It's a Cruel World, Sir

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16 | Aftermath

I stare at Chase, lost for what to do. His eyes are too intense, too warm silver, and my mouth has gone dry. Thankfully, I don’t have to think too long because, before my thoughts have a chance to catch up, he’s pulling away, staring down the dark street.

“Darestin told him where you were,” he murmurs, both entertained and irritated.

“What are you—”

“What’s going on here?” Calvin interrupts casually.

I turn to him, watching as he makes his way to us.

“I was just telling Ms. Tyler her friends would start worrying about her if she didn’t start heading back,” Chase answers just as easily, though there’s no way he was planning on letting me go back to the club, especially not after giving me a lecture like that.

“Uh-huh,” but, for once, it doesn’t seem like Calvin believes him. Instead, as he takes a stand next to me, he eyes Chase like he’s a threat, body tense even as he shoves his hands in his pockets. “If you keep appearing everywhere, Whitler’s going to cement her theory, you know.”

All seriousness from earlier is gone. Chase actually looks amused that Calvin’s challenging him, lazily crossing his arms as he tilts his head a little too innocently. “Oh?”

“Yeah,” Calvin says easily enough. “Not that it’s not appreciated that you’re everywhere when she needs help, just that it’s a little...convenient, is all.”

“Cut it out, Calvin,” I reprimand. “It’s not like he’s following me.” He just smelled my blood and came to make sure I wasn’t killed. That’s all. Totally normal.

He shrugs. “I’m not saying he is,” Calvin returns. “I’m just pointing out what Whitler’s going to say.”

I roll my eyes. “Doesn’t matter what Whit says because I’m the one who went looking for him.”

Both of their eyes widen, surprised, but Chase is quick to recover. Calvin, on the other hand, looks staggered. He doesn’t even blink, arms falling to his side lifelessly.

“I didn’t know if the guy I was dancing with was a part of Preston’s gang or not, so I couldn’t go to Leon’s truck,” I explain. “There were rumors that Chase lived around here, so I thought if I found him, he could help me until it was safe again.”

Calvin finally blinks, looking over at Chase. ”Do you live around here?”

“In an apartment a few streets further down,” he answers.

“Even then, Cupcake, what were you thinking?” Calvin says, turning to me.

“I know it was a risk, but what else was I supposed to do?” I demand. “I couldn’t leave Darestin until I was sure it was safe. You know Preston would torture him if he thought Darestin knew anything. There’s no way I could let that happen.”

“That’s not the point, Cupcake, and you know it.” He stops, blinking a few more times. “Wait, who’s Darestin?”

I sigh. “He’s the guy I was dancing with.”

“You mean the guy that was clearly into you?” he shoots back, still stiff.

“That’s not the point here, Calvin,” I say, glaring at him when Chase raises an interested eyebrow. “The point is that you and Whit need to get off his back because our random meetings are just as much my fault as they are his.”

Calvin holds up his hands in defeat, the spitting image of Darestin, and lets the playful smile fall into place. “Hey, I’m not against the guy—I was just telling you what Whitler’s going to say, that’s all.”

“Yeah, sure,” I quip, not bothering to pretend like I believe him. “Let’s get back to Leon’s truck before they start freaking out.”

“Yes ma’am,” he agrees, shoving his hands back in his pockets as he turns.

“See you tomorrow,” I throw back at Chase, both a warning and promise.

“I cannot wait, Ms. Tyler,” he replies, the smirk noticeable in his voice as he bows mockingly.

Instead of commenting, Calvin takes the lead, walking a few paces ahead of me. He said he wasn’t bothered, but I don’t think he was telling the whole truth, especially since the tightness in his body hasn’t relaxed yet, muscles still clearly tensed.

As expected, everyone’s gathered around Leon’s truck, deep in thought. The scene reminds me of that time in the teachers’ lounge: Leon’s pacing the length of the truck as Nikki and Whit lean against the driver’s door, watching him. TJ and Trent are on the bed of the truck. Trent is leaning on his hands, staring up at the sky, as TJ lays on his lap, playing with the end of his shirt. Interestingly enough, Darestin is behind the two boys, sitting on the toolbox against the back window. It’s clear by his expression that he thinks everyone’s worry is funny in some way—I can tell by the sparkling silver in his eyes.

As soon as everyone spots us a good half a block away, they snap out of it and rush over—except Trent, who stays exactly where he is, though he does look over at us, and Darestin, who watches with interest.

“Are you two alright?” Leon asks, eyes flashing across us, checking for injuries.

“We’re fine, Leon,” I say, exasperated. “What’s Darestin doing here?”

TJ grins. “Father-dearest here decided to hold him hostage in case Calvin didn’t come back with you.”

I raise an eyebrow. “Do I wanna know what he was going to do to him if I didn’t come back?”

