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The Heat

Nick Aldebaran Leena Koyel

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#1 Nick Aldebaran

Nick Aldebaran

Posted 21 November 2015 - 03:42 AM

It had been exactly one week since his embarrassing fuck up in class.

 

It was a miracle he came back at all, really. He'd seriously thought of dropping the class, if only because he didn't want to live with that humiliation when he made eye contact with Leena again. Hell, he couldn't look at anyone in that class without reliving this situation. Fortunately his professor thought he'd been terribly sick after that fainting spell, so a few missed days were acceptable; once he finally returned, he sat all the way at the back of the classroom, concentrating on the wood markings on his desk instead of the class at hand all the while.

 

Things went a little better than he expected. No one called him out on his opinion or his fainting spell, and while he could've sworn he felt Leena's eyes on him a few times, he never glanced up to make absolutely certain. Instead he dwelled quietly within these three feet of space, showing up just before class started and leaving immediately when dismissed. He was still doing fine in class-- homework turned in on time, flawless grades on his tests-- but his participation grade would suffer. He was willing to put up with that.

 

Fate wasn't kind to him on this particular day, however. As he stood up to leave class, the zipper of his backpack broke and the contents of it spilled all over the floor. He eyed them for a moment, seriously considering the possibility of leaving it all behind and replacing it later, before sucking it up to gather his things. No one helped-- no surprise there-- but he was thankful to see that no one stayed behind, either. His anxiety over this situation was misplaced.

 

But, thanks to that small hiccup, he just so happened to be five minutes later leaving than usual. As he reached the elevator he didn't pay attention to who was inside; he just stepped in, pressed the button he needed, and stood off to the far corner, eyeing his phone. It wasn't until the elevator halted with a jolt that he looked up, eyes widening. Even then he didn't quite realize who he was with, so much as the fact that, y'know, he was stuck in a small space. He pressed his floor button again dumbly, as if that would magically make it move again. Still nothing. He was effectively stuck in this elevator.

 

"Fuck," he muttered, pressing his thumb to the "call" button instead. Hopefully it worked... this elevator was old, and probably not up to date on regulations.


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#2 Leena Koyel

Leena Koyel

Posted 22 November 2015 - 02:25 AM

There was a fair share of guilt and irritation that came hand in hand with the incident earlier in the week, a fine line of regret and outright frustration. While she didn't know exactly what had caused her victim to pass out so suddenly and, quite honestly, so frighteningly, it didn't change the fact that before everything spiraled out of control, he was wrong, he was defending something wrong, and until he opened his eyes and saw the truth, he would continue to be wrong. No amount of weakness would change that, either, nor would it change how she felt about everything outside of the obvious, humanly sympathy.

What made things even worse was that Nick didn't even once chance an apology or attempt to speak to her afterwards. He never once came around to own up to his problematic opinion, an option that needed to be taken, nor did he even attempt to continue the conversation outside of class, a direction she'd be more than willing to take that would more than likely be much better for everyone involved. In fact, had she been none the wiser, she would have guessed he was avoiding her altogether, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Nick Aldebaran became, in the simplest terms possible, a cardboard standin for who he used to be, which was saying a lot when considering how quiet he'd been before. It was irritating in a way that Leena couldn't pinpoint entirely. He was silent, but he was avoiding the problem; uninvolved in discussions, but that lack of involvement meant nothing positive in the track to improving his mindset.

She'd seen him out around campus, too, across the fields or in other buildings and the urge to stop him outright was strong but almost always suppressed by random happenstance; a just too slow gait or too far of a distance had saved him several times. Stopping him after class had been a reoccuring thought only smattered by their professor's stern and reprehensive warnings.

She'd went too far; it was time to back off now.

