Chapter 33: Well Played
“Why are you doing this? Can’t believe he willingly asked you to move in with him. You sure you didn’t force him? Still, it’s a big step in any relationship. Are you guys even serious about each other? Do you even love him? Why won’t he just get with you already? And why are these bags so damn heavy?” Zac continues to whine on like a little girl just as he’d been doing all morning, lugging my heavy bags after him.
I made use of him and his usual uselessness by putting him in charge of heavy lifting whilst I continue to pack the very last of my things.
“You’ve been complaining all morning, give it a break already,” I say as I quickly make work of the leftover food in the fridge.
I chomp down on an apple, lazily hanging back, tired of work. I watch on in amusement as Zac breaks out into a light sweat. Exhausted, he resorts to dragging my bags and boxes across the floor instead of picking them up. At this rate, he’ll soon be kicking them down to the car.
He voices yet another complaint, one after the other, as he questions my packing abilities, “What the hell did you pack in these bags? Bowling balls?” He shakes his head to himself and makes a rude generalization, “You women and all your damn worthless possessions.” He mutters distastefully under his breath, “It’s like you’re all in competition to see who can collect and own the most crap of the century .”
“Shut it, Zachary,” I order bossily, taking advantage of him by manipulating him into unknowingly doing all the work.
“Where am I going to go?” he questions aloud. “He realizes we’re a package deal, right?” he asks as he stops to take a breath. “We’re practically family, I go where you go,” he insists on his own, not bothering to hear my opinion on the matter.
“You could always move in with your girlfriend,” I suggest as an idea, an idea that I know will petrify him to the core. I just want to see him squirm a little. Jay is hospitable enough to take in anyone who is struggling and homeless. He especially has a soft for Zac.
“Worst advice ever,” Zac groans at what seems to be the only option. “Firstly, Mia isn’t even my girlfriend. I don’t date, remember? Secondly, she specifically told me that she doesn’t want anything serious.” He sighs wearily, “Considering that I already accidentally told her that I love her, which I don’t, asking to move in with her might just come off as clingy and pathetic.” He frowns, “I am not supposed to be the clingy one, Aqueela.”
I swallow back my giggles at seeing him so conflicted and distressed over a relationship. The roles have been reversed. He’s out of joint as this is all new to him. For the first time, he’s the one over analyzing everything.
I draw my brows up in curiosity, choosing to rag on him for a sec’ longer, “You sure you don’t love this girl?”
“I’m sure, Aqueela!” he snaps at me, suddenly getting defensive.
I now see the enjoyment in teasing him - no wonder Jay does it all the time. Zac’s reactions are priceless.
Annoyed and exasperated with me, he begins to busy himself and push the bags again. He needs the distraction.
“Just think, you could be Mr. Sullivan in, give or take, a few years,” I joke in jest, chewing loudly on an energy bar. “Mr. Zachary Phoenix Sullivan,” I conclude with a relaxed nod of my head.
He turns to glare at me before noticing my idle mood, “Why are you just standing there and not lifting a finger while I am over here, bent over in misery, strain, and suffering?!”
I contemplate on literally lifting my finger, just to annoy him further, but decide against it. Instead, I clap my hands in glee and squeal in delight, “Isn’t this fun? Sibling bantering. We’re having a good ol’ fashion brother-sister fight.”
“We’re not siblings by blood, or by law anymore,” he points out accurately, “so technically we’re not anything to each other. Good thing too, I enjoy hitting on you every now and again.”
I roll my eyes, unfazed. He isn’t as charming as he thinks he is.
He clears his throat and stares at me blankly, “Now tell me again why you’re moving in with Jay when he refuses to be with you. I just don’t get it,” he huffs dramatically, calling for attention, and folds his arms across his chest, “you guys aren’t even dating.”
“When someone offers you a place to stay when you have nowhere else to go, you usually take the gap with open arms,” I share in some fantastic ‘Aqueela Advice’.
“Or you force them to take you in,” Zac winks at me with a wicked grin on his face.
I roll my eyes at him playfully, making out as if having him around is a true burden, “That too.”
Truth is, I don’t mind living with Zac. He fills the room with his loud, obnoxious presence, and it somehow takes away from my loneliness and boredom.
“You could always ask to stay with Laiken for the meantime?” I question more than state, curious as to why the thought hasn’t crossed his mind as of yet. He’s practically in love with Laiken - you’d think it would be his first choice.
“That’s what I was thinking, but he’s been acting weird around me lately,” Zac reveals, clueless of the nonexistent situation between his girl and best bud. Yeah, Zac’s real slow. He almost makes Simo’s reactions seem fast.
Note to self: yell at Laiken!
“Jay will let you live with us, you know that right?” I decide to end his fretting before has a temper tantrum.
“You reckon?” he asks, hope filling up his dark eyes.
“Provided you get a real job and put ‘The Phoenix’ to bed,” I tell him, wanting only the best for him. He’s capable of more than he gives himself credit for.