Nikki matches TJ’s grin, but hers is sinister, borderline deranged. “Oh, you know, just some fun.”

“That’s not what we’re talking about, guys,” Leon reprimands. “What the heck happened to you all? And what took so long?

“Nothing happened, dad,” Calvin answers, wrapping an arm around my shoulders. “Just ran into a friend is all.”

TJ tilts his head. “Friend?”

I roll my eyes, removing Calvin’s arm. “He’s talking about Chase.”

“What!?” Whit shouts at the same time Nikki says, “Aw, man, and I missed it!?”

“Chase?” Leon parrots, ignoring them. “How’d you run into him?”

I sigh for the thousandth time and start explaining what happened, how someone attacked Darestin and what I was thinking as I ran in the opposite direction. I left Chase’s revelation out, of course, bending it to make it seem like Darestin was a slow runner and Calvin interrupted us before Chase could do anything more than give me a lecture on roaming the streets at night. When Whit tries to object, I tell her the same thing I told Calvin: it wasn’t a coincidence; I went looking for him.

“You went looking for him?” Whit demands.

I shrug. “Of course. What else was I supposed to do?”

“Literally anything else,” she counters. “I can’t believe—”

“Stop, Whit,” Leon orders, immediately ending her tangent. “I’m glad you thought things through that much,” he says approvingly, “Although, I wish you wouldn’t’ve ran blindly in the dark. I’m guessing I don’t have to tell you how bad things could’ve gone if you hadn’t found him, though, right?”

I shake my head. “Chase already did that for you.”

“Good,” he says, nodding. “Maybe you’ll actually listen to him.”

“I’m so jealous,” Nikki inserts, leaning on Leon’s shoulder.

I ignore her, looking pointedly at Darestin. “Can we let him go now?”

“Oh, right.” TJ looks back at Trent, waving. “It’s fine, Trent! The guy’s clean!”

Trent nods in turn, hopping off of the back. He says something to Darestin, who suppresses a smirk as he jumps off of the edge of the truck. Calvin heads to Trent, clasping his cousin on the shoulder as Leon, Nikki, TJ, and Whit head over to the truck. TJ and Nik are in an argument over whether Chase was in leather again, and Whit keeps trying to inject that it doesn’t matter what he was wearing.

I follow after them slowly, shaking my head when Whit persists in her “There’s something wrong with him!” speech.

“Interesting group of kids you all are,” Darestin pulls me from the disagreement, smiling crookedly.

“Why are you still here?” I wonder. “If you start acting suspicious, they’ll do worse than hold you hostage, you know.”

He grins, the idea obviously entertaining to him, though normal people would cringe away at the thought alone. “Yeah, I know. I kind of want to test how far I can push them, but Chase would kick my ass if I did.”

"I’d kick your ass if you did,” I warn.

The grin doesn’t waver. “You wouldn’t stand a chance, and you know it.”

“That brings me back to... whatever it is,” I say, stopping and turning to him. “What the hell was with you before Chase showed up? And why did he feel the need to warn you when you got close? And what the hell—”

“Woah, slow down, killer,” he says. When I glare at him, the grin on his face widens. “There’s no way I can answer your questions here.”

“Why not?”

He looks over at the others, who are too engrossed in their own conversations to notice I’m not behind them. “Because little ears have big mouths.”

“Are you implying my friends would rat you two out?”

He chuckles. “They weren’t the ears I was talking about.”

I blink. “What?”

“Chase told you, right? That there are worse things out there than humans?” he checks.

I nod.

“Then you should get it: humans aren’t the only beings who’d want to know how we tick.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” I demand. “I just want to know—”

“You want to know what’s going on,” he finishes. “Look, how about I meet you at your house later tonight? I promise to answer everything then.”

“Why?” I wonder, suddenly suspicious. There’s a reason Chase warned him away from me, right?

“Well, mainly because it would annoy Chase,” he admits with a smirk, probably imagining Chase’s reaction when he finds out, “but also because I think you deserve some sort of inkling of what you’re getting yourself into.”

“I don’t know,” I say slowly, thinking. “How do I know if I can trust you?”

“I don’t have any interest in killing human kids,” he assures me. “Besides, if I did anything, Chase would annihilate me, remember?”

I furrow my brows. “What? Why?”

“Cupcake, what’re you doing?” Nikki shouts. “Hurry your ass up!”

Darestin grins. “Later, alright? I’ll meet you at your house.”

“And how are you going to know where that is?” I question.

The grin turns all teeth. “Oh, I have my ways.”

I sigh. “I’m going to regret this aren’t I?”

“Most definitely,” he answers.

“Cupcake!”

“But I’ll see you in an hour anyway,” and, with that, he turns, heading back in the direction of Mary Jane’s.

“Dammit, Cupcake, if you don’t stop flirting with irresistibly hot guys, I’m going to hit you!” Nikki shouts.