Fate seemed to have other plans, however, the cheeky bitch. She was already situated quiet irritatedly in the elevator when he scooted in, completely unaware and absolutely clueless to his surroundings. It was perfect in every definable way, really, though as soon as she opened her mouth to spink, pointer finger always poised and ready, aimed right at him like a dagger of truth, a jolt struck her senseless. First came confusion, a bright blur of nonsenical mumbling. Next, irritation, the slow taunt of future delays. Anger next, frustration, bubbling, bursting aggression. She was stuck. Stuck in an elevator. Stuck in an elevator with someone that not only seemed to see her as less than important, but someone that refused to accept that he did just that all the while.

"Are you fucking kidding me." Her words came out more as a hiss than anything, a grumbling growl of defeat and fire.

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#3 Nick Aldebaran

Nick Aldebaran

Posted 22 November 2015 - 03:45 AM

Her hiss cut through the silence. A chill ran down his spine as he froze in place, thumb still hovering above the call button. His social anxiety made his fear response to her legitimate; it was as if he was standing deep in a cave, only to hear a wolf's growl just behind him. Instantly he knew there were no escape routes. He was stuck here with her, metaphorical cave closing in on them from all sides. His claustrophobia started to settle in then, his breath already short as he tried to calm his nerves. No need to panic. He couldn't do this again, not so soon after the first time.

 

But what could he say to her? He'd already been thinking about this for a week with no real results. Now that he was stuck in an elevator with her, he was even more confused; he'd counted on being in a group then at least, so things couldn't get too heated. Yet here they were, enclosed in this small space. She would get angry with him, and he would get defensive. There was no way of avoiding that. It was simply how things happened between the two of them. They could be surrounded by puppies and kittens and rainbows and still fight that way.

 

The silence stretched on for a little while longer. He could afford a few moments of thought before he dove straight into battle. Too bad none of that thought was productive; just a cycle of panic, settling eventually into an impossible urge to run as fast as he could. Soon he knew he had to speak, to at least acknowledge her presence. But before doing so, he pressed the call button a second time (for good measure), backed away into the same corner he'd been before, and actively avoided eye contact with her.

 

"I'm sure someone will be here soon," he said as evenly as he could, but he wasn't masking his voice as well as he'd hoped. Anxiety was evident in the way his voice cracked on the last word, and he cleared his throat all too obviously afterward, holding his hands together carefully in front of him. "I'm sure it at least paged one of the custodians."

 

Leaving his fate to custodians. That sounded brilliant. It was hardly the claustrophobia that worried him now, so much as the possibility that she might choke him to death. He had a tendency to be difficult, even he knew that. It was only then that his panicking mind finally thought of something useful. Instantly his hand dove back into his pocket and retrieved his phone. He could call someone, surely! Yet with every repeated to call to anyone he could think of, his phone repeatedly gave him that terrifying message-- "no service."

 

"Does your phone have service?" He asked a little too abruptly, his voice more demanding than he intended, mostly due to his anxiety.


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#4 Leena Koyel

Leena Koyel

Posted 22 November 2015 - 04:56 AM

The Koyel clan was known for being exceptionally intimidating by looks alone, but actions combined made them a force, unnapproachable and vicious, an armory of swords to fall upon and Leena was no exception. Far from it, generally; of the group of them, she ranked pretty damn high considering. Not enough to surpass the eldest, of course, but she was almost ethereal in her iceyness. It was a trait to be envied, certainly. Needless to say, she recognized the sudden vacuum of comfort, the amassing black hole of safety. This wasn't her first rodeo by any means and the sudden tighten of tension only furthered her irritation. Stuffy environments were constricting, confining. She had no issue with tight spaces but she did dislike any and all invasions of personal space. This wasn't intentional but that didn't discredit it any less.

The elevator was gettng cold, too, barely chilly but still just enough to be a pain; eerily silent, too. There was no white noise, no clicking, no whirring. Everything had stopped working. The world had essentially fallen away and in its wake was nothing but nervous breathing and the thick crawl of discomfort. It was excrutiating, the worst sort of torture.