Note to self: ask Jay for permission.
“Where is ‘DreamBoy’ anyway? He’s the one who asked you to move in with him, why isn’t he here doing all your dirty work?” Zac questions as he gives up on helping me move out. He leaves the boxes be, taking a breather instead.
“Because he’s out spending the day with Mason,” I answer coolly, my wish being that they’re able to resolve all their differences.
“Gross. Don’t mention that tool’s name in front of me,” he says angrily, referring to Mason.
I grin and continue nonetheless, “He and Jay are trying to sort through their issues. There’s only one way to do that - Mason is taking Jay to see his parents, Jay’s foster parents. I don’t want to interrupt that. I want Jay to make peace with his past. He was a little unnerved about the idea, but between Mason and me, we managed to convince him to go.”
“If I’m not part of the story, then I don’t care to hear it,” he tells me earnestly as if he could care less about Taylor and Montry’s history of bad blood.
“You’ve met Troy right?” I ask him out of the blue. He pulls a face at the name, but then reluctantly nods. I smirk, “You and him would be perfectly suited friends. You both seem to think that the sun revolves around your gigantic heads.”
“He’s gay though, isn’t he?” Zac asks.
I laugh, not bothering to correct him. Zac could pass as a gay guy anyway, though I’m surprised he doesn’t know that Troy has a model as a wife - granted, they are getting divorced.
“Have my friends still not grown on you yet?” I query with an amicable smile.
“Let’s see,” he pauses to deliberately build up suspense, “no.”
“None of them?” I pout in dismay. He’s stupid. I have the best friends in the entire world, each of them with their own crazy yet adored quirks.
“Well I guess Emma, Bella, Sarah, AJ, and Nancy have grown quite a bit on me,” he answers, shooting me a cheeky smirk.
I glower at him in disapproval before huffing loudly, “You and women.”
“Women and me,” he nods approvingly, a proud and shameless grin on his face.
“They’re all taken,” I remind him before he gets any ideas.
“So?” he shrugs, uncaring.
“Max and Benley are harmless. You could probably still take Xavier, and Ryan wouldn’t care either way, but if Landon hears about this, you’re dead,” I inform him knowingly, shuddering at just the thought of what Landon might do if he was ever to find out. Sarah is the most important person to him in the world, along with his sister.
“That’s because that guy has serious issues. He’s batsh*t crazy,” Zac whistles with a shake of his head as if never wishing to cross paths with ‘Lan the Man’ ever again.
I reminisce back to when Landon beat up people for the fun of it and then to recently when I caught him visiting my grandparents in secret. I grin up at Zac and nod in agreement, “Yeah, you’re right there, he’s insane. Still,” I chuckle, “you got to love him.”
Zac, unconvinced, furrows his eyebrows with a twisted grimace on his lips, “If you say so.”
“What about Jay?” I ask. “He’s great.”
“I hate him the most,” Zac scowls, “he’s the reason you’re moving out and he’s the reason why I told Mia that I love her.”
“Which you do,” I tease, pressing his buttons.
“I do not!” he hisses at me.
So very touchy...
“He’s also the guy who saved your ass from Brody and Raiden. He’s the one who helped you with your concussion. He’s the one who gave you good advice. He’s the one who is probably going to give you a roof over your head. Try and be a little more appreciative,” I try and persuade him into loving Jay as much as the rest of us do.
Everyone loves Jay - it’s the unspoken rule.
“The word ‘appreciative’ and me are on opposite ends of the scale,” he says, reminding me that he has an ungrateful nature.
“No kidding,” I scoff, unimpressed.
“You can carry your bags on your own,” Zac threatens in turn.
I improvise, “Did you do something different with your hair?”
He frowns and answers unsurely, “Yeah, I just styled it a little differently today.”
I nod thoughtfully, “It looks good on you.” I manipulate him further, “And have you been working out too?”
He breaks out into an appreciative grin and nods back at me fervently, ”Actually, yeah, I have. Thanks for noticing. I just-” he clicks, ”hey! Don’t try me, woman. I know what you’re doing and it’s not working...anymore.”
“Okay, so where are the boxes? I want to be in and out of here as fast as possible.” Grey enters my hotel room with a nonchalant expression on his face as if I shouldn’t be caught off guard by his invading presence. “Jay said you were gonna need help, and since he can’t be here, here am I,” he gestures to himself, glancing around with disinterest.
“Fantastic!” I grin up at him enthusiastically, ecstatic to have him here. His presence lights the room.
“Great,” Zac retorts in sarcasm. He perks up in relief when he realizes that he won’t have to do the work alone. He changes his tone of voice to one of genuine happiness, ”Great!”
He is so lazy sometimes...
“You’re here because you love me!” I look up at Grey, throwing it in his face. He doesn’t have to be here if he doesn’t want to be. In spite of Jay asking him, he still could’ve said no. He chose to be here. Then again, their bromance force is real powerful - he might’ve been sucked into that whirlwind.
