging Reece with a simple nod of her head. Grey had taken this time to gather himself and he walked forward with a stunned expression. Geez, was it that shocking that I might actually join them for dinner? Nevertheless, for this moment, I was happy. It was just like old times, as Reece had put it. I vaguely wondered what Xena would think of them.

Grey came forward and gave me a much more controlled embrace, but it was welcoming regardless. From behind me, I heard Reece give out a stiff cough and Grey immediately let me go. Huh. What was that all about?

Maybe I’d imagined that.

The table was already littered with so much food that I wondered if there were more people joining us, but there were only four plates set. Did they really think they could eat so much food?! My eyes widened at the vast and expensive display of food and the shiny metal crockery in front of me. This was beyond royal. Had Reece earned himself a whole country?!

“Sorry, we already started eating before you came,” Grey admitted, “We were hungry.” I laughed at his sheepish expression. Their plates were empty, but they were definitely already used. Reece let out a chuckle as well.

“It’s okay, Grey. I’m anyway not that hungry.” I laughed with a smile, but Reece was frowning at me. “You need to eat more, you know.” He told me with a hint of disappointment but I waved him off.

“Everything looks so good! Let’s dig in!” I said with a falsetto and Dani let out a giggle. We began to assess the things around us.

All the plates had a small engraved logo right in the center. It was easy to make out the shape of a wolf. My fingers immediately went to the engraving, the cold metal bent in the shape of the company logo. Something inside me stirred and I got a sense of deja vu - but I couldn’t recall. Like the back of my mind was itching to tell me something.

“Are you planning to eat something or do you want to continue playing with the plate?” Reece brought me out of my thoughts again. I turned my attention to them, my eyes blinking to clear the haze in my head. They were all looking at me with small smiles, like there was a secret I didn’t know. I cleared my throat, feeling my cheeks redden at being caught day- dreaming and nodded enthusiastically.

“Of course! Of course! There is so much to choose from, I was merely contemplating.” I joked, earning a hearty laughter from Grey.

“What’s there to choose? Just eat from all of it!” Dani cheered as she took yet another generous helping of thai curry and rice. Gosh, was my appetite really that bad or were they the monsters?

Nevertheless, I dug in, reaching for the things closest to me - some Lebanese platter, Mexican bean enchiladas and a plate of assorted sushi. Everything smelled amazing and looked exquisite. They dined like kings!

They steered clear off of dangerous topics - mostly for my benefit - and we spoke of superficial, trivial things such as work and the weather. But it was fun nonetheless. The two were relentless, bickering then teasing, then flirting. It was entertaining to watch. They’d not grown any older and I loved that.

Dani and Grey had been dating since they could speak (or so I’ve been told) but the point was that they were a perfect fit. They’d lasted years together and I was sure they would be married soon. I’d loved them, spent countless hours with them. Grey and I would tease Dani till she was a tomato and Dani and I would play pranks on Grey all the time. We were a perfect little group of two couples.

“So who’s this friend that’s coming? She hot?” Grey spoke loudly, for Daniella’s benefit. She only rolled her eyes at him and then stuck her tongue out.

“Well she’s off limits.” Dani beat me to an answer, passing Reece the plate of stewed vegetables.

“Oh? And why’s that?” He smiled at her cheekily, his eyes twinkling as his fingers played with the fork in the spaghetti, trying to spear a stray olive.

“Cause you’re taken by this fine specimen right here.” She made an elaborate show of standing and bowing and Reece let out a laugh.

A second later Grey leaned forward and gave her a swift kiss on the cheek, making her blush, much to his satisfaction. I looked down, smiling at their interaction as I ate some more of the delicious enchiladas myself. I was so full already, and they looked like they were just getting started.

The feeling came in pulses.

Watching them together, us all sitting for dinner together after all this time. I was happy in the moment but every once in a while it would beat through me that there was a two year gap between the last time we did this. It made me choke up slightly and then I’d reign it in and distract myself with Grey’s cheesy dialogues for Dani paradoxically paired with his ridiculous jokes on her.

Reece was quiet most of the time, occasionally chuckling at something someone said. His not so subtle glances in my direction every once in a while didn’t help my calm composure. I had to keep reminding myself that we’d broken up. What was going on here? I realized that there was so much ambiguity about the current status of my relationship with either of them - and all the decisions lay in my hand. How much was I going to allow them in my life?

I knew what my heart would say. It was a fool.

There lay a glass of wine next to my plate, untouched. I was never much of a wine drinker, it was beer that I liked. It didn’t help that I was a light drinker - my capacity was absolute nonsense. But right now, with my frazzled nerves, the wine was a tempting option. I took a sip of it, and surprisingly, it tasted fine. A typical white wine. I finished the entire glass midway through the dinner.

But what happened next was not typical at all.