There was nothing to do, either, nowhere to go, no escape route in sight. Her phone offered no relief. Three consecutive checks revealed nothing but a dead screen, lit up with apps she couldn't use. With gracious thanks to the confined space and metal walls, she had no service, no wifi, and no way of ensuring a swift and easy rescue. The call button was there, sure, but she had no idea if it worked. Did the line even go anywhere? Did people regularly check the receiving end? Or would they be stuck until someone eventually needed the damn thing and figured out it wouldn't move?

The entire idea was disastrous. She could think of little worse than being stuck in an elevator, but tack onto that her company and she was livid in a matter of minutes. She was never known for being particularly gentle by any means, what with her sharper movements and naturally aggressive features, but had there been any doubt prior that she was aggitated, it was all absolved by the pinch of her expression. Drawn brows, pursed lips, narrowed eyes. She was a model of aggrivation, painted picture perfect.

"No. Of course it doesn't fucking work. The elevator's metal. Nothing gets in, nothing gets out." Which was kind of a scary thought, really. "Why, does your phone work?" Of course it didn't. She knew that, too, but a scathingly sarcastic rebuttal never hurt anyone, did it?

Had she realized that her attitude was really only making things harder, she might have stopped.

Maybe.

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#5 Nick Aldebaran

Nick Aldebaran

Posted 22 November 2015 - 05:57 AM

Her sarcasm was expected, certainly, but it still made his own tension exponentially worse. A defensive fire back almost made its way out of his mouth-- "yeah, I have a metal piercing signal on my phone"-- but he kept his lips tightly sealed instead, promising himself that he deserved reward for that silence when he left this situation. If he ever got out of this situation. He wasn't entirely sure anymore. It was difficult to see past this moment.

 

Perhaps giving her no answer was the best route. He did just that, focusing instead on the buttons on the contraption, as if they would provide him some answer to the situation. Eventually his gaze flickered over to a paper on the wall that listed its certifications and updates, in which case his heart sank; it hadn't been checked on in a few years now. This was the sort of thing that could get the university in serious trouble. It didn't have a reputation for things like this, but he could only imagine this elevator was something accidentally overlooked. People didn't use it that often; he used it today in particular to get the hell away from an uncomfortable situation, if only to walk directly into another.

 

"Someone will notice," was all he said then, turning his gaze back to his phone as if that would provide some relief. No internet, no articles to read, no service-- he was limited to whatever games he had on his phone until the moment passed, he supposed. Plague in particular caught his attention, so he opened it immediately, navigating to the right screen and guessing he might be able to distract himself with that.

 

But it was cold. Very cold. Then again, that could be his nerves or some odd sensational interpretation of the situation he was in. He spared his first glance at Leena since he'd stepped into the elevator-- hell, his first glance since their argument, really-- only to look away immediately. Something about her was so off-putting that he was tongue-tied, so deeply intimidated that he couldn't think of anything to say if he tried. She was smart. That was part of what made him nervous. Typically those he argued with weren't particularly informed-- typically they were on the socially conservative side of things-- but finding a woman who argued exactly what he'd been trying to argue and putting him down in the process... well, he just wasn't sure how to retort. Nothing he said could be right.

 

Perhaps she was just that stubborn. He couldn't be sure. It didn't matter; she didn't like him and they were stuck together, simple as that. If he'd been stuck with an idiot it would've been much easier to make it through this, if only because he took some level of pride in putting idiots in their place. But not her. She was the sun, burning her impression into his eyes every time he looked at her. 


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#6 Leena Koyel

Leena Koyel

Posted 23 November 2015 - 05:27 AM

She didn't understand the reasons for his struggles. Anxiety of any kind related to social situations was altogether unheard of in her world if only because she'd never really had any sort of confidence issue whatsoever. She was brazen. Ballsy, even. For the most part, she was the reason for that particular breed of anxiety moreso than the receiver. Much of her family was the same. They were raised to be fear, not feel it, and for the most part it stuck wonderfully. Some were harsher than others, sure, but the sisters altogether were not particularly talented at taking bullshit of any kind. And the ones that were? Well, they were backed by the ones that didn't bat a single eyelash to any threat.