“I’m only here ’cause Jay asked,” Grey clarifies, “so shut the hell up and get off my case. I don’t need to explain myself to you, Lawson.”
“Yeah,” Zac grins to himself silently, “I definitely like this guy.”
I shake my head at Grey’s obvious denial, “Nope, no, you’re here because you want to be. This is exactly where you want to be right now,” I wink at him teasingly. “You’re here for me,” I boast with a prideful grin.
Grey closes his eyes and tips his head back to face the ceiling before releasing profanities beneath his breath. Giving up already, he takes out his cell phone and dials a number. He holds the phone against his ear when the other person answers, “Yeah hey JT,” he pauses to glare at me, “I’m calling about the Lawson situation,” he declares solemnly.
I see Grey nod before he does as told and waits patiently as Jay takes another call.
“Yeah hey Jay-Jay,” I grin into the phone as Grey’s heads whips back in my direction in shock upon hearing that I’m the other caller, “I’m calling about the Ferrot situation,” I conclude in a serious tone of voice.
Grey scowls at me for interrupting his call to complain to Jay as well.
I hear Jay sigh from his end, “You guys, can this wait? I’m a little tied up right now. Can’t you two just put your differences aside for the day?”
“No!” Grey and I unintentionally snarl simultaneously.
“At least try not to murder each other, alright?” he replies back calmly. “Listen, I’m in the middle of something so I’ll see jus you guys later. I’m going to hang up now,” he informs us, and before either of us can protest, he ends the call.
“I’m usually the one pinned down as ‘childish’ by onlookers, but jeez, you two together are ridiculously immature - a recipe for the apocalypse,” Zac taunts us, enjoying his two minutes of fame as he relishes in the fact that he’s currently the only mature adult in the room. Just five seconds ago, he was moaning about everything in life!
“I shouldn’t have to be here just because Jay has ‘Aqueela fever’ again,” Grey takes to complaining too, dropping to ‘Zac standards’.
Zac nods in understanding, able to relate, “Exactly, and I shouldn’t have to be here just because Aqueela is still blabbering on about Jay after all this time.”
“You live here, Zac,” I remind him with a flat glare.
“Oh yeah,” he nods thoughtfully as it occurs to him, “that’s why I have to be here.”
“Is Satan moving out?”
I turn around to see Leban casually leaning on my open door with hands in his pockets, a hopeful glimmer to his vengeful eyes.
“Am I finally going to be free of you?” Leban asks with a smirk, satisfied that we won’t have to be neighbors anymore.
Grey instantly bursts his bubble, “She’s moving in with Jay.”
Leban’s face immediately falls, he fails to recover, “For sh*t sake, why?!”
I stifle my laughter, amused by his failures.
He slams my door shut after him as he returns back to his hotel room to process the new information.
I guess Jay didn’t tell him yet. Ha! In his face! I won the battle and the war!
I glance around at all the boxes that still have to be moved and clap my hands loudly to capture my boys’ attention, “Now let’s get a move on with the carrying my dearest slaves, lovely toyboys, lowly peasants, dumb pack mules!”
Grey blocks his ears and shoots me another one of his venomous scowls, “Must you yell everything? And call me either of those things again and I walk,” he threatens in a low growl.
If he doesn’t shut up and submit to me, I’ll break his leg and force him to crawl. That way, he’ll never walk again.
I mimic him mockingly before explaining to the both of them the issue at hand, “We still have to get to Bell’s place to babysit the triplet for the afternoon, so we need to hurry things up now.”
I receive blank stares from the both of them in response.
Grey eventually clears his throat after some contemplation, “Babysit? Triplet?”
Zac shakes his head in refusal, “Not a chance. No. Just no.”
I frown at them, “I have it the worst. I’m stuck with the two of you - the two most inadequate human beings on the planet, especially when it comes to kids - so stop with the whine and go nibble on some cheese instead.”
“Fine,” Grey reluctantly agrees, “but if I drop one of them on their heads, then that’s on you, Lawson. I will not be accountable for any deaths or injuries. I’d add ‘deformities’, but knowing that they have Mill’s genes, they’re probably filled with those in any case. So to reiterate, I cannot be trusted with babies,” he warns beforehand. “And I don’t change diapers either,” he adds as if it’s important to him that I know that ahead of time.
“Neither do I,” I finalize in agreement.
We both automatically turn to stare at a spaced out Zac.
He catches our stares and shrugs cluelessly, a dumb look on his face as he blinks innocently at us with confusion plastered all over his face, “How’s that now?”
“Hurry up!” I say to my subjects as Grey and Zac bring in all my bags and set it down on the floor of Jay’s kitchen. When Jay gets back, he’ll offer to take them upstairs for me. I’ll unpack in whichever vacant room he places me in.