“Hey, you okay?” Reece asked me as I tilted slightly to my right. A wave of euphoria hit me straight and through and I shook my head, “I think I’ve had too much to drink.” I admitted.

Reece quickly turned to me, moving his chair back a little. “You only had a sip of wine, you can’t possibly be-” he stopped midway. And then he glared at the two people opposite to us.

“I can’t believe you two!” He yelled at them and they visibly cringed.

“We didn’t know! - she must’ve drank the wrong glass! We’d never put it in her system Reece!” Dani spoke with a worried tone. Grey got up and came over to our side of the table. It looked like he moved in a flash!

“Yeah, you know we’d never do that to her!” He protested, clearly offended that he even considered it. I heard Reece heave a huge sigh, his fingers pinching his nose.

My vision swayed a little and I lost balance for a second before I caught myself.

“Hey! Flora careful!” His arms held onto my shoulders to keep me from falling off the chair.

“Maybe I should sleep it off.” I murmured, trying to ignore the sparks stemming from his touch.

“I don’t know..my tolerance for this has never been so low.” I continued to the three of them, my words not quite clear. I was definitely buzzed and they had something to do with it.

“Did you..drug me?” My mind was slowly catching up.

“NO!” Grey was adamant, but he kept looking sideways at his girlfriend.

“What is happening?” I groaned, trying to get a grip on things. It was impossible to stop the spinning. Had my tolerance for alcohol dipped that low? Impossible. Reece turned my chair to face him, and held me in place in his firm grip. He was glaring down at something, while Grey and Dani exchanged guilty glances from opposite each other.

“Flora? It’s okay. You’re going to be fine.” Reece spoke to me in a slow manner, making it easier for me to understand him.

“Why don’t you drink some water.” Daniella suggested, pushing a glass of water to me. Reece quickly grabbed it and raised it to my lips. I drank it without complaint.

“I think I need to go back to my room.” I struggled to maintain some sense of control. I needed to be alone before the inevitable happened - I started babbling out things that I shouldn’t.

Grey nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah maybe Reece should take you back to your room.”

His girlfriend wore a matching expression of concern and understanding as she agreed with him. “Yeah Reece, take her back.”

My attention shifted to Reece’s hands as they rubbed steady circles on my shoulder blade, the delicious electricity making me smile. I was now getting restless.

Reece shook his head in annoyance.

“How much did you put?” He asked them in a soft whisper and Grey raised his hands in defense.

“Not even enough to knock out a small child. It’s not our fault her capacity is shit.” But I could tell that he wasn’t feeling so bad about this anymore. My attention was too divided to try to understand what they were talking about. Instead, I chose to focus on the very delicious tasting glass of wine in front of me.

“Flora! No, you can’t have that!” Reece took the wobbling glass from my hand, setting it back on the table but out of my reach.Grey snickered and Dani hit him on the shoulder.

“But whyyy? I want it Reece.” I pouted, staring at him with wide, innocent eyes. He froze for a second, looking at me like I’d just flashed him. “What? Is there something on my face?” I slurred the words as my hand reached to wipe my face and put my hair behind my ear. Reece caught my hand mid-way, and placed it back next to me. He then used his other hand to push my hair back and said, “no, you look perfect.” We just sat there, grinning at each other like fools.

“She needs to sleep.” Daniella interrupted our moment and I threw her an annoyed glance. I was gripping the sides of the chair tightly to maintain balance.

“But I want to staaaaay.” I whined like a child, the sudden energy overtaking me. They all chuckled and Grey put a hand on my head, patting me like a little child.

I swatted it away with my own.

“Please please please.” I chanted at Reece and he tried to maintain a strict expression.

And then I poked him in the cheek and he broke out into a huge grin.

“How am I going to resist her if she’s like this?” Reece goaned to his friends and they laughed some more. “She’s just as cute as she was. Nothing has changed.” Grey spoke in a quiet voice, and they all shared a look

“As cute as you are, I’m sorry, princess.” He put his hands on mine and my face burned.

Cute! He called me cute. And princess. He’s cute too. And so hot. And so fine. And so strong. And I’m so drunk.

“Well now, do go one. I like to know what you think of me.” Reece was looking at me with an amused expression.

“I said that out loud? Yikes.” I hid my face in my hands, but in doing so, I left the base of the chair that I was clinging on to so tightly and lost balance.

“Hey hey! careful now!” Reece steadied me yet again, and this time he didn’t let go. I placed both my hands on his shoulders, anchoring myself to him. His smile widened and he looked at me with warm, proud eyes.

Realizing that I should behave, I nodded stiffly and tried to get up on my own.

Undoubtedly so, his strong arm came around my waist and I tried to stand despite the wild sparks dancing through me.

“I feel sparks..” I muttered uncontrollably and he stiffened next to me.