With a storm of viciousness as your beck-and-call back-up, it was hard to slip into any sort of worried wondering.

That wasn't to say that her life nor the lives of her sisters had been easy. They weren't chiseled anger for nothing, after all, and a good deal of them were jaded by men by proxy, not from experience but by seeing. The ever shifting prism of example was a bright one, distracting and blinding with the bitter after taste of disdain and disgust. Unfortunately for Nick, he seemed to bear the brunt of it lately. It wasn't anything about him in particular, really. He wasn't terribly noteworthy in terms of awfulness. Quiet, which wasn't good necessarily but was fairly low on the scale of offenses regardless. His only issue had been speaking poorly and at the wrong time, a fault many fell victim to, Leena included. She just seemed to have a poor memory and a terribly shallow pool for forgiveness.

Regardless, she spotted the paper at about the same time he did, though she reflected irritation over desperation. An audible sigh followed, the curl of her lips upwards illuminated only by the brief flicker of light from his phone. "Great. Just fucking great. We're stuck here in an elevator that hasn't been checked on in years. No one even uses this fucking thing." It was hard to place a memory that involved anyone using the damn thing. She barely even noticed it herself. In passing, maybe, on the way by from class to class, but generally it was empty, quiet, and settled on the same floor. She couldn't even remember why she'd decided to use it, herself.

The air was stale, too, cold and musty and altogether thick. Her jacket wasn't helping much, either, the fabric already chilled by the stagnant air and hurting fair worse than helping. Crossing her arms in a futile attempt for self-warmth was her only option and even that was altogether useless. Wearing short sleeves mid-fall in a city that knew nothing but harsh winters was quite possibly the dumbest idea she'd ever had.

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#7 Nick Aldebaran

Nick Aldebaran

Posted 23 November 2015 - 07:39 AM

Thus far they weren't screaming and yelling at one another. While he could feel the tension in the air, he knew he had to count his blessings, even if he was a terribly negative person to begin with. Her irritation was warranted, after all; at the moment it wasn't necessarily directed at him so much as the faculty of the university itself, as he shared that irritation as well. Not that she wasn't already irritated with him, mind you; he was well aware of her intense dislike of him up to this point. It just hadn't surfaced quite yet, and he had that to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

 

"I'm sure it's just an oversight," he told her as his lip twitched, betraying more of that anxiety. His forced positivity was terribly obvious, as he was constantly saying the very opposite of what his mind was telling him. Right now he was thinking of what the call system looked like in the custodian's office, whether or not that part even worked. If anyone would even report to a custodian if they tapped the button and it still didn't work. He supposed they could climb out if all else failed-- it wasn't as if they'd starve in here-- but he didn't want to think of those options. He just wanted it to be over, but that required patience.

 

Patience. He repeated that word in his mind over and over, glad that she wasn't speaking directly to him for a moment. At first he didn't notice the way she wrapped her arms around herself, the obvious signs that she was getting colder by the moment. He was, too, but fortunately he had his nice winter coat to keep him warm. Being backed into that corner helped, too; he was his own little personal heater. But after a few moments, he couldn't help but glance up at her while he used his phone. What she was wearing as a lame excuse for a jacket; his brow furrowed as he observed it, and he recalled just how cold it was outside. Why she'd chosen that of all things he didn't know, but he supposed it wasn't any of his business.

 

There was a hoodie in his backpack. A warm one, at that; it was one of those fluffy ones lined with fleece that he took with him when it suddenly became terribly cold or snowy. Already it'd snowed this fall and was only going to get worse; he kept it as a permanent fixture even in September. The snow in this tourist trap was no joke, after all. Regardless, it was sitting right there in his backpack and would surely keep her warm.