“I swear, Lawson, I’ll walk!” Grey threatens as he lowers my stuff down and places it onto the floor, catching his breath. “I miss the days when you practically owned nothing,” he grumbles beneath his breath just as Zac enters.
“One more time, and I go too,” Zac warns me, trying to come across as intimidating as Grey.
I brush their whining off, unfazed. If they try to run, I’ll hunt them down and make their lives a living hell - more so than I’ve already done.
“Oog so happy Eela moving back in,” Oog exclaims from his favorite spot - atop the kitchen cabinet. Heaven only knows how he manages to get himself up there.
“Finally, another girl!” FeeBee flashes her pearly whites, ecstatic. “Jam and I won’t have to be alone anymore.”
“Yes, finally,” Jam nods along to whatever she is saying, making it obvious that he isn’t paying any attention at all.
“Calls for another welcoming party!” Gland cheers as he fist pumps me and ruffles my hair.
“Not another one,” I hear Keagen groan in despair.
I’m suddenly wrapped up in a gentle yet familiar hug. It’s not often he resorts to this. He only throws away his pride when pushed.
Poor guy has definitely been pushed...
“You got to get me out of here, Keela,” Keagen whispers into my ear, refusing to release me from his grasp. “I can’t take it here much longer. I’m on the verge of a mental breakdown. Everyone here is crazy,” he tells me, desperation and urgency evident in his tone. “Oog throws parties every night and I’m convinced that the strangers always lingering around are criminals - but worst of all, Jay couldn’t give a damn. He reprimands no one when we’re all living under his roof.”
I remember the days when Jay certainly could give a damn. It seems traveling has mellowed him out. He doesn’t mind much anymore.
He carries on, “I’m usually laid back and all, but I can’t handle Jay’s carefree nature-”
I can’t help but fall into a fit of hysterics at hearing his lie.
He squeezes me to capture my attention again, “You done? I can’t speak to you for long. They’ll get suspicious,” he warns as if deathly afraid.
I untangle myself from his hold and grin at his ridiculousness, “You have no idea how good you have it. Be grateful. I’m stuck with these two,” I motion back to Grey and Zac, ” and they’re not the best company.”
Grey drops the next box onto the floor loudly, signifying his anger, as he whips his head in my direction and sends me the darkest of glares. He could sink a thousand ships with that look...
I shoot him a friendly smile and bat my lashes at him innocently, sending him a polite wave as if I said nothing offensive in the slightest.
“You’re so lucky Jay wants you to exist,” he shakes his head before retreating back outside to hopefully retrieve the next box or bag.
Keagen shakes his head at me in disagreement, “I’ll take Emo and Wannabe over this lot,” he gestures to Oog and said friends, “any day,” he argues.
Upon hearing Keagen’s perspective on things, I automatically glance up at the gang’s leader. He’s laying flat on his stomach, still up on the kitchen cabinet, both elbows resting on the platform. I watch as he kicks his short legs back and forth through the air. He moves so that his chin resting on both his hands as he observes down on the scene with a giddy grin on his face. He meets my gaze and directs a bashful wave my way, purposely being coy.
Not to mention the fact that right now, Jay’s house is buzzing in all sorts of noises, from machines being operated to building being done. To this day, I still don’t know how any of his neighbors survive this chaotic house. If I were them, I’d move.
I stifle a laugh as my gaze strays back to Keagen, “I see your point, McCray.”
“I really hope for your sake, McCray, that you’re referring to me as ‘Emo’,” Zac scowls, having overheard our conversation when popping back into the kitchen with a new set of boxes.
“Yeah, sure, whatever you wanna be,” Keagen waves him off uncaringly with the deliberate pun, having known Zac long enough to not take him seriously. He may act like a little girl sometimes, but he certainly has a backbone.
Zac makes a move to attack, but I step in and speak for him, shaking my fist high in the air as I attempt to soften Keagen’s blow, “Why I oughta!”
Zac drops his hands and turns to me, annoyed, “That is not what I was about to say.”
Keagen grins knowingly at me, thankful. It makes me reminisce back to when I still lived in New York. Keagen would always piss Zac off and I’d always defend my boss for obvious reasons, that being said, he was my boss.
My mouth falls agape at the reminder.
Keagen follows my expression and prods further with a quirked eyebrow, “What?”
I shove Zac out of my way and begin sprinting out the door, “I’m late for work!”
Tim is going to kill me this time!
I ignore Keagen calling after me as I pass Grey, accidentally whacking a box out from his hold in my hurry. He shoots me a dark glare as he goes to pick up the box again. I shrug at him, unapologetic, as I continue on in a rush.
“Yo, Tornado!” Keagen’s voice stops me for a brief moment. “You don’t work on Saturdays, you dork,” he reminds me, highly amused.
It takes me a second to process his words before I smile in content, “Oh yeah.”
Now feeling elated with the news, I deliberately knock the same box out of Grey’s hands.