Grey and Dani were watching him wordlessly, not sure if they should speak up.

“It’s just the alcohol.” He supplied but I stubbornly shook my head.

“No! I feel them all the time. Like magic.” My words brought a smile to his face. “So they don’t scare you?” His words were delicate, he waited for my answer.

“They never did. They’re...warm.” I struggled to speak sensibly but I knew I’d lost logic thirty seconds ago.

This seemed like the perfect answer because a smile broke its way to his face. Grey was smiling as well while Dani gave me a supportive wink.

Why was she winking?

“Come on now. Let’s get you back.” He gently pushed me to walk forward but I stumbled at the first step. And I knew what he would do, exactly as he did it.

Without hesitation Reece slipped his second hand below my knees and swept me off my feet, quite literally.

I shrieked, clutching him with all my strength and he held me close.

This much body contact was not good for my brain. Or for my heart which had definitely gone into overdrive. With the alcoholic haze everything felt slow, intense, surreal, strong.

“Reece...” I spoke to protest but he had already started moving.

This wasn’t good, even drunk me knew what this could lead too but was too helpless about it.

Focus! Cuddle. Focus!! His chest. Focus!!! His eyes..

This is hopeless.

And so I gave in. I somehow managed to move closer to him and he pulled me impossibly close as well, a soft smile on his lips.

He caught me staring at him and I looked away, blushing.

“You’re cute when you blush.” He said, knowing that it’d make me blush harder.

“S-shut up.” I managed a weak tone that had no effect on him whatsoever.

We reached the elevator.

“Reece put me down.”

“No.”

“Reece I can walk.”

“No.”

“Reece, let go.”

“Never.”

I think my heart stopped for a second there.

It took me a moment to continue persisting again.

“Reece I said-”

“I know what you said. But you’re not in your senses right now.”

“You’re just using that as an excuse.” I mumbled in a small voice.

“Absolutely.” Okay. Calm the racing heart. This means nothing. You better hope it means nothing! Ooh..I can hear his heart beat if I try - FOCUS!

“Why do you want an excuse?” What the hell, learn to shut your mouth lady!

At this, he turned to look down at me, his eyes soft and loving.

“Because you don’t know you’re mine yet.” He spoke confidently, as if there was no doubt about what he said.

I turned my gaze away from his smoldering eyes, unable to take the intensity in them.

The ping of the elevator told me we’d reached my new room and Reece walked forward wordlessly, in a particular direction.

“Want something to eat or drink?” He broke the silence and I shook my head.

Inside, everything else shook. My balanced life was in chaos as my heart and head battled out on the ramifications of his words.

Did he mean that? If he did...is that good?

He stepped into the room and placed me on the silky sheets softly, like I’d break if he was even slightly careless.

I let out a grateful sigh as Reece put a warm blanket on.

My body though in disharmony, felt cocooned by his touch. He made me feel so many things at the same time.

Wild, safe, confused, turned on, aching, loved, ... The list went on and on.

He stood there, staring at me with adoration. That, and the alcohol induced confidence allowed me to speak the next words.

“I was yours till you blew it.” With one single sentence his face contorted to a look of pure pain and I immediately regretted what I’d done.

A horrifying, unbearable feeling of guilt swept through me, that strangely felt alien.

They were his feelings. I just knew. For some reason I could feel what he felt.

He immediately sat on the bed next to me, one hand holding mine, “I’m going to win you back. I AM.” He said with such sheer will that I shifted slightly back into the mattress, alarmed.

“I’m not going to stop until I fix this.” He promised, each word pronounced clearly. My heart yearned to believe him, it was overpowering my mind.

“D-Dont promise me something like that.” I didn’t know where I was getting this supply of bravery from. I was the least confrontational person on the planet.

Don’t cry don’t cry don’t cry.

His features remained pained. “Goddess! Believe me Flora! Once I explain everything you’ll understand.” He spoke through gritted teeth, unable to get through to me. Silence overtook us both, the only noise being our heavy breathing. After a long moment I spoke;

“Stay with me.”

His eyes widened at my words just as mine did.

You’re going to wake up and regret everything.

“You won’t remember this in the morning. You’ll hate me then.” He spoke quietly. I didn’t say anything, my mind refusing to allow any further discussion.

“Fuck this.” He got up and went to the other side of my bed, taking off his shirt while doing so.

“I’ll deal with the sober Flora tomorrow.” He spoke to himself and I let out a giggle, my behaviour capricious.

“You look so hot...” I murmured appreciatively as I got a view of his chest and he smirked.

“You’re going to kill yourself in the morning.” He got into bed, his body not touching mine except for his one hand, that held mine.

“Meh. I’ll deal with sober Flora tomorrow too.” I laughed as the sparks from his fingers travelled up my own.

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