 

Part of him was terrified to even offer it. But Nick was a kind person by default, even if he didn't seem like it, so he unzipped his backpack, retrieved his hoodie, and held it up to her. For the first time in a while, he made legitimate eye contact with her.

 

"If you're cold, you can use this," he told her, raising one eyebrow. "Peace offering," he added, in hopes that she might let go of whatever animosity she harbored towards him in exchange for warmth. Then again, she was stubborn; he could almost see her declining it in favor of arguing with him. Multiple ways to keep warm, he supposed.


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#8 Leena Koyel

Leena Koyel

Posted 24 November 2015 - 08:21 PM

It was an offer that sounded nice. From the outside, at least, before the dressings were pulled back and the intentions revealed. Hell, it didn't even require much work this go round considering he blantantly stated what he wanted right in the offer. 'Peace offering' her ass. She knew what that meant. She was a hell of a lot better at reading people than anyone ever gave her credit for. Body language, compliments stitched with hidden meaning, she got it all. She understood. This was outright white-knighting in the hopes of immediate forgiveness. Men were so obvious. For centuries they'd used the same playbook, assuming women were stupid to it, assuming they didn't know. They knew, always. Some just decided not to say anything.

Leena wasn't ever categorized as 'some' in situations like this. She was the bitch, the banshee, the screaming asshole that couldn't take a compliment, that could never keep her mouth shut. Better be a bitch than somebody's foot stool, though. She'd rather be hated and aware than loved as an object.

"You think it's that easy, huh?" There was a stark difference in her tone now compared to before; she wasn't angry and yelling, loud and boisterous, vicious as she slung insult and facts in tandem directly at him. She was quiet but seethingly so, calm but chilling. Most of her irritation spread across her features instead. "You just offer up something meant to help me but you do it with a price. As usual. Men can be so predictable." She hadn't planned on doing this now. The situation had been bad enough prior, but for fuck's sake, he started it, and she wasn't about to let something like that go untouched. "It's always like this, an offer for something we need disguised just well enough that it seems genuine but there's always a price. Men are always taking our resources for free but when we do it, we're greedy. I'd rather freeze than have my forgiveness bought because you think years of oppression is as cheap as a hoodie, thanks."

And freeze she would, too. If no one decided the elevator was worth waiting on, she'd rather die curled up into herself against the corner of some metal ice box than allow even one man to think that everything was okay. Still, she found herself backing into the wall, too, attempting to heat herself up naturally. At the very least, he'd provided a nice distraction. It was hard to focus too much on how cold she was when his words from both earlier in the week and now played repeatedly in her head. This was just a small reminder, really. She knew better than to expect anything else from a male. They were all the same.

She didn't need much to remember that. It had been a staple in her life, after all, both personally and impersonally. She'd seen it first hand and from the outside. Her mother, her sisters, herself, they'd all been trampled beneath the world's favor of men over women. It didn't take her long to decide she wasn't standing for it anymore. Of course, that didn't make things easier. If anything, fighting against the grain made life more difficult. Insults and harassment, stalking, men were vicious when their pride was wounded. Nick had been an exception, there, a very small bright side to his sex, but that wasn't enough to change her opinions of him.

A tumor was still harmful despite being benign. Maybe not fatal, but still enough of a pain to hate it.

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#9 Nick Aldebaran

Nick Aldebaran

Posted 04 December 2015 - 06:08 AM

Nick should've known. He should've seen this coming from miles away. There was literally nothing he could do to make her hate him any less; he could keep his mouth shut and he'd be accused of being too complacent, and if he opened his mouth he said all of the wrong things. A girl like Leena Koyel was his worst nightmare, not just in a sense of how abrasive and direct she was. People were Nick's worst nightmare. He always managed to fuck up and say the wrong thing even to those who were somewhat tolerant of him; she was waiting for men like him to fuck up, searching for it around every corner, and as such it was inevitable. No matter what he did, she would hate him more and more and more.