He stares at me blankly before staring at the box on the floor...again. He finally reacts and curses loudly with a vengeful tone, “I hate you, I hate you so much. You should just-”
“It was an accident,” I lie just to get him to shut up.
“So was your birth.”
I laugh lightly, “Maybe so, but when you were born, the police arrested your dad, the doctor slapped your mom, the nurses started crying, animal control euthanized your brother, and A&E made a documentary that saved your life.” I grin deviously, “Even ‘Hello Kitty’ said goodbye to you.”
Grey sighs in dejection before mumbling unhappily to himself, “Out of all the women on the planet, on the face of the flipping earth, he had to choose you.”
“Hey, how’s things going?” Jay asks from his side of the line, having called me first.
“Okay,” I answer him truthfully, “Grey and Zac proved to be almost useful today.”
I hear him laugh before clearing his throat, “Sorry I can’t be there,” he apologizes, obviously feeling guilty about it. “If you need anything by the time I’m back, I’ll do it.”
“Thanks,” I smile into the phone, already missing him. The day feels empty without him being in it.
“Where are you at now? My place still?” he asks me.
“No, I’m at the Bensten’s house. Bell’s mom asked if I could watch the little ones because she and Mr. Bensten have dinner plans and afternoon reservations. She doesn’t trust Troy. Plus, Troy can’t in any case because he’s going out tonight. He’s got some frat costume party on,” I fill Jay in on the day’s events.
“I thought Max said ‘no’ to you babysitting whilst he and Bella are on their honeymoon?” Jay poses a statement in the form of a question, unfazed by Troy’s latest adventures. He’s learned to expect the unexpected with Troy.
“What he doesn’t know won’t kill him,” I joke. At least Bell’s parents trust me wholeheartedly - I don’t understand why, but they do. “How are things going with the ’rents?” I question timidly, weary of his reaction. He hasn’t spoken to his foster parents in years.
“Pretty good,” he confirms, “but I’ll tell you all about it when I get back later tonight...” he corrects himself, “if you’re still up that is.”
“Alright,” I agree, “well I better go, see you then.”
“Yeah, okay,” he says blissfully before politely ending our call.
My eyes snap to Troy as he waltzes down the stairs and toward me. “What on earth are you wearing?” I query, holding back a fit of giggles. Judging by the thick dark purple makeup pasted around his face, I’m going to say that Ramos has been here.
“Who am I?” he asks as he gestures down to his ridiculously tight outfit, strutting an ‘uncalled for’ pose.
“A gigolo, by the sight of things,” Grey answers as he makes himself comfortable on the Bensten couch, Zac flopping down him.
I shrug at Troy, clueless. I make an attempt despite my confusion, “Yourself?” I hesitate. “You really don’t look all that different from usual,” I tease in good nature.
He frowns and turns so that his back is facing me. He begins to wiggle his hips slightly from left to right before dramatically lifting his head to the ceiling. He jumps around to face us once again. He outstretches his arm above his head before motioning us in with his long black fingernails, his one foot continuously tapping away at the tiles.
“What the hell is happening right now?” Zac gives voice to the question we’re all currently seeking an answer to.
“Definitely a gigolo,” Grey nods, all his doubts about it having been erased entirely after that short yet very disturbing performance.
I raise my hand and energetically jump up onto my tippy-toes, waving my hand back and forth eagerly in the hopes of Troy addressing me, “Ooooh! Ooooh! I know! Gay Gandalf!” I say ecstatically, as hyper as ever.
Zac turns to me questioningly, “And you’re sure he’s straight?” he whispers, bewildered by Troy in general.
“I’m a model,” Troy gives us a hint. “Tell me who I am,” he bosses. “Who am I?” he repeats.
“You do realize that ‘model’ and ‘prostitute’ have two different definitions, right?” Grey kids mockingly, thoroughly enjoying himself. He’s happiest when insulting others. It’s his prime time of the day.
Troy, a funny expression on his face, drops his head to stare at the floor. We’re not expecting his head to snap back up to us so quickly. He cocks his head to the side ever so slightly and I can’t help but grin when I take in his new expression. He’s pouting with his sparkly, purple lips and his eyebrows have been raised right up into his giant forehead. He has his cheeks sucked in as he pulls a face of immense concentration, and he’s using his widened eyes to speak volumes to us - almost as if trying to hypnotize us.
I laugh, having finally got it. I play the part and whisper in an over-the-top tone to the others, “I never thought I’d live to see it done in real life. It’s,” I pause dramatically, deliberately building up suspense, “‘blue steel’.”
Grey rolls his eyes, having finally clicked, as he shakes his head at Troy’s boldness, “Derek Zoolander?”
“That’s right, DiddleSquat,” Troy smirks proudly at his choice in fashion sense as he flicks a spike of his hair back like some rich, stuck-up snob, “that’s damn well right.”