“Bite me,” I return. “You have Leon, remember?”

There's a chorus of “Ooo”s as I make my way to the truck, joining everyone. Nikki decides to sit on Leon’s lap and help him drive, so TJ gets the front seat and Calvin gets to sit in the backseat with Whitler. He offers to let me sit in the back instead, but I opt to sit on the truck bed with Trent.

I can hear everyone laughing from outside, but I zone them out, mind swimming. Should I have agreed to Darestin coming over that easily? Even if the man is easy-going and too much like Calvin for his own good, that’s no reason to trust him. Chase himself made him leave when he saw us together, so maybe I should’ve talked to him first.

Of course, Chase might have kept him from me just because he doesn’t want me to know everything.

“What’d he say to you?” Trent asks, voice the same monotone as always.

I blink. It takes me a good thirty seconds to realize he’s talking about Darestin, not Chase, and another thirty seconds to process that he even asked a question.

Trent isn’t close with anyone but Calvin and Leon (and, recently, TJ), but we’ve always had a “no questions asked” relationship. Trent doesn’t like using words to communicate anyway—one of the main reasons people can’t stand him—so it’s easy to be around him when I want company without actual conversation, and since I don’t pry as much as the others, he feels the same way. Of course, sometimes, we end up talking about something, like professors or other students, but I’m the one who brings it up, not him.

“What do you mean?”

He looks at me. “Before Nikki interrupted, you and that hipster guy were talking. What’d he say?”

“Oh, um, he just wanted my number,” I lie quickly, clearing my throat. “I had to tell him I was underage.”

“Took it pretty well from the looks of it,” he comments.

“Uh, yeah. He kind of thought so, but because of our group, he got the wrong idea—thought we were a part of one of the gangs, and they don’t let kids in, so...”

“Ah,” is his reply, lips setting in a line.

“Why?” I ask, tilting my head. “Did he say something to you?”

He stiffens, expression hard as his eyes stare resolutely at the trees passing us.

“Trent?”

“He said TJ was attractive,” he says finally. “Gorgeous, really.”

“Well,” I start slowly, watching him, “TJ is gorgeous.”

He simply nods.

“So, you’re not denying that...” I murmur. While Trent doesn’t talk often, everything that comes out his mouth is exactly what he thinks. Another reason we get along: he doesn’t lie, and he doesn’t hide. “Does it bother you that someone else thinks that or...?”

“No,” he answers instantly. “I just don’t like people leering at him.”

I try not to smile. “That’s the same thing, Trent.”

“It’s not,” he replies seriously. “Everyone knows he’s fascinating—it’s the talk among the girls in class—and people ignore the fact he’s bisexual when they stare at him because it’s interesting to watch him, but the thought of an older man gawking at him makes me unreasonably angry.” It’s the longest spiel he’s ever given.

“You’re protective of him,” I say, shrugging. “Nothing wrong with that.”

He’s quiet for a minute. “I want to hide him in my room sometimes,” he adds. “After that soccer player beat him in the hallway, I wanted to take him to my house and hide him there. Is there something wrong with that?”

I stare at him, trying not to gape. Who knew Trent was this intense? When he looks at me expectantly, though, I control my face. “Not if TJ likes it,” I answer, only because I know TJ would love it.

He nods, accepting this, and it’s quiet for a few beats before he says, “I think Chase feels the same way about you.”

I sputter, looking at him with wide eyes. “W-what?”

“In the beginning, it felt like we were experiments to him,” he explains. “He had too much fun watching us, like it was a game. Probably why Whit’s so suspicious of him.”

“And now?” I ask despite myself.

He shrugs. “Now, he’s personally offended when anything happens to us. Especially you.”

“I... I don’t...” I trip over the words, mouth dry again.

Cupcakes have always been my favorite.

“It doesn’t mean anything,” I blurt.

Trent looks startled. Well, as startled as Trent ever looks—eyebrows raised slightly, eyes widen only a fraction of an inch more.

“Uh, what I mean is...” I clear my throat. “It’s nothing special; he’s just a good professor.”

“Oh,” he says. “I guess that could be it.”

I don’t torment myself more by asking him what else he thinks it could be. Instead, I copy him and stare off into space, trying to focus on the trees blurring instead of Chase Kingsley.


Well, this chapter is way overdue, but that’s beside the point.

So, I made a compromise: this isn’t nearly as long as it was going to be if I kept my original plan (which was for her to talk to Darestin before this was over), but I’m already over 2,000 words, so...

Anyway! There’s a reason there’s a little TrentxTJ in this chapter, and that’s because I wanna know how you feel about an It’s a Cruel World, Sir spin-off staring them? It would be in third person more than likely and pretty short (I’m thinking maybe ten chapters or so), but yeah. Tell me what you think and what you want!

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