 

Not that it typically bothered him when someone disliked him so intensely. If he had no reason to interact with that person on a daily basis, then it made no difference to him. Hence his attempts to keep away from her and stay silent in class; he thought maybe if he stayed out of sight, he'd stay out of mind. Keep out of her radar, so to speak, and they'd go back to being strangers. Not even acquaintances, really; that implied some kind of positivity that the two of them just didn't have. He'd rather her forget his name than recite it with such malice in her tone.

 

He sighed as she spoke, and while he heard every word she said, it might have appeared as though he was tuning her out based on the way he looked away from her. It would be in his best interest, he knew, to stay silent from there on out. To just let her tear him down with her words and simply take it, even if he was shaking with his nerves, even if his heart had sunken down to his stomach. He blushed, unattractive splotches appearing on his cheeks and neck, as he looked down to his hands. Men. He was already shoved into a corner and stereotyped daily as a geek, now he had a more sweeping generalization applied to him. Not that he blamed women for such a generalization, no-- there was quite a bit of oppression swirling around that he was entirely aware of and disliked-- but he still didn't like being grouped in with the same types of men that teased him growing up. He was hardly one of them.

 

But he knew those thoughts would be dangerous to voice aloud, so he chose to tackle the obvious. "I said peace offering," he reiterated, trying to play it cool by raising an eyebrow at her. "I didn't say peace transaction or trade or treaty. Offerings are typically gifted with no expectations. I offer it as a sign of peace on my part." Offering to her as if she was a goddess. It felt pathetic. Part of him was tempted to tuck it back in his bag thanks to her rudeness, but it would've completely contradicted what he just said. So instead he softly tossed it towards her, the hoodie falling to the ground at her feet. The zipped clacked against the tile on the elevator floor as he looked away from her. If she was so stubborn as to not accept it, fine. He could be stubborn and prideful too. He'd just leave it there and buy another later.

 

Now came the silence. He had to concentrate on it. Typically he had no issues staying quiet-- in fact he preferred it that way-- but when faced with tense situations he tended to talk a little more than he should. He was defensive, terribly so, and hated to have his values and opinions questioned more than he was comfortable with. What was ironic, to him, was that he shared a lot of her values. Not that she would ever notice, he knew; previously he wanted her to understand that he was on her side, but now he knew that there was nothing he could do to prove that. He'd already been grouped in with a despicable group of people. 

 

So he kept his jaw clenched and his lips tightly sealed, arms crossed as he leaned against the elevator wall. In his head he was already counting the seconds, wondering just how high his count could get before someone finally showed. Or how long it would take to lose count with her next to him.


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#10 Leena Koyel

Leena Koyel

Posted 05 December 2015 - 04:46 AM

Despite all of her confidence, despite the haughty manner in which she shot him down everytime, Leena wasn't actually sure what she wanted from men. An apology was a start, but it was merely a chip in a longstanding debt that she felt she was owed. Change was a nice concept in theory but inpractical once you really thought it through; she didn't think he or any other man was capable of such a grand feat. Really, nothing he could do would be enough, which was a fault on her part entirely. Her grudges were rivets so deep and so embedded that it was almost impossible for her to move forward or even learn to accept that not all men, no, not literally, were shit. Just the vast majority. The worst part of all of it was that she didn't want to change. She saw no rhyme nor reason to. They weren't, so why should she?

His attitude didn't help. Or, rather, what she perceived as his attitude. He was being defensive because of anxiety but it came across to her more as a snide comment on her philosophy and that was just salt on an already festering wound. The darkness did a damn good job hiding the incredulous yet outright vicious expression that bloomed across her face almost immediately after his retort. She almost couldn't believe what he'd said, almost. Had she not had a backlog of experience in this sort of thing, she might have been more shocked.