Grey scoffs as soon as Troy disappears out the front door, unbelieving of how stupid yet courageous he is.
"Yeah..." Zac laughs tauntingly once Troy’s out of earshot, experienced in being a Grade A jerk, “what’s the bet that there is no costume themed frat party? In college, before I got expelled, we used to pull stuff like this on dorks all the time. It was hilarious.” He sighs wistfully, “I wish I could be there to see it. Your friend is going to feel like an idiot.”
Troy doesn’t get embarrassed, ever. They’ll have to do a lot better than that.
I chuckle knowingly and shake my head at Zac in protest, “You do realize that he will just think he won best dressed, right?”
“So let me get this straight, you’re racing now?” Zac asks me yet again. “I mean I know we practiced a little in New York, but where did you even get the car to participate with these guys?” he prods, pointing at Grey. I send Zac a flat stare and he clicks, “You still have that car Lars sent you?” I nod at him in answer. “You kept it?” he asks again.
I shrug, “I hate the guy, but I love the car. I keep it at my grandparent’s house because I wanted my identity as a street racer kept secret.” I smirk tauntingly at Grey, “Guess that secret is out of the way now since Ferrot, over here, figured it out,” I end with a mocking clap.
“What spurred this racing high on anyway?” Zac continues to press for answers.
“For Jay,” I confess. “But I was really hoping to be better than him,” I joke, aware that it’s just not possible.
“Fat chance,” Grey laughs humorlessly, “you can’t be better than him unless you have the determination and outlook he has. Jay has to always be the best he can be in everything he does. He always has to be the best version of himself. Not ‘great’, but ‘best’. It’s just the way he’s wired. He spent a lifetime thinking he wasn’t good enough, so it makes sense.”
I nod in agreement as I lift Rhys up into my arms. “And how are you doing huh little guy?” I grin down at him and tickle his tummy. A laugh trickles from his lips before he gurgles something. I cup a hand to my ear, “What was that? You miss Mommy? You think I’m cooler than Momma?”
“That’s not what he said,” Grey frowns, useless with humoring children...or anyone for that matter.
“You have to talk to them, Grey,” I tell him seeing as he lacks knowledge in this area of life. “It’s the only way they’ll learn to talk themselves.”
“Still, don’t lie to the kid,” Grey defends his accusations.
I ignore him and throw Rhys up into the air, “Where’s Daddy?” I ask him and catch him before gently tossing him up again, “Where’s Mommy?”
I freeze, my lips parted, as I hold the small child away from me with a dumbfounded expression. My heart stops beating and my lungs collapse for a second. He’s lucky I didn’t just accidentally drop him in shock.
“He can talk?” Zac raises his eyebrows in surprise. I shake my head. “Well oh sh*t,” he laughs menacingly, breaking the silence, as his eyes stray to me, “you’ve done it now.”
“Momma,” Rhys repeats as he reaches to grab a stray lock of my hair.
“Bella is going to murder you and I’m going to relish in it,” Grey confirms the obvious.
Not only did Rhys say his first word without Bells being here, but he also just called me ‘Momma’. If he ever does that in front of Bells, my life will - no doubt - end swiftly.
“No,” I shake my head profusely at the little baby boy and unclasp his hand from my hair, “I’m your favorite Aunty Aqueela. I’m not Momma. Momma is coming back soon. I promise,” I whisper, a little lost as to how I should handle this kind of situation.
“Momma!” he repeats excitedly, clapping his hands. “Momma! Momma! Momma!” he gurgles on persistently as he reaches up with his little pudgy fingers to touch the side of my face, staring up at me in adoration.
I panic and turn to Grey and Zac with a wild, unruly look to my eyes, “You can never tell her!”
“What’s in it for me?” Zac plays his cocky party down to the tee.
“Your life being spared.”
He licks his lips in contemplation before nodding in defeat, “Alright, fair enough,” he says quickly, agreeing to my terms.
It’s Grey’s turn to clap his hands mockingly, not taking me seriously at all, “Well played, Lawson, well played.”
I angrily start handing the kids to Grey, one at a time. He blinks as he mindlessly takes them, confused as hell. I hand Rhys over to him last before making introductions, “Grey meet the babies, Babies meet Satan.”
I hold back on laughing when Rhys slaps Grey through the face before laughing and then calling him ‘Momma’ too.
Grey glares at me as he tries to juggle Rhys and his mischievous behavior while placing the other two down.
And that’s how Mr. Ferrot lands up with all three babies as Zac and I park off for the next hour...
“Lawson!” Grey shouts to me, clearly distressed, as he tries to handle all three of the babies at the same time.
“Yeah?” I call back whilst making lunch for us, Zac being more of a nuisance to me than actually helping out. He’s just avoiding the kiddies.
“They’re all crying and they all smell damn awful! Are triplets’ systems synchronized? Does it work that way? ’Cause I’m pretty sure they all need a diaper change right now,” Grey yells at me in a panic, now ruing his earlier words. Had he been nicer, I wouldn’t have abandoned him with all three.
I swallow a smile. This is the first time I’ve seen him so ill at ease. He usually keeps ‘his cool’, well unless he has a temper tantrum that is. He and Zac have more in common than they both realize.
“Alright, alright,” I yawn, bored, “I’m coming.”
I hear them all begin to cry in harmony and purposely change to a slower pace. I’m pretty sure Grey’s crying too.
I take my sweet time in approaching him before taking the instigator - Blanche - away from the other two. She influences them with her crying strategy in getting fed. She’s too darn smart for her own good.
“I hate kids! I hate them! I never want to be a parent! Ever!” Grey rants, completely unhinged from his usual ‘under control’ behavior. “How does Mills, of all people, cope? How can anyone people stand this? How does anyone find the idea of having kids appealing?” he asks, exasperated, as he hands Rhys and Melby to an unsuspecting Zac.
“Hey!” Zac complains, “I don’t know what to do with them either!” He falls straight into panic mode and pulls a face at the dreadful stench radiating off of their small bodies, “I’m not ‘dad material’,” he says, looking very gormless.
“Is that snot running down their noses?” Grey gags, truly disgusted. “Oh gross, it’s green!” he pulls a repulsed face, flinching back and cowering away for protection seeing as he is a massive germaphobe. He cringes when Blanche coughs, followed by Melby and Rhys. He whips his head in my direction, a vehement glow to his eyes, as he throws an accusing finger in my face,“They’re sick, Aqueela!”
I nod as I feel Blanche’s forehead for a fever, “I guess so,” I concur when noticing that she is slightly above in temperature.
“How can you ask me to help babysit when they’re all infected with who knows what?!” he reprimands me in a scolding manner, unimpressed. “I can’t afford to get sick right now,” he whines further, annoying the hell out of me. “If it’s Ebola-”
“It’s just a cold, Grey,” I cut him off from his preposterous theories. If he were ever to become a doctor, everyone would die.
He continues to argue, “So you say. For all I know, it could be a life-threatening disease, like Ebola, transferred from-”
I snap, “It’s not Ebola, Grey!” I narrow my eyes at him in warning.
“There’s a possibility that it could be,” he insists sullenly.
“Oh get over it,” I say back flatly.
“Oh I will,” he assures me confidently.
“This is ridiculous, Grey!” I hiss, highly irritated, as I pound on the door loudly. The sleeping triplets begin to stir awake and so I immediately stop. “Did you have to barricade the windows too?” I question him in a whisper, desperately seeking fresh air. The room is starting to feel stuffy. It may just be getting smaller too.
“Every precaution taken is predominant and very necessary,” he answers back from the other side of the mountain of objects blocking the exit, his ‘Reign of Tierney’ just beginning. He’s gone psychotic.
“How are we going to get out of here?” Zac asks me as he seeks a way out of the makeshift prison Grey created for us in order to prevent himself from getting sick. It’s a precaution he decided to take after first tricking us into the ‘quarantine room’.
I accidentally sneeze in response, “I don’t know.”
Zac raises a wandering eyebrow at me, “You’re getting sick, aren’t ya?”
I nod, trying to stay quiet seeing as the triplet are finally sleeping.
“I have to kill you off now,” he sighs jokingly.
“Can’t you move the stack of stuff from the inside?” I ask Zac, in need of an escape plan. Grey blocked the exit of the room with all sorts of heavy objects. If there were a door, we’d be locked in too.
“Give me a hand,” Zac requests as we both put all our strength and effort in pushing the objects away so that we can break free, but to no avail. The objects stand still. “Damn it,” Zac gives in, breathing heavily.
Zac’s working out has done nothing in his favor, clearly.
“That guy has real issues,” Zac adds under his breath, annoyed.
“Grey!” I whisper-shout as I pound on the objects with my fists. “Let us out,” I demand softly, careful to keep the noise levels down.
“No can do,” I hear him say in turn as if guarding the exit, “you’re all infected and I’ll be damned if I let you out now.”
I want him on my team if there’s ever a zombie apocalypse - he’s definitely ambivalent in these kinds of situations.
I sigh and turn back to Zac in defeat, “We’re going to die in here,” I tell him, convinced that Grey will never ever let us out alive.
“Less talking and more resting!” Grey commands from his side of the doorway, which just so happens to be packed with furniture and what not.
I roll my eyes and whisper to Zac instead, “You’re going to die first, I’m certain of it. You’re the weaker link.”
“How would you know?” Zac questions with raised brows.
“’Cause I’m starving,” I answer him casually, ignoring his shocked expression.
“This is not a drill, you idiots. You guys are sickly. You need to rest,” Grey lets on that he can still hear every word we’re saying.
“Don’t you think you’re blowing this way out of proportion?” I ask him, seeking a way out of purgatory. He thinks we’re his prisoners.
“No,” he replies with conviction. “You guys are in quarantine for a reason,” he insists adamantly. “You’ll be released when I know for certain that you’re all one hundred percent better. Until then, say goodbye to the light of day.”
I start off sweetly, “In case you’ve forgotten, Grey,” I pause before losing all self-control and end up shouting the last bit at him, “we’re not turning into flesh-eating Zombies, but if we were, I’d eat you first!”
At that, the babies begin screaming, having now been awakened by my furious and loud tone. I pick them up one by one, doing my best to calm and console them. I fail. Nothing will make them stop crying at this point.
With newfound strength, I push against one of the shelves packed up in the doorway only for it to move and collapse backward right into Grey.
“Nice,” Zac says softly, stunned by my inner power that I only use on special occasions.
I hear a pained ‘oomf’ escape Grey’s lips before seeing him lying flat on the floor with the shelf right on top of him.
The babies suddenly stop with the tears and begin to laugh loudly from their tiny bellies. Zac and I join too, much to Grey’s raging anger and paranoia.
I try to lighten the atmosphere, “C’mon, Grey, we’re all just trying to survive here.”
“Well I hope you’re happy,” Grey remarks as he sits up and shoves the small shelf off of him, “because now I won’t.”
I nod fervently, “Yup, pretty satisfied on my part.”
“I can’t wait to sleep in a bed,” Zac groans in exhaustion. “I’m done for. It’s been wild.”
“All Aqueela’s fault,” Grey frowns accusingly, pinning all the blame on me when I’m not the one who went crazy and threw my friends in a fake dungeon to die.
I arch an eyebrow at him for his rudeness before shaking it off.
“Yeah? What she do this time?”
We all turn to see Jay nonchalantly leaning against the wall with an amused smirk on his face.
My eyes light up at the sight of him until I feel a grin stretching across my lips. I sprint over to him and embrace him tightly, unwilling to let go. This day has been rough and the only one to blame for that is Grey.
He grins down at me when I finally release him, “Do I want to know what went down here?” he queries as he inspects the house, spotting the one room that is now partially blocked with couches etc. He surveys us all as if putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
I crack first under pressure and point at Grey accusingly, “Grey caged us in like animals!”
“It would be crueler to cage actual animals than you two,” Grey jumps in to defend himself. “Besides, Aqueela forced me into babysitting and now I’m going to wake up sick tomorrow morning because of her stupid hollow head!”
“Alright,” Jay makes up his mind, “I don’t want to know.”
I change the subject when picking up on his happy-go-lucky attitude, “I’m assuming things went well...” I try to get him to open up tells us about his day.
“Real well,” he answers with a smile. “To put it shortly, I think I can finally say that I’ve made peace with that area of my life. After they explained themselves, I was finally able to forgive them. I still don’t particularly like Montry, but hey, it’s a start.”
“Sweet, can we go home now?” Zac asks dully, tired.
“′We’?” Jay arches an eyebrow, puzzled. “Am I missing something here?”
“He kind of needs a place to stay,” I say sheepishly when Jay turns to me for an explanation.
He turns to face Zac only to see Zac wincing at his slip up. It takes Jay a second to think about it before shrugging indifferently, “You can take one of the two spare rooms,” he concludes with a firm nod of his head.
“Are you serious?” Zac asks, a grin on his lips, a twinkle of hope flickering across his dark eyes.
“Yeah man,” Jay nods in ease, laid-back as ever, “whatever you need. I got space so you might as well stay a while.”
Zac’s lucky that he’s one of Jay’s favorites.
“Thank you so much, dude,” Zac expresses gratefulness for the first time since he was brought into this world.
I smile and turn to Zac knowingly, pulling a tongue out at him as I resort to childish mannerisms, “Told you so.” I push it a step further and throw my finger in his face, “For shame!”
“You waited up for me huh?” Jay asks once he’s shown Zac to his temporal room.
“Of course I did,” I admit with a shrug of my shoulders. “It’s not like I can sleep when babysitting or when being locked in a room for hours on end.” I confess the truth and avert my eyes, “Also, I couldn’t sleep even if I wanted to.”
I couldn’t sleep not knowing if Jay was okay or not.
He catches onto my underlining reason and grins knowingly before teasing me, “I’m touched.”
“Shut up,” I grumble before yawning, “I’m now seriously sleep-deprived and I haven’t even unpacked yet.” Something occurs to me as I say it, “You only have two spare rooms and you’ve given one to Zac and one to Keagen.” I frown and fold my arms across my chest, “Where am I going to sleep in the meantime?”
“You’ll have to room with Oog in the tree house,” Jay replies back in a dead serious tone, giving no trace of humor away.
“What?” I sputter stupidly, not sure if he’s being legit or not.
He cracks a small smile upon seeing me squirm.
I shoot him a look before adding, “But seriously, where am I supposed to sleep?”
“My room, Aqueela, obviously.”