He wasn't making any major strides to return to her ignore list. In fact, he was rising fast, a growing tide that overlapped name after name until he was damn near at the top of her shit list. It was much, much better to be ignored by Leena or, really, by most of her family. The way she (and they) worked was by harassment, by intimidation and outright vicious vengeance. She wasn't capable of just dusting her shoulders of any and all slights against her or against her sex in general. She wanted lessons learned, she wanted karma, and she considered herself both a teacher and a universal concept in that she intended to teach and show each and every wrong in grandeous, flourishing details.

"You're bitching like a hit dog, did I strike a nerve?" She'd never mastered the cool yet stabbing tone for retorts so her voice came out strained, obviously tainted with a touch of fire, smoldering as she nudged the crumpled jacket with the toe of her heels. "I'm not stupid enough to think that an offering is just an offering. Nothing is free." And even though it was cold, even though it was absolutely frigid, she wasn't picking the damn jacket up for love nor money. She'd rather die at this point, honestly, because caving in seemed like it would have just about the same outcome.

But she wasn't done, oh no. This entire situation tacked onto what had happened before just made her think. Think too much. Overthink, honestly. And thinking was bad for Nick. "You know, this is the second time you've reacted so poorly to criticism, yet you don't seem to want to do anything to fix your shortcomings. You that far in the closet of denial, huh?

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#11 Nick Aldebaran

Nick Aldebaran

Posted 08 December 2015 - 11:42 PM

Nick had to wonder if Leena genuinely cared about her cause or if she was just looking for a reason to be awful towards him. Because at the moment, especially in his eyes, she was no different than the bullies that used to push him around in high school or the girl that shredded his heart into a million pieces and still left him trailing after her like an idiotic puppy. They all had their own reasons, transparent or not, but at the end of the day people were rarely kind to Nick. He had to wonder if it had something to do with his face, something to do with the vibe he put off; perhaps it was his negativity. That was, in the end, what drove her away-- according to her. It was still ambiguous enough that he continued to dwell on it years later.

 

The fire and passion in Leena's eyes occasionally reminded him of her. Perhaps that had something to do with his legitimate fear of her. He'd been attracted to that kind of fire before, but he'd been burned; now the fire was coming for him again, but not in such a discreet way. She wanted to consume him whole and snuff his own light out. 

 

Not that he thought her "cause" was anything less than honorable. Certainly he was aware of injustices in the world. But any time he tried to come up for air or defend himself, she held him underneath the water more aggressively, determined to drown him in things that he considered untrue. He was not a misogynist or a bigot. But she so badly wanted him to be that every move he made was construed as such. He stood as still as he could, a statue in the corner of the elevator, his eyes lingering on the door as if that would magically cause it to open. Perhaps if he blended into the surroundings, she would forget his existence.

 

So he made a vow with himself. Speak not a word. No defense. Just disappear. Yet a task like that was quite difficult for Nick, especially when she was turning his words against him. In his mind he'd hardly been bitching so much as correcting his usage of the term "offering," but she'd certainly been bitching from the moment they met. That wasn't a word he could deflect back onto her, though. That was a dangerous word, not meant to leave a man's mouth in the direction of a woman. He knew this.

 

The corner of his eye twitched as she mentioned him reacting poorly to criticism a second time. Certainly the first time was embarrassing-- he'd fainted-- but he actually felt like patting himself on the back for his reaction this time. Considering he was being torn apart and labeled as something he wasn't-- not the first time for that to happen, either-- he only corrected her. He hadn't snapped, fainted, hyperventilated, or done any of those other embarrassing things thus far. She might have seen his lips twitch the slightest bit, as if he wanted to answer, but Nick was quite stubborn when it came down to it. And quite honestly there was nothing he could say that would make this situation dissolve. But truthfully-- he knew it would get to her. He knew his refusal to fight with her would be better than anything he had to say anyway. And Nick had never really been known for his maturity in the face of his anxiety